Medication Use in Addiction Treatment

Medication is often used in a clinically-supervised setting to assist addicts and alcoholics on the road to recovery. 

Addiction and alcoholism are considered diseases, and the treatment that is available for them often requires medication to help the addict or alcoholic during the rehabilitation process. The nationwide opioid epidemic has prompted research about medication that assists with reducing cravings, as well as minimizing physical, emotional, and mental withdrawal symptoms. Prescribing medication for treating drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms as well as to support long term recovery is now a common practice by many addiction treatment centers.

Medication for Addiction Treatment

Medication Assisted Treatment

Medication Assisted Treatment, also known as MAT, exists for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Treatment approaches for other addictions such as methamphetamine and cocaine do not have medications available that have been determined to be effective as a MAT regimen. However, other “off label” medications are often prescribed for managing symptoms that all recovering addicts and alcoholics typically experience in early recovery. When an addict or alcoholic first get clean and sober, it is not uncommon for them to have sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression. In early recovery, many addicts and alcoholics require the help of medication for sleeping, lowering anxiety, and managing depression.

Although “off label” medications are not intended directly for the treatment of addiction and alcoholism, they are commonly considered part of an individual’s treatment plan. MAT’s are different in that they are intended solely to aid an individual in their recovery from addiction and alcoholism.

Medication is Helpful in Addiction Treatment

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, when combined with substance abuse treatment programs, MAT’s are effective for recovery from addiction.

“Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat these disorders, and for some people struggling with addiction, MAT can help sustain recovery” (SAMHSA).

The medication that is prescribed in addiction treatment as a type of MAT for Opioid Use Disorder is called buprenorphine (Suboxone). The National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, describes Buprenorphine as being beneficial because:

“It reduces or eliminates opioid withdrawal symptoms, including drug cravings, without producing the “high” or dangerous side effects of heroin and other opioids. It does this by both activating and blocking opioid receptors in the brain (i.e., it is what is known as a partial opioid agonist). It is available for sublingual (under-the-tongue) administration both in a stand-alone formulation (called Subutex®) and in combination with another agent called naloxone. The naloxone in the combined formulation (marketed as Suboxone®)” (NIDA).

Buprenorphine is effective when prescribed for either short term use or as maintenance for long term recovery from opioid addiction. However, this drug can be abused by addicts if not properly supervised.

Medciation Has Been Around for Years

Another medication prescribed for Opioid Use Disorder is called Methadone. The historical use of Methadone for the treatment of opioid addiction dates back to the early 1960s. There is controversy about Methadone as it is also known for being abused as a recreational drug. Both Methadone and Buprenorphine, combined with substance abuse treatment, can help a person recover completely from their addiction to opioids.

Alcoholics are often prescribed Benzodiazepines during the detoxification phase of their recovery. Benzodiazepines eliminate cravings, anxiety, and other uncomfortable physical, emotional, and mental symptoms that acute alcohol withdrawal creates. Once a person has completed a detoxification program from alcohol, then benzodiazepines are no longer needed. The type of MAT that is prescribed for a person who is in recovery from alcohol that has proven to increase sobriety are Acamprosate (Campral), Disulfiram (Antabuse) and Naltrexone.

Acamprosate reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms by normalizing how the brain functions as a result of chronic alcohol consumption. Disulfiram and Naltrexone are prescribed to inhibit the effects of alcohol once it is consumed. These drugs are more preventative and are not used to assist the alcoholic with other symptoms. Currently, more “off label” medications have proven to be effective in helping an alcoholic maintain their sobriety. Common “off label” drugs for alcoholism and other addictions include Mirtazapine (Remeron), Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) and Topiramate (Topamax).

Addiction to other drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, benzodiazepines, marijuana, ecstasy, or hallucinogens still requires more research to decipher what medications assist a person’s recovery from their addiction to these drugs. Individualized treatment plans that are developed by a multi-disciplinary team of professional addiction recovery practitioners is crucial, and that’s exactly what we offer at Garden State Treatment Center. These teams provide the level of support that addicts and alcoholics require.

Addiction treatment programs must be beneficial in helping an addict or alcoholic successfully recover from their disease. A comprehensive treatment program should include medication when needed, along with individualized counseling, group counseling, holistic therapy methods, as well as support from family and friends. Successful long-term recovering addicts and alcoholics often have these factors present in their addiction treatment plans. To begin recovery from alcoholism and addiction, the first step is to be admitted into a professional treatment center that utilizes Medication Assisted Treatment and other specialized therapies that are proven to aide a person in remaining clean and sober. Contact Garden State Treatment Center today to learn about our unique approach.