The treatment of alcohol and drug addiction and/or dependence is a long-term process requiring dedication and patience. During treatment, patients undergo various processes, both medicinal and non-medical. The choice to stop alcohol and/or drug abuse leads to withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms when not addressed in the right manner can be life-threatening thus the need for treatment medications. The medication comes in handy in controlling the withdrawal symptoms and in reducing cravings.
Purpose of Treatment Medications
Medication is needed for addiction treatment for various reasons. Going cold turkey without medication can be fatal even a few hours after your last substance use. The following are reasons why medication is needed.
- Control withdrawal symptoms: Withdrawal symptoms will differ depending on the individual. They will include rapid heart rate, profuse sweating, as well as an increase in blood pressure. In extreme cases, the individual may experience a heart attack, seizure, or stroke. In an effort to keep these symptoms in check, medication suppresses them.
- Reduce the urge of substance abuse: When a person is dependent on alcohol or drugs, they feel the urge to continue using the substance. The use of medication will help to reduce the urge so you do not feel like you constantly need to meet your addiction. When you do not feel the urge to regularly consume your substance, you are on the road to recovery.
- Prevent a relapse: It is likely that even after recovery the patients remain strict to taking their medication. This will prevent the urge from resurfacing which may cause a relapse. The type of medication and the dosage will differ from one patient to another. Trying to give up substance abuse may lead to a relapse because the individual may not be able to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.
Medications for Withdrawal symptoms
Considering that people show different withdrawal symptoms depending on different factors, it is evident that there will be different drugs for treatment. The following are some common drugs prescribed during detox to help individuals to cope with withdrawal symptoms.
- Clonidine: Clonidine is a medication drug used to treat alcohol as well as opiate withdrawals. It is also used to stop symptoms such as tremors and seizures in extreme cases. Some of the symptoms it reduces during withdrawal include sweating, cramps, muscle aches, as well as anxiety. You may use this drug as a skin patch, ingest it orally, or inject it into the body.
- Benzodiazepines: This category of drugs is used to reduce anxiety as well as irritability. Many drugs such as cocaine and opiates like heroin will cause anxiety as a common withdrawal symptom. Additionally, these drugs can also address alcohol withdrawal symptoms due to its sedative effects. However, it is important to note that these drugs cannot be used in the long-term. This is because they are addictive in nature. Doctors are very careful of how they prescribe them.
- Antidepressants: Substance abuse reduces the ability of the body to naturally produce happiness. Addicts have to rely on ingesting drugs to trigger the brain to bring out such an effect. People who stop taking drugs tend to undergo depression for this reason. The doctor will prescribe drugs such as Zoloft and Prozac to relieve such feelings. The brain will in turn register that the drug is not used again and it will start to produce happiness-inducing chemicals.
Some common medications prescribed for alcohol addiction include Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram. They come in tablet form where the patient is expected to take on a daily basis.
Some common medications for heroin and opiate addiction include Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone. These play the role of easing withdrawal symptoms as well as ease cravings. These medications are prescribed as long as the patient may need it.
Factors Determining Treatment Medication Dosage
The dosage will differ from one individual to another. Treatment medication for alcohol or drug abuse is not similar for everyone. There are different factors that contribute towards a prescription. These include:
- Duration and dosage of substance use and abuse: Depending on how long you have been abusing the drug and in what doses, your doctor will determine which medication is best. For example, abusing drugs in high doses for a long period will in turn be accompanied by worse withdrawal symptoms. This will mean that the doctor will have a more strict dosage for such individuals. This is because their withdrawal may be fatal which means that the medication will fluctuate. Even when the drug is the same, the medication dosage will differ depending on how long the individual has been abusing a substance.
- Type of drug: The medication will also vary depending on the drug the individual abuses. Some drugs are more complicated to address as compared to others. For example, detoxing from alcohol or benzodiazepines such as Valium or Xanax especially when going cold turkey can be fatal as compared to other substances. Hard drugs are also a challenge as compared to alcohol while holding all other factors constant. Some drugs leave adverse withdrawal symptoms than others, which means that the dosage will be different.
- The individual’s withdrawal symptoms: Different people react differently even to the same drug. You will find two people abusing marijuana but when they explain the effect, it leaves them; one may mention hallucinations whereas the other will not. Similarly, the withdrawal symptoms will also differ. Depending on the symptoms, the doctor will have a different dosage as well as a different medication prescription.
Why Treatment Medications are Important
Treatment medications for drug and alcohol abuse are important to help individuals to not only cope with withdrawal symptoms but also to boost sobriety in the long-term. It is best to avoid self-medication to prevent fatal effects. Persons seeking to stop substance abuse have a positive objective but it is not as easy to meet the objective. It comes with several challenges. To help cope with the challenges, a health care provider specializing in the field will provide treatment medication to ease the process and prevent fatal side effects especially when going cold turkey.