ClickCease What Medications are Used in Addiction Treatment? | New Hampshire Addiction Treatment

Medications Used in Addiction Treatment

Therapy is a key tool in the treatment of substance use disorders, but medication is the linchpin of treatment, particularly when it comes to safely and successfully controlling detoxification. The role of medications in the treatment of substance use disorders is to help the person slowly stop using an illicit substance or, in some cases, lower that usage to a safe level. Sometimes, this involves alternative drugs or other medications for addiction treatment to those to which the person was addicted. This is particularly true of heroin because of the heavy relapse rate outside of controlled environments. This method also has the added benefit of making it possible for clients to get the necessary opioids safely. detox medications

Why Do People Need Medical Assistance for Detox and Withdrawal?

Simply put, detox is dangerous. Withdrawal is dangerous. There are drugs, such as heroin and alcohol, which have possible life-threatening complications when it comes to withdrawal and detox from long-term heavy use. Another group of drugs from which detox can be exceedingly complicated is benzodiazepines.

The withdrawal from benzodiazepines is fraught with perils, such as terrible seizures and akathisia, which is uncontrollable restlessness. Worse, if the medical professionals attending you have to increase your dose again to stop the withdrawal and the side effects of withdrawal, the drug can have a paradoxical effect. That means that it does the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. One example might include someone experiencing life-threatening seizures and then, after the administration of a higher former dose of the particular benzodiazepine, developing akathisia rather than experiencing the calming effect.

When it comes to alcohol detox and withdrawal, delirium tremens is rare, but it can be deadly. Untreated, the mortality rate is as high as 37%. Conversely, early and effective treatment reduces the mortality rate to 5%.

Even with other substances, detox and withdrawal can be dangerous even if it’s not life-threatening. The side effects of detox and withdrawal include physical manifestations of permanent loss of smell because of nasal septum perforation, muscle weakness in multiple areas of the body because of the loss of nerve function, and adverse liver effects. Mental side effects include the inability to remember things, loss of cognition, and personality changes. The brain chemistry can be irrevocably altered, and even if you “beat the addiction,” you could evermore be a different person.

What Medications Are Used to Treat Addiction?

There are quite a few addiction treatment medications that are used to treat substance use disorder, particularly when it comes to opioid addiction treatment medications, including:

  • Baclofen: This medication relaxes muscles and quiets spasms caused by the withdrawal from certain substances.
  • Bupropion: Aside from its use in treating both seasonal affective disorder and depressive disorder, it’s also used to help with withdrawal from nicotine.
  • Acamprosate: This medication is useful in treating alcohol withdrawal by interfering with the receptors in the brain that cause the withdrawal when someone stops drinking.
  • Disulfiram: Otherwise known as “Antabuse,” this medication is designed to help people stop drinking by making them feel terribly sick whenever they drink.
  • Buprenorphine: This is a synthetic opioid used to treat substance use disorder of more potent opioids than itself, such as heroin.
  • Methadone: This is another medication that is used in place of stronger opioids to treat substance use disorder.
  • Gabapentin: This medication is anticonvulsive and is, therefore, used to treat the seizures that can happen when detoxing from various substances, notably benzodiazepines.
  • Naltrexone: As an antagonist, this medication blocks the dopamine-producing effect of various illicit substances, which reduces cravings for the substance.
  • Topiramate: This is another anticonvulsive, and although it was designed to combat migraine and epilepsy, its effects make it a good candidate for people experiencing detox-induced seizures if Gabapentin is contraindicated or ineffective.

These aren’t the only medications used, however. Anyone can have resistance to the effects of any of these drugs or even all of them, so there must be other options when treating someone for withdrawal or detox from any illicit substance. We evaluate all clients on their own specific cases when determining treatment plans for them.

How Do Medications for Addiction Treatment Work?

Other than supportive medications or medications that relieve the sometimes life-threatening symptoms of detox and withdrawal, there are two chief categories of medications that treat substance use disorder: agonists and antagonists.

Both affect chemical receptors in the brain. The difference is that agonists mimic the action of other substances, such as in the case where methadone is used instead of heroin as a method of controlling someone’s physical dependence on the heroin, and antagonists block the effects of a substance on the receptors. Naltrexone is an example of an antagonist. So is Naloxone, or Narcan; the combination of powerful and near-immediate effects are why the drug is used for immediate treatment of an opioid overdose.

Both classes of drugs are useful in the treatment of substance use disorder, but they’re not “cure-alls.” Doctors must use their judgments to determine the right course of treatment for someone with opioid use disorder. Clients could have any manner of allergies or even conditions for which they must take other medication, and in these cases, those other medications could have adverse effects when combined with any of the common agonists or antagonists generally used for the treatment of withdrawal during detox.

Are Addiction Treatment Medications Dangerous?

Misusing any drug, prescribed or otherwise, is dangerous. Even antibiotics are dangerous if misused, not for the least of reasons that such misuse causes antibiotic resistance in various bacteria. Something innocuous like Tylenol can cause liver failure if someone takes too much. Naltrexone is another medication that can have detrimental effects on your liver. If you become jaundiced or start producing dark-colored urine while taking it, you should contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.

Methadone doesn’t cause liver problems, but it can cause hives, aphasia, confusion, and even respiratory distress. You, or someone else, should call for help immediately if you develop any of these symptoms because one very often precedes another.

Gabapentin‘s effects aren’t generally as serious and include dizziness and drowsiness. However, it can sometimes cause seizures and interfere with clear thinking. When this happens, you can become clumsy and unsteady on your feet, which is dangerous when put together with dizziness because of the dangers inherent with uncontrolled falls.

Topiramate can cause osteoporosis in adults and, because of its effect on the absorption of vitamin D, rickets in children. Its list of contraindications is also quite long, so it can be dangerous to use. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes necessary to use it even with the possibility of a contraindication because it might be the only thing that controls what could be life-threatening seizures that are associated with the detox and withdrawal from certain substances. Again, your doctor will know what’s best regarding its use.

Speaking of doctors, they’ll always discuss any medications with you that they plan to prescribe for any reason. Also, if you’re not able to make your own decisions about your medical care for any reason, such as having aphasic reactions to an illicit substance and/or the medication used to treat your withdrawal during detox, then your doctor will discuss your case with the person you have designated as your representative to make such decisions for you.

Effective Uses of Addiction Medication at Granite Recovery Centers

The first thing we do is to assess your specific case. We have to determine how what you’ve been taking is affecting you, how detoxing from it will affect you, and which medications and other treatments will be most effective in helping you. It’s a total team effort because it’s not just medical doctors who will be on board. There will be psychologists, nurses, physiotherapists, and life coaches involved as well.

When we use medications at Granit Recovery Centers to help with the detox process, we monitor your progress closely to watch for any signs of difficulty. Detox will be uncomfortable, and you will experience pain, nausea, headache, and chills among other side effects. It will be better in the long run, however, because you will either have become drug-free or be in a controlled situation with taking a medication to support your recovery. How things work out for you depends on the details of your case.

At Granite Recovery Centers, our team-oriented, “whole-client” approach is designed for your success. After all, your success is our success. We hope that, after being with us, you will have the necessary tools to continue throughout your life with your substance use disorder under control and things in place to help you should you relapse. You don’t have to lose hope because of your experience with substance use disorder, and there should be no shame in seeking treatment for it the same way you would if you were to go to your doctor for an antibiotic prescription when you have an infection. Contact us today to begin the rest of your life. Call 855.712.7784 today!