There are many ways to cope with addiction, but one treatment method is becoming more popular.
As researchers continue to make advances, addiction medications are becoming a reality. Some treatment philosophies insist that recovering addicts use no drugs at all. However, the ability to use medications to help addicts heal represents hope for many people who struggle with this disease.
Medications to Treat Alcoholism
Acamprosate for alcoholism is one drug that can be used to help addicts. It is not the first drug to be developed for alcoholics, but it is the most recent and holds great promise. Acamprosate acts in the brain and is thought to restore a balance to the chemicals that have been altered by addiction. This restoration makes the brain function as normal again, which helps addicts to more easily resist the urge to relapse and start drinking again.
Other medications also work to help alcoholics avoid relapsing. One, called disulfiram, causes a very unpleasant reaction when combined with alcohol. The recovering alcoholic takes the medication every day, knowing that even a sip of alcohol will lead to sickness.
Medications to Treat Drug Abuse
Among the most addictive of all types of drugs are those in the opioid class. These include heroin, but also many prescription painkillers. These drugs alter brain chemistry to such an extent that it becomes nearly impossible for an addict to stop using. The withdrawal symptoms they experience are intense, unpleasant and painful. Methadone has long been used to help reduce withdrawal for heroin addicts, but there are risks associated with it and it is tightly controlled.
Newer medications have been developed by researchers that are not as harmful or susceptible to abuse as methadone. One medication — buprenorphine — helps to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal and shorten the time it takes to detox from an opioid drug. Another medication — naloxone — helps addicts resist relapsing by blocking the euphoric effects of opioids. Without the high, there is no point in abusing the drugs.
Although there are several medications that have been developed to help addicts in recovery, there is no cure for addiction. All of the medications that researchers have created to treat addiction are aids to recovery rather than cures. No one can recover from addiction and stay sober simply by taking a medication. Real results come from working with professional counselors or therapists, getting support from fellow addicts and loved ones, lifestyle changes, and using medications like acamprosate, suboxone, disulfiram and naloxone. With all of these aspects of treatment, addicts can expect to heal and recover.