Medication for Drug Addiction: Should Drugs Combat Drugs?

A staggering 20.2 million American adults struggle with a substance use disorder today. To put that figure into perspective, that’s 8% of the total population.

Drug addiction destroys the lives of both users and their families. It’s complicated, confusing, and devastating. And when left untreated, it can be fatal.

With that said, medication for drug addiction can be a part of the recovery process. Keep reading for more of what you need to know about medication for drug addiction.

How Does Medication for Drug Addiction Work?

Both drugs and alcohol can become physically and psychologically addictive. The chemicals in these substances contort how the brain perceives pleasure. Furthermore, once refraining from substance use, the individual can experience withdrawal symptoms.

These withdrawal symptoms can range from mild distress to extreme discomfort. Due to this unpleasant experience, many people strive to avoid withdrawal altogether, or they relapse in the process.

Medications can serve a variety of purposes including:

  • Alleviating withdrawal symptoms
  • Blocking cravings
  • Reversing overdose effects
  • Managing co-occurring mental disorders

Under medical supervision, these medications can provide a safe option for successfully entering a long-term recovery.

Opioid Addiction Medications

The heroin addiction has taken America by the proverbial storm over the past decade. We’re seeing high rates of overdose. We’re also seeing entire communities ravaged by these substances.

Stopping cold-turkey can work for some, but many people benefit from medication to ease withdrawal and manage cravings.


Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. When administered appropriately, it can work to save someone’s life.

Naloxone is available in injectable forms (used by medical professionals). It’s often offered in auto-injectible forms so family members or caregivers can use it. Finally, sold under the name Narcan, it’s sold as a nasal spray.


Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors as an opioid antagonist. it essentially blocks the pleasurable or euphoric effects associated with opioids.

Naltrexone currently can be administered:

  • Intravenously by a physician
  • By being taken orally as a tablet
  • By being implanted under the skin

Serious side effects can occur. Potential naltrexone users should consult their physician about these effects.

Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid antagonist commonly known as Suboxone, or Subutex.

Suboxone contains both Buprenorphine and naloxone. It attaches to the receptors just like other opioids and can reduce their effects.

Therefore, Suboxone can essentially help satisfy the intense cravings for heroin. It doesn’t produce the same euphoric effects, which can help reduce the effects of dependence.

That said, as Suboxone is a narcotic, it can still be addictive when misused or abused. It should only be taken when prescribed by a doctor.


For decades, people have used Methadone to alleviate heroin and narcotic pain medication addiction. When taken as prescribed, it can be a safe harm reduction method. Methadone reduces painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal.

Methadone is offered in both pill and liquid forms. However, it can also be abused, as Methadone can become addictive.

When stopping Methadone, people will certainly experience withdrawal.

Alcohol Addiction Medications

The FDA has approved three medications for treating alcohol addiction.


Naltrexone can also block the receptors associated with the rewarding feelings of alcohol use. This can reduce a relapse into heavy drinking.

Acamprosate (Campral)

This medication can reduce the distressing symptoms associated with long-lasting withdrawal. Symptoms can include anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and restlessness.

Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Antabuse interrupts alcohol’s breakdown. Therefore, if the individual chooses to drink, he or she faces unpleasant reactions like nausea, vomiting, and flushed skin. These negative effects can counteract the positive feelings people associate with alcohol intoxication.

Psychiatric Medications

Many people struggle with both substance use and mental health disorders. In fact, people with mood or anxiety disorders are twice as likely to struggle with drug addiction.

Early sobriety can increase feelings associated with depression or anxiety. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to manage mental health symptoms to avoid a relapse. Medication can be a part of that treatment.


Antidepressants work by helping balance the chemicals in the brain that impact mood and emotions.

It can take several weeks for antidepressants to reach their full effect. The change may be subtle at first, but people do start feeling an increase in mood and energy within a few weeks.

Common antidepressant medications include:

  • Effexor
  • Cymbalta
  • Welbutrin
  • Paxil
  • Zoloft
  • Prozac
  • Lexapro

Each medication comes with its own set of side effects. Sometimes people need to try several different medications to find what works for them.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers help improve mood disturbances associated with depression and mania. It can be used for treating Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.

Mood stabilizers help individuals feel more even-keeled and calm in daily living. Common mood stabilizing medications include:

  • Lithium
  • Depakote
  • Topamax
  • Gabapentin
  • Clozapine
  • Risperidone

It should be noted that mood stabilizers also have their own set of side effects. It is imperative that patients discuss any swift changes in mood or personality with their doctor.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety drugs can range between antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines include medications like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan.

In the short-term, these can be very beneficial for managing symptoms of anxiety. However, they can also become habit-forming and problematic for individuals with a history of addiction.

Benzodiazepines slow down the nervous system, which helps people relax both physically and mentally. They work quickly (can bring relief within 20-30 minutes), but they can evoke a sense of physical addiction.

People may feel sleepy, agitated, or uncoordinated on lower doses, which can cause problems in daily functioning. While safe in small doses, they can be deadly when combined with other medications, prescription painkillers, or alcohol.

Final Thoughts

At Coastal Detox, we provide individualized, 24/7 medical detox for clients struggling with substance use disorders.

We employ a variety of holistic and medication for drug addiction options to provide optimal care for you or your loved ones.

Hope and relief are available. Contact us today for more information.

Real Client Testimonials

  • Coastal Detox is an amazing facility. Caring and professional staff available 24/7. I was dreading going. Now I only wish I had not waited so long. Top shelf facility and I highly recommend it to anyone seeking freedom from any form of addiction.

    Lindsey H. Avatar
    Lindsey H.
  • Coastal Detox is a great company. I highly recommend this detox to anyone who needs help and or is suffering from substance abuse. Their staff truly goes above and beyond for each and every person, I was astonished by their medical/ clinical and BHT staff!

    kelly d. Avatar
    kelly d.
  • The place is super nice with absolutely amazing food. Like 5 star restaurant quality food. The staff and therapist definitely care about every client and want what’s best for them. This isn’t one of the sketchy places in Florida that just has a nice website. It really is a great place.

    nickbruck101 Avatar
  • Coastal detox has an amazing clinical and BHT department offering the best care around Martin county. All the staff going above and beyond to assist their patients and families. They always have something different on the menu to serve and it’s always delicious. If you or someone you know if looking for help do not hesitate and call coastal detox.

    Lexie L. Avatar
    Lexie L.
  • Thank you Costal Detox, 9 months sober now and loving every bit of it! I hate how mean I was while detoxing but then again it’s all part of the process. The staff were so caring and kind - helpful in so many ways! The environment was so comfortable and pleasing to be in!

    Addison R. Avatar
    Addison R.

No products in the cart.