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

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

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.

Methadone

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

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

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

  • Before coming to coastal I was hopeless, helpless, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. It wasn’t the first detox I’d ever been to, but it was the only one who showed me so much love and compassion. They gave me hope. It’s hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for this facility. The employees were my family when I had none. The staff went out of their way to make sure not only were my physical needs taken care of, but my emotional needs as well. From the first phone call prior to admission, to helping me set up continuing care, they never missed a beat. Even going as far as to help me with my legal issues via Zoom court. This isn’t just a detox, they are the family I never had. All of the techs, especially Karen, are phenomenal. They will take the time to listen to you, laugh, and cry(if needed) with you. If you are reading this and you or your loved one is suffering like I was, go to Coastal Detox. The level of care is more than I could ever put into a review. It wasn’t the first detox I’d been to, but it has been my last; I owe them everything I have today, including my life.

    Travis B. Avatar
    Travis B.
    12/07/2020
  • Had a really good experience at Coastal. The staff really went above and beyond in helping me get in and gave me the respect l, space and care I needed after I first got there. As I started to fell better they encouraged me to take part in groups which helped get me out of my head and bring positivity and health to my thinking. They had a great massage therapist, who came daily and it was evident the nursing staff genuinely cared. Got to know some of the staff as well and I’m grateful for the cooks Joe and Chris. Those guys literally made us sirloins and pork chops for dinner. Also I gotta thank Chris and Chris for helping me get in and setting me up with a transition plan. Real grateful for that help, I’m not sure if it’s management intention to hire guys named Chris but they got a good thing going there. Overall, I’m clean and sober today and walking it out. Coastal gave me a base that set me up for the success that I’m walking in today

    Brandon B. Avatar
    Brandon B.
    1/16/2020
  • My family is very thankful for Coastal Detox. They have went above and beyond for my son a few times. Unfortunately he has needed their help more than once and they have ever turned their back on him, even when he was at his worst. Jeannie and Chris have been amazing and kept me informed through the entire process. They truly care about the addict and want to help them especially when it would be easy to give up on them. I had many detox facilities be rude and uncaring to me when I was searching for help for my son, but Coastal never did that to us. I don't know the names of all the team members that have helped my son but I know their are many and y'all are angels!! One day we will be able to pay it forward and help someone as you have helped us. Thank you for all you do!!

    Brenda A. Avatar
    Brenda A.
    1/01/2020
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/13/2019
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/06/2019

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