Addictive disorders are a major cause of preventable illness and premature death. Research has shown that approximately 1 in 9 Americans use illicit drugs, with marijuana and prescription drugs being the most commonly misused. To help those in need, a variety of medications have been developed to treat addiction and reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In this article, we will discuss the most commonly used medications for the treatment of addictive disorders. In the case of opioids, methadone and buprenorphine are the most commonly used medicines.
Methadone works by binding to the same receptors in the brain as heroin and pain relievers, but it does not cause the user to get high. This helps suppress cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine works in a similar way, but it is less regulated because of its lower potential for addiction. Both medications are dispensed daily in methadone clinics to prevent abuse. For alcohol addiction, naltrexone is often prescribed.
Naltrexone blocks receptors in the brain that produce the pleasurable effects of alcohol, reducing the urge to drink. It can be given by injection every 4 weeks. Naltrexone may cause nausea or headaches. For nicotine addiction, nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) are available in the form of a patch, chewing gum, lozenge, nasal spray or inhaler. These therapies help smokers quit cigarettes by activating nicotine receptors in the brain.
Acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are also commonly used to treat alcohol use disorder.
They don't provide a cure for the disorder, but are more effective when used in combination with a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. For opioid use disorder, naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone are three effective FDA-approved drugs used to help treat opioid use disorder. These medications work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can also help those on the road to recovery. Participation in 12-step recovery work has been shown to improve outcomes. It is important to note that while these medications can be effective in treating addiction, they do not provide a cure for the disorder. Addiction is a complex condition that requires ongoing treatment and support from healthcare providers, family members, and recovery counselors.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, seek help from a qualified healthcare provider.