How Do Medications for Addiction Treatment Work?

Even as a drug or alcohol addiction threatens to rewrite a person’s life, substance abuse treatment options exist that can begin to address the harm done and help the person to achieve health and balance.

While counseling and aftercare support address many mental and emotional challenges, the drugs used for addiction treatment or substance abuse can assist with breaking the chains of physical dependence, helping to ease an often-difficult withdrawal period, and managing any other medical or mental health issues that may have been left untreated (and in some cases, undiagnosed) along the way. Certain treatment medications may have some risks of their own, but they can be very useful in stabilizing those in early recovery and helping them to manage the symptoms of withdrawal during detox.

The addictive nature of many substances derives from the way they manipulate the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. Though their precise mechanisms of action vary, many pharmacotherapeutics in the treatment of addiction help to restore balance to the very neurochemical processes that are disrupted by drug and alcohol use.

To help treat certain types of addiction, a person may be prescribed treatment drugs that diminish cravings and withdrawal, counter the intoxicating effects of a drug, or have “off-label” uses that support the individual in recovery.

Drugs that may be used to manage substance dependence or have otherwise been considered for use as part of an addiction treatment regimen include:

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

Separate housing is provided for those attending a MAT program.

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