Addiction is a powerful disease, but addiction sufferers have more options for treatment than ever before. One of the most compelling areas of addiction research is medication assisted treatment. Some addiction sufferers find that medication provides the essential support they need to achieve long-term recovery.
Medication assisted treatment is customized for each individual. While these drugs can’t cure addiction, they can help reduce the risk of relapse and provide recovering individuals with the support they need to prevent withdrawal and maintain their sobriety.
Reducing the Severity of Withdrawal
Addiction sufferers are typically prescribed medication for the first time in the treatment process during medical detox. During detox, addiction sufferers will experience withdrawal symptoms. Without medication assisted treatment, these symptoms can become severe and in some cases life threatening.
During this phase of addiction treatment, healthcare providers will deliver medications that reduce withdrawal symptoms like nausea, tremors, headache and insomnia. While these medications are designed to enhance the recovering individual’s comfort, they are also instrumental for keeping those severe symptoms at bay. Because some of the more severe symptoms can trigger other health problems, these medications are vital for the early stages of addiction treatment.
Dealing with Cravings
Cravings are powerful urges to use that can continue months or even years into recovery, and they can lead to relapse. During the initial stages of treatment, addiction sufferers will experience cravings for the addictive substance in question. Today, doctors are prescribing recovering individuals safer drugs that interact with the same receptors in the body as the addictive substance, preventing withdrawal without creating euphoric effects. Some drugs can reduce the cravings that recovering individuals feel during and even after intensive addiction treatment. Some drugs that healthcare providers may offer include naltrexone, methadone, Subutex and Zofran.1
These medications can help re-establish normal brain activity that results in reduced cravings. Studies have shown that use of medication assisted treatment results in decreased drug-seeking activities. When cravings diminish, those in recovery can engage in other therapies designed to help them manage the triggers that formerly led them to abuse alcohol or drugs.
Medication Assisted Treatment and Dual Diagnosis
Roughly one third of people who suffer from an addiction also suffer from a mental or mood disorder. Experts believe this percentage might even be higher than previously indicated. When people seeking sobriety present to their addiction treatment center and are diagnosed with co-existing disorders that will require simultaneous treatments, they often receive medication assisted treatment that addresses their mental illness.2
For instance, someone with depression will be treated with antidepressants, and someone with anxiety will be treated with anti-anxiety medications. Healthcare providers have access to a pantheon of drugs used to treat mental disorders, and these drugs can help people who are dealing with a dual diagnosis. Some sufferers may require these medications on a short-term basis while others may need them indefinitely.
Only addiction specialists and healthcare providers can decide what drugs, if any, are right to prescribe to an addiction sufferer. During the evaluation process, healthcare providers can determine the best course of treatment for an individual based on their specific needs and symptoms, and it may include medication assisted therapy. As more is learned about addiction, researchers are continuing to develop drugs that can help addiction sufferers achieve and maintain long-term recovery.