Recovering from addiction isn’t easy, but there are some medications that can help. When combined with evidence-based therapy, certain medications can increase the effectiveness of treatment and decrease the chances of relapse.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several drugs to treat addiction to alcohol, tobacco and opioids. These medications ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings and reduce the chances of an overdose.
Medication-assisted treatment is not a replacement for behavioral therapy. The goal of MAT is to help patients get through detox and actively participate in substance abuse treatment programs.
Madeleine Ludwig credits medication-assisted treatment with saving her life. She told DrugRehab.com that she wouldn’t have been able to recover from heroin addiction without the help of Suboxone, a medication that eases cravings and withdrawal symptoms caused by opioids.
“The more that you get used to Suboxone, the more you feel like you are able to stabilize on your own,” Ludwig said. “A lot of people say that medically-assisted treatment is not real recovery. I absolutely disagree. I would be dead right now if I didn’t receive medically-assisted treatment.”
Some medications must be distributed through certified treatment centers, and others can be prescribed only by physicians who have received appropriate
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Many centers use medications during treatment to alleviate withdrawal side effects or symptoms of co-occurring mental health disorders. Therapists might administer benzodiazepines such as Valium or Ativan to ease withdrawal from alcohol, antidepressants to treat depression, Zofran for nausea or baclofen for muscle aches.
These drugs are not considered treatments for addiction because they treat side effects, not the addiction itself. They don’t reduce cravings or counteract the effects of addictive drugs.
There is no medication approved to treat a marijuana addiction or addiction to stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has funded several clinical trials to investigate potential treatment options for a range of addictions, and many have had promising results.
Medications Used to Treat Opioid Addiction
The drugs therapists use to treat opioid addiction have been around for decades, but most have become widely accessible only recently. Lawmakers have expanded access to the drugs in the wake of the ongoing opioid epidemic, and easier-to-use versions of the drugs have been developed during the last decade.
Medications Used to Treat Alcoholism
Physicians have several options for treating alcohol addiction. Behavioral therapy can help alcoholics recognize and avoid high-risk situations, and referral to programs that provide peer support, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, can increase a person’s chance of recovery.
Therapists can also prescribe medications that decrease the appeal of alcohol. Studies show disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (Vivitrol) help most people abstain from alcohol.
Medications Used to Treat Nicotine Addiction
Several over-the-counter products and prescription medications are approved to treat nicotine addiction. The products help relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with tobacco cessation. Over-the-counter products include nicotine-replacement patches, chewing gum and lozenges. The FDA recommends consumers avoid using over-the-counter products for long-term relief if possible.