Medication Management in Addiction Treatment

Although addiction involving drugs and alcohol might threaten to complete change and rewrite your life, it is important to note that there are addiction treatment options that exist and they can help you address the harm that is already done by your substance abuse. Additionally, these options might also be able to help you achieve a lifestyle of balance and health.

Although aftercare support and counseling can address many of the emotional and mental health challenges that are caused by addiction - or which cause addiction in some cases - it might also be possible for you to use some medications to break the chain of physical and psychological dependence on the substances that you were abusing. When you take medicine in this way, it is known as medication management.

Research studies have shown that medication management is quite effective at addiction treatment. For instance, it might be able to ease your withdrawal process as well as manage other mental health and medical issues that might have arisen in the course of your addiction.

About Medication Management

Many substances are addictive, a nature that is derived from the ways in which they act on and manipulate the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. Although the precise mode of action will vary widely, there are many pharmacotherapy options available that can be used to treat addiction. These options can also help to restore the balance to the neurochemical processed that were disrupted in the course of your alcohol and drug use.

Known as medication management, this type of treatment consists of taking certain prescription drugs to diminish withdrawal symptoms and substance cravings. They can also counter the various effects of drugs while also continuing to support you in recovery.

Some of the drugs that are typically used to manage addiction and dependence or form part of the addiction recovery regimen include but are not limited to:

  • Acamprosate (Campral)
  • Baclofen (Lioresal)
  • Buprenorphine (Probuphine and Suboxone)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin and Zyban)
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Modafinil (Provigil)
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Vigabatrin (Sabril)

1. Acamprosate and Disulfiram

If you are struggling with an alcohol use disorder, your medication management regimen might consist of using drugs like Acamprosate and disulfiram. If you use disulfiram as your doctor prescribed, you will experience unpleasant reactions if you take alcohol even in the smallest amounts.

The drug will achieve this effect by blocking activity of the enzymes that are responsible for metabolizing ethanol. As a result, it will lead to a buildup of acetaldehyde, which will lead to the adverse effects that you will experience.

These effects include but are not limited to breathing difficulties, blurred vision, sweating, chest pain, vomiting, nausea, and headache - among many others. Going through these effects or knowing that they are going to occur if you drink could potentially deter you from consuming alcohol.

On the other hand, Acamprosate will maintain the brain's chemical balances - particularly those that were disrupted in the course of your alcohol abuse and dependence. As a result, the drug is effective at treating alcohol use disorders or alcoholism. It works by protecting your brain from the overstimulation and excitation that will result from alcohol withdrawal. By so doing, it can reduce your risk of relapse while promoting your abstinence.

2. Buprenorphine and Naltrexone

According to NIDA - the National Institute on Drug Abuse - naltrexone is effective because it blocks the brain receptors that opioids typically bind to before activating. As such, this medication will render opioid drugs incapable of eliciting the addictive effects that they cause.

It is safe to use naltrexone when you have already gone through a medically supervised and monitored detoxification process. This is because if you take it when you still have opioids in the system could lead to severe withdrawal.

This drug is ideal for treatment of opioid use disorders. This is because it is easy to administer, comes with minimal side effects, and does not have any high potential for abuse and addiction.

Although naltrexone will ensure that the opioid receptors inside the brain are not activated by opioids, using drugs like buprenorphine will activate these receptors - albeit partially. It is for this reason that naltrexone is an opioid antagonist while buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist.

3. Modafinil

Modafinil was first approved by the FDA - the Food and Drug Administration - for the treatment of narcolepsy. A non-amphetamine eugeroic drug, it stimulates the CNS - the central nervous system - while also promoting wakefulness and alertness. It is effective as a medication for people who are struggling in their day to day functioning due to diminished or irregular sleep patterns arising from sleep apnea, long work shifts, or any other reason.

Its effects have also been found to be useful in treating cocaine dependence and addiction. The stimulant effects that Modafinil causes could potentially alleviate some of the adverse symptoms and effects of cocaine withdrawal.

Research studies have also provided evidence to show that this drug could also reduce cravings for cocaine while reducing the subjective response that many addicts have to this drug. Used in combination with behavioral therapy options, Modafinil could potentially prolong abstinence.

4. Others

The other drugs that are typically used in the form of medication management to treat and deal with substance abuse and addiction include but are not limited to:

  • Baclofen
  • Bupropion
  • Gabapentin
  • Topiramate
  • Vigabatrin

Getting Help

Although there are many types of drugs that are used in the management of substance use disorders, not all of them have received official approval for use in medication management. However, they still serve as indicators of the ways in which researchers are still looking for new and alternative pharmaceutical options that could potentially make it easier for people to overcome their addiction in the future.

The important thing to keep in mind is that medication management is one of the options that you will have at your disposal when you decide that the time has come for you to deal with your substance abuse and dependence as well as get started on the road to long term recovery.

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