Types of Medication Used in Addiction Treatment (Part Two)

This is the second article in a two part series on medication used in addiction treatment. The list below provides a brief look at common forms of medication used to treat addiction. As mentioned in the first article, this article series won’t provide enough information to make a decision about using these drugs. Instead, it’s best to consult with a doctor or mental health provider about the following options. This is particularly true because even these medications, which are meant to help heal addiction, can in fact be addictive themselves. Using these drugs under the direction and care of a physician or psychiatrist is recommended.

Suboxone – This is a synthetic opiate buprenorphine used to treat heroin addicts during their drug detox. It can also be sued for a period of time after detox to facilitate sustained sobriety. The drug was approved in 2002 and has many advantages over methadone and Naltrexone (discussed in the previous article). For instance, it suppresses withdrawal symptoms, curbs cravings, and blocks the effects of other opioids in an individual’s system for 24 hours. Sober living rates are much higher (up to 40-60%) with the use of Suboxone than with methadone or Naltrexone. Furthermore, treatment does not require daily participation in a highly regulated program, as with methadone treatment. Lastly, the potential for abusing Suboxone is substantially lower than the other two treatment medications discussed here.

Benzodiazepines – Examples of benzodiazepines includes Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. They are commonly prescribed for anxiety. However, benzodiazepines have also been very effective in treating alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The risk with benzodiazepines, however, is that they are highly addictive and have severe withdrawal symptoms. Yet, if a recovering addict can take benzodiazepines as prescribed, they commonly do not experience the risk of addiction. Instead, benzodiazepines taken as prescribed can greatly facilitate detox from various types of substances. However, if an addiction to benzodiazepines does develop, the withdrawal process from benzodiazepines can be difficult.

Toprimate (also known as Topamax) – This drug is an anticonvulsant as well as a mood stabilizer, which helps reduce alcohol cravings. It works by reducing brain levels of dopamine, which is believed to create the pleasurable sensations caused by drinking). Side effects include numbness, tingling, nervousness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. The drug has been noted to significantly decrease cravings and obsessive thoughts about drinking. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a notice indicating that the use of Topamax by pregnant women can cause a cleft lip in their infants.

Campral – Campral blocks the receptor sites that cause craving for alcohol. It is safe, relatively free of side effects, and helpful for many individuals seeking sobriety. Campral helps reduce the urge to drink, but does not take the place of the psycho-social changes needed to accomplish recovery from alcohol dependency. Furthermore, studies show that both the use of Campral and Naloxone (discussed in the previous article) together can lead to better treatment outcomes.

The above list provides a quick view of types of medications used in treating addiction. The first part of this list can be found in part one of this article series. As mentioned above, if you are considering the use of any of these medications, consult with a doctor or mental health provider.


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