Different Types of Medications for Addiction Treatment – Opioid Dependence
As of 2017, around 115 people die every day because of the abuse of opiates such as heroin or prescription pain killers. Addiction treatment was initially, as all mental disorders, a field that lacked information on treatment methods. One of the first programs that emerged in the 1930s was the Alcoholic Anonymous program, also known as the 12-step program. Since then, great strides have been made in the field of addiction treatment, especially medications for addiction treatment. Medications become one of the best ways to treat addictions to physically addictive substances with high rates of relapse.
In this article, we will look at medications for addiction treatment through the stages of recovery, with an emphasis on opioid abuse.
Medications Used During Detox from Opiates
Opiates are drugs that affect the reward centers of the brain. They are used as highly effective pain medications because of their ability to stop feelings of pain while making a person feel euphoric. However, opiates can be abused for the euphoric effects, leading to an eventual dependence if taken regularly.
Once dependence has formed, the person can expect to have withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop. These symptoms happen because of how the brain changes: in order to adapt to the high amounts of opiates present, the brains slows down its own production of dopamine and serotonin. The imbalance that this causes is what leads to withdrawal symptoms.
Medications for addiction treatment for opiate withdrawal are themselves opiates, but designed to be not as easily abused. In fact, some of the medications block the effects of high amounts of opiates making it impossible to abuse. Through this opiate replacement therapy, the withdrawal symptoms are more manageable because the addict is allowed to slowly wean off opiates instead of cold turkey, giving the brain a chance to return to normal function without many complications.
One of the main benefits of the medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction is that it helps to prevent relapse because not only are cravings reduced, but the effects of prescription opioids and heroin are blocked. Many of these medications can be used for months to ensure that relapse is prevented.
Medications used during withdrawal and over the long term include:
- Clonidine – To assist the addict with anxiety, high blood pressure and insomnia, clonidine is used. It also has anti-depressant qualities ideal for early stages of recovery.
- Benzodiazepines – This is another one of the medications for addiction to opiates that helps to manage anxiety, sleep disorders and as a muscle relaxer. It is ideal for short-term opiate addiction treatment but losses effectiveness over the long-term.
- Methadone – Methadone one of the preferred medications for addiction treatment in opiate abuse cases, helping to make withdrawal symptoms more bearable as well as reducing cravings.
- Suboxone – This combination drug takes the benefits of buprenorphine and naloxone. It prevents overdose as well as reduces the symptoms of withdrawal.
- Naltrexone – The main purpose of this drug is to prevent relapse. It achieves this by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Long-Term Replacement Therapy
In some cases where relapse has occurred previously, long-term opioid replacement therapy can be effective. Instead of running the risk of relapse, medications are given that block the effects of high doses of opioids while reducing cravings. The slow-acting properties of drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine make them ideal for this purpose.
Medications for addiction to opiates that are used over the long term are usually offered along with other treatment programs, such as 12-step programs. Over time, the doses can be lowered but the medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction may last for years in some severe cases.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.