Detox is usually the first step to recovering from addiction. However, detoxification may not always be an easy process. In fact, many people will likely need medical detox medications to help them deal with recovering from severe substance use disorders in the form of withdrawal symptoms and intense substance cravings.
Medical detox treatment provides better support to people struggling with addiction compared to at-home detox options. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) offered by inpatient and outpatient programs can help to stabilize and give comfort to patients. A medical team of an inpatient or residential detox program can also provide 24-hour supervision.
If you or someone you care about is looking to start recovering from addiction, contact Midwest Detox Center at 833.647.0392 or contact our team online. Learn about our detox programs and addiction treatment programs that will best fit your needs.
5 Common Medical Detox Medications
Patients that choose to go through medical detox are working to rid toxic and addictive substances in their systems on purpose. During this period, patients experience withdrawal symptoms with the supervision of a medical team and likely with the help of prescribed drugs. There are five types of medications that detox centers may use.
Many opioid narcotics, like heroin, are short-acting agonists. By being given doses of a longer-acting opioid, like methadone, patients in medical detox will be much more able to take fewer doses to keep their brain receptors engaged.
Methadone doses are given once per day to help patients with an addiction to heroin or another opioid. It’s classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule II controlled substance. However, methadone should only be used with medical monitoring, as it’s an opioid narcotic that can be abused.
When used in medical detox, methadone can be highly effective at preventing opioid withdrawal symptoms. Patients can also easily taper off of methadone.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. Unlike methadone, it doesn’t fully activate brain receptors and has less potential for abuse. However, taking regular buprenorphine doses is still useful when it comes to reducing a patient’s heroin and other opioid narcotic withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Buprenorphine is a Schedule III controlled substance and was actually approved by the FDA specifically to treat opioid dependency.
Buprenorphine is often given to patients in medical detox, although it’s usually combined with another drug called naloxone. The latter causes patients to experience varied withdrawal reactions, should they attempt to misuse buprenorphine and inject it intravenously. Suboxone, for example, contains both buprenorphine and naloxone. However, buprenorphine can also be given by itself. Sublocade is a popular injectable form that’s also long-acting.
Naltrexone can treat patients dealing with either opioid or alcohol use disorders. It’s an ideal drug for MAT as dosage can be given easily, there’s little risk of abuse, and there are also minimal side effects. However, naltrexone doses are best given to patients after they complete the typical medical detox process or after being abstinent from drugs for seven days. While opioids are still in the patient’s system, using the drug can lead to extremely severe withdrawal symptoms.
While oral forms of naltrexone can be given to patients daily, an injectable form of the drug called Vivitrol can be given monthly.
How does naltrexone work? It completely blocks the activation of brain receptors that are engaged when you’re high. That’s why it’s called a long-acting opioid blocking agent and is often prescribed to prevent relapse. Naltrexone for patients with an alcohol addiction works the same as it does for patients with opioid addiction.
Like many other medical detox medications, regular doses of acamprosate work to reduce the physical effects of withdrawal symptoms in a patient. It’s usually used to maintain the brain chemistry of a patient with alcohol use disorder and is therefore used to treat alcoholism.
Acamprosate typically works by protecting a patient’s brain from overexcitation resulting from alcohol detox. It causes a significant disruption of inhibitory and excitatory signaling within the system. Relapse likelihood can be decreased, and abstinence can be promoted.
Disulfiram is another prescribed drug that’s typically used in the medical detox treatment of alcoholism. It turns off an enzyme in a patient’s body that’s needed to metabolize ethanol, which makes it very uncomfortable to drink. Like acamprosate, the alcohol addiction medication disulfiram can decrease relapse likelihood.
If a patient drinks alcohol with disulfiram in their system, they will experience an unpleasant reaction due to a buildup of acetaldehyde. Physical reactions include blurred vision, breathing difficulties, chest pain, headache, nausea, and vomiting.