Medications Used During Detox

The road to recovery for people addicted to drugs or alcohol is never easy and treating addiction can be complex. There are a number of factors that need to be considered by rehab specialists when drawing up an effective treatment programme.

These include the type of drugs that the person is taking, how long they have been taking drugs, the severity of their addiction, and the frequency of their drug use.

Over and above that rehab experts also need to consider an individual’s socio-economic background, family history, physical and mental health as well as the underlying causes of the addiction and substance abuse, like mental health disorders, pain, trauma or abuse.

All these factors play a role in addiction and will influence an addict’s treatment options.


Why are medically assisted detox and rehab necessary for some addicts?

Overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol requires a holistic treatment approach. Medically assisted detox and rehab is often part of an effective treatment plan because the body has become physically addicted to drugs or alcohol and this can make going cold turkey dangerous.

Long term drug or alcohol addiction alters the chemical make-up of the brain, affecting the receptors in the brain and creating a physical dependence.

Normal brain function relies on a delicate balance between neurotransmitters, but drugs and alcohol react with the GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) receptors in your brain releasing endorphins and increasing dopamine levels, producing abnormal feelings of pleasure and euphoria.

The body can easily become addicted to these feelings and it will make allowances for the increased dopamine levels and endorphins and when these are no longer available you can experience debilitating side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

Opioid addiction affects the opioid system which controls pain, reward and addictive behaviours. When a person takes heroin or opioid painkillers, the opiates bind to the opioid receptors in the brain and this alters a person’s feelings of pain and pleasure, increasing the risk of opioid addiction.

Once the body has developed a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, it can be extremely dangerous to detox without the assistance and supervision of a medical professional. For long term or severe addicts, medically assisted detox is often a necessary part of the treatment programme and there are a number of medications that are used in addiction treatment.

The use of medication during the detox stage of your treatment is usually intended to minimise the withdrawal symptoms and prevent health complications. The medication used in addiction treatment can also help reduce cravings and make the detox more effective and sustainable.

Medication can also be used during the rehab stage of a drug or alcohol addiction treatment programme and are designed to help prevent a relapse. All medications used in addiction treatment are recognised as treatment options by the national institute on drug abuse and are FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved.


Common Medications Used in Drug Addiction Treatment



Methadone is a recognised medication for the treatment of heroin and other opiate addictions and is used to lessen the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is a synthetic opioid that binds to the same brain receptors as heroin and opiate-based painkillers. Addicts don’t get the same feelings of euphoria from methadone as they do from heroin, but it can still be addictive and needs to be carefully administered by a medical professional.



Naltrexone is prescribed for both alcohol and opiate addictions. It works by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain and prevents you from getting a high, but it does not reduce cravings.



Buprenorphine is an alternative to methadone in the treatment of opioid addiction. Buprenorphine is not as addictive as methadone and can be a better treatment option for many addicts because, unlike methadone, it does not have to be administered by a medical professional and can be taken at home.



Lofexidine is administered as part of a detox programme and is a recognised treatment for addiction to heroin and opiate-based painkillers. It can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and is often used in conjunction with methadone or naltrexone to accelerate the detox process.



Mirtazapine is an antidepressant and is often prescribed during detox from cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates and alcohol to relieve anxiety.



Clonidine was created to treat high blood pressure and can be used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) but it is also effective for the treatment of opiate addiction because it helps relieve a variety of withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, cramps, muscle aches, restlessness and agitation.


Clonazepam and Chlordiazepoxide

Clonazepam and Chlordiazepoxidearepart of the benzodiazepine family of drugs and because of their sedative effects they can be used effectively to treat drug withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and therefore Clonazepam and Chlordiazepoxide are used judiciously as treatments for addiction and can only be administered by a medical professional for short time periods.



Bupropion is an antidepressant that is often used to help people quit smoking and there is evidence to suggest that it could be useful in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction.


Common Medications Used in Alcohol Addiction Treatment


Nalmefene is an opioid antagonist typically used in the treatment of alcohol dependence. It reduces the pleasurable effects of drinking alcohol and therefore the desire to drink but it does not reduce cravings or prevent you from drinking.



Acamprosate is prescribed to help treat alcohol addiction and works best when used in conjunction with cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling. Acamprosate reduces cravings, lessens the desire to drink and helps an addict remain sober.



Disulfiram produces an acute sensitivity to alcohol and when taken with alcohol you will experience unpleasant side effects similar to a hangover. These side effects can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion and chest pain. Disulfiram will not prevent cravings and is typically administered as part of a rehab programme to keep alcoholics sober.



Topiramate has not yet been approved as a treatment for drug or alcohol addiction but it has proved to be effective when used during alcohol rehab.

If you are suffering from long term or severe alcohol and drug addiction, medically assisted detox and rehab will help you break the habit. Contact the Rehab Clinics Group today to discuss the benefits of medically assisted detox and rehab.