In recent years, a number of medications have been developed to treat certain substance abuse disorders in what is known as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). While some drugs such as methamphetamine still have no effective medications that may aid in their treatment, there are now FDA-approved medications used to treat opioid or alcohol substance abuse disorders. All of such drugs work differently and can be used in different medical contexts. They also present different levels of risk for abuse, with some like Naltrexone presenting little to no risk and others like Methadone presenting a higher potential for misuse. Understanding these drugs, how they work, and their potential benefits and drawbacks can help one come to an informed decision about whether medication-assisted treatment is an appropriate option to raise with a medical professional.
Medications for Opioid Abuse Disorder
There are multiple medications that may help individuals quit opioids, the class of drugs which includes prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin or illicit drugs like heroin. Methadone is one popular medication for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder. Methadone tricks the brain into thinking it is still receiving the formerly abused drug. The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes that it can thus block cravings, as well as lessen the euphoric feelings that one achieves when taking a substance like heroin. However, methadone usually must be taken for at least a year under medical supervision – sometimes for multiple years. It can also pose a risk for addiction in its own right, since it is still an opioid. Buprenorphine is another opioid treatment medication that works by suppressing cravings and easing withdrawal symptoms. Unlike methadone, it can be prescribed in doctor’s offices. It can present the potential for abuse, so the opioid antagonist known as Naloxone is often added to it in order to negate such risks. This combination is known as Suboxone. Abuse of Suboxone is not common, and Suboxone is difficult to overdose on since it is only a partial opioid agonist. However, the risks for abuse are still present even if they are lower than that of other substances. Naltrexone reduces cravings and blocks the effects of abusable drugs, negating the high that one would normally achieve. SAMHSA writes that because naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain rather than binding to them like methadone or buprenorphine, it thus presents no risk for abuse.
Alcohol Use Disorder and Common Medications
Numerous drugs also exist that are used to aid in recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder. These can include Disulfuram, Acamprosate, and Naltrexone. Disulfuram and Acamprosate can decrease cravings for alcohol, while Naltrexone blocks the effects of intoxication just as it blocks the effects of other drugs.
The Drawbacks of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Medication-assisted treatment is usually used in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapies as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan. It can also place more temptations in front of drug users, should the user attempt to abuse medications like methadone. The decision of whether to pursue MAT is completely personal. Some may have an issue with the idea of being dependent on medications in the long-term, or with the risk for abuse that some of them carry. Others may find that the risks are low in comparison to continued substance abuse, and that they are willing to use medication as one aspect of a full treatment program. Whether one prefers an abstinence-based approach or one that involves MAT, it is crucial to talk to a medical professional to discuss what best fits one’s unique situation. In most cases, MAT is not recommended for a full recovery from drug addiction.
Abstinence-Based Rehab at Granite Recovery Centers
Our NH drug rehab centers focus on powerful behavioral and cognitive treatments based around the 12 Steps and clinical psychotherapy. With a range of treatment care from detox to inpatient rehab to extended living, GRC specializes in giving its clients the emotional tools, sense of community, and safe, peaceful environment in which to achieve lasting recovery from substance abuse. If you or a loved one would like to discuss admissions, or have questions about our drug rehab treatment programs or philosophy, please give us a call today at 855.712.7784 or send us a message online.