Types of Medication Used in Addiction Treatment (Part One)

There are many types of medication that help ease the challenges of addiction. Some types of medication can be used in the early stages of detox while others may be required later in recovery to avoid relapse. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Furthermore, there are different types of medication to assist in the recovery from various addictions. This article is the first in a two part series that will take a brief look at some of the common types of medication being used to treat addiction.

Naltrexone – Naltrexone is an opioid blocker used as a way to medically treat opiate addiction as well as alcoholism. It should be noted, if you are prescribed this medication,  there are some advantages and disadvantages to using Naltrexone. It does not have any addictive properties, which is a significant advantage over other medication for addiction. However, one problem is the lack of adherence to taking the drug daily. Furthermore, the use of this treatment drug cannot begin until an individual has stopped using painkillers/heroin for at least two weeks, which is difficult for most addicts to do. Lastly, if an individual relapses while using Naltrexone, there is a high risk of overdose and death. Keep in mind too that side effects to Naltrexone include nausea, headaches, constipation, dizziness, anxiety, and insomnia.

Vivotrol – As mentioned above, there is difficulty for some in adhering to a daily dose of Naltrexone. For this reason, Vivotrol was created to be an extended-release injectable version of Naltrexone. The medication was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 to treat alcoholism. Later, in October of 2010, the drug was then approved to treat opiate addiction. Since then it has saved a number of lives and has kept many men and women out of the destructive cycle of addiction. The advantage of Vivotrol over Naltrexone is that it is an injection whereas Naltrexone is a daily dose that is self-administered.

Methadone – Methadone has been the standard form of sober living treatment for opioid addiction for over 30 years. It is legally only available from federally-regulated clinics for regular use in order to slowly wean an individual off the opiate addiction. When taken properly, medication-assisted treatment with methadone suppresses opioid withdrawal, blocks the effects of other problem opioids and reduces cravings.

Naloxone (the Emergency Drug) – Naloxone is a treatment drug for opiate addiction to be used in emergencies and not a long-term treatment drug. It is a potentially lifesaving treatment to use on someone who is in the middle of a heroin overdose. When used on someone experiencing an overdose, this medicine temporarily blocks the opiate effects, allowing a person to breathe again long enough for help to arrive. In fact, the drug has been used for decades among paramedics as well as within the drug community, and it has saved thousands of lives. Because of the most recent opiate epidemic in America, more and more communities are handing out Naloxone as a means to prevent drug overdose.

The above list (and the list that follows in part two of this series) provides a very brief synopsis of medications used in addiction treatment. If you are curious about any of these, contact your doctor, psychiatrist, or mental health provider.


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