What Medications Are Used as a Treatment for Drug Addiction?

Arguably, one of the hardest parts of overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol is getting through detox. After all, this aspect of addiction recovery is known to trigger a wave of severe withdrawal symptoms, which can vary from mild to intense, depending on how long an individual has been using. Fortunately, many rehab facilities will provide individuals with medications to help make coming off of these substances slightly less taxing on the body and to reduce their chances of relapse.


Before going over the different kinds of medications that are designed to help individuals get through detox, let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with abrupt drug or alcohol cessation. Although the initial onset can vary slightly, most individuals can expect to experience the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Arrhythmias
  • Profuse sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

It is worth noting that withdrawal symptoms can be even more serious for those who are trying to overcome an addiction to benzodiazepines or alcohol. For example, in a study published in the Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, it was revealed that withdrawing from benzodiazepine could lead to grand mal seizures, life-threatening seizures that are known to trigger violent muscle contractions and even loss of consciousness. As far as alcohol is concerned, 3 to 5 percent of those who suddenly stop drinking will develop delirium tremens, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. For those who are not familiar with delirium tremens, it is a severe and potentially life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal that is often characterized by fever, severe confusion, agitation, hallucinations, and delirium.


For those who are ready to put substance abuse behind them, you will be happy to know that there is no shortage of FDA-approved medications available to help make getting through detox a little easier. Some of these medications include

Naltrexone – This medication is commonly prescribed to those who are trying to overcome an opioid addiction as it has a low potential for abuse and produces little to no side effects. According to the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment, a nonprofit organization that takes great pride in educating the public about the disease of opioid dependence, naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that works by impeding the activation of opioid receptors in the brain that would otherwise trigger pain and feelings of depression, both of which common withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid cessation.

Buprenorphine – This medication is also commonly prescribed to those trying to overcome an addiction to opioids. However, unlike naltrexone, buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means that it does activate opioid receptors in the brain to trigger a euphoric high, albeit not to the extent of full agonist drugs, to help ease pain and also soothe many of the psychological symptoms associated with coming off of opioids.

Disulfiram and Acamprosate – These medications are often prescribed together to help individuals who are struggling with withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol cessation. Studies show that disulfiram works by impeding the activity of enzymes in the body that normally metabolizes alcohol. If an individual tries to consume alcohol while taking this medication, they become sick. Acamprosate, on the other hand, helps stabilize chemical signaling in the brain that triggers cravings and temptation. When taken together, these medications can significantly reduce the chances of alcohol relapse.

It is worth noting that this list does not cover all of the medications commonly used to help individuals cope with severe withdrawal symptoms associated with detox. Ideally, those who believe that they could benefit from medication-assisted detox should speak with a physician or addiction expert regarding the types of medication that would best meet their needs.


All in all, overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol is no easy feat. However, with the help of prescription-based medications and the right rehab facility, achieving and maintain sobriety can be a reality. To learn more about the medications detailed in this article or others that can aid in your recovery, consider speaking with one of our friendly and knowledgeable associates today at 800-411-8019.