Last updated: 05/6/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Medications are often used in rehab, and depending on the drugs you have used, different pharmacological options may be necessary for your safe recovery.
Why Are Medications Used in Rehab?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.” Certain drugs can be used during addiction treatment to
Behavioral therapies are often the main options for addiction treatment because they have been found to be effective nearly across the board for every type of addiction syndrome. While pharmacological options have not yet been approved for the treatment of every type of drug addiction, they are almost always helpful during either detox or rehab and can help improve treatment outcomes immensely.
What Medications Will Be Used During Rehab?
Different medications will likely be used depending on the specific type of drug or drugs you have been using. Some pharmacological options can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings while others can treat a number of additional issues such as comorbid disorders, psychosis, etc.
It can help to understand which medications a rehab facility is likely to use based on the drugs you’ve been taking.
- Alcohol: There are three main medications used to treat alcohol abuse: disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. All of these can be helpful to the treatment of alcohol abuse’s effects and to reducing one’s chances of relapse.
- Opioids: According to Harvard Medical School, “More than 100,000 American addicts are now using methadone as a maintenance treatment.” This is one of the most common medications used for the treatment of opioid addiction, but buprenorphine and naltrexone are options as well. All of these medications help to prevent relapse while methadone and buprenorphine can maintain individuals by allowing them to experience less severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings during treatment.
- Stimulants: Unfortunately, as the NIDA states, “At this time, there are no medications that are FDA-approved for treating stimulant addiction.” However, this does not mean that pharmacological approaches aren’t ever used during stimulant rehab. Anti-craving agents may be used in early recovery, and many individuals who experience full-blown psychosis caused by stimulant abuse are given antipsychotics to treat these symptoms while they last. Stimulant abuse is also highly associated with depression, and antidepressants might be given to those struggling with this issue.
- Sedatives: Those dependent on prescription sedatives often need to be weaned off the drug slowly in order to avoid the severe and sometimes deadly withdrawal symptoms associated with these drugs. Medications can help to minimize these issues, either the drug the individual was taking previously or another type of sedative.
- Marijuana: Certain pharmacological options are being investigated for their ability to treat marijuana withdrawal and its symptoms. For example, some anti-anxiety medications like zolpidem and buspirone have been found to increase the ability for individuals to sleep during withdrawal, which is a considerable advantage to recovery (NIDA).
In addition, mood stabilizers and other drugs may be used to treat comorbid mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, etc. It is extremely common for an individual who suffers from addiction to also have another type of mental disorder that may be worsening their addiction (and vice-versa), so it is important for all addiction patients to be screened for these disorders and treated appropriately for them.
Do I Really Need These Medications for Recovery?
The treatment of addiction without the use of medications can be very difficult, needlessly traumatic, and even dangerous. Many drugs cause severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings that should be managed with the medications listed above, and sometimes, pharmacological options are the only treatment methods that can truly minimize this issue. In truth, behavioral therapies and medications, when used together, have been found to be extremely effective for every addiction syndrome, and without medication, it can be much harder to stop abusing drugs, avoid relapse, and even to feel safe and healthy during recovery.
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