Between 8% and 10% of American adults over the age of 12 required treatment for alcohol or drug abuse or dependency, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports. Detox is the first step in drug and alcohol recovery. Its foremost goal is to cleanse the body of toxins and return stability to your system. The patient can then receive treatment for addiction and recovery.
Why Are Medicines Sometimes Needed During Detox?
Medications are not always necessary during the detox process, but sometimes they are important to ensure your safety and comfort. Those who have become physically and psychologically dependent upon substances often experience withdrawal symptoms while undergoing detox. These symptoms can be mild or they can be life-threatening, depending upon the type of substances that have been abused and the length of time of addiction.
Drugs like alcohol, opioids and benzodiazepines can induce dangerous withdrawal symptoms if they are stopped suddenly without medical supervision. Other substances, such as stimulants, hallucinogens and sedatives, can also result in withdrawal symptoms during detox.
Medicines are used to help relieve withdrawal symptoms and to treat substance abuse during detox and recovery. Some medications help with muscle aches and pains, others work on normalizing brain imbalances while some medications counteract cravings for the substances being withdrawn.
Medicines Used In Detox
The prescription drugs used to help those undergoing detox vary according to the substance of abuse. Different classes of drugs require different types of medicines to help with withdrawal symptoms, pain relief and some potentially life-threatening effects of detox.
Opioid Detox Medications:
This drug, when prescribed in an addiction treatment setting, does not produce a ‘high’. Rather, the medicine makes the patient feel normal by correcting brain imbalances caused by addiction. (2)
It provides physical comfort, blocks cravings for heroin and other opiates, lessens chances of relapsing and reduces dependence on drugs.
Alcohol Abuse Detox Medicines:
These are withdrawal medications that prevent seizures, which can occur during alcohol detox. The drug also lessens cravings and can treat co-occurring disorders. The sedative effect of these drugs helps patients detox without risking seizures, however the patient must be closely supervised, as these medicines can become addictive.
Drugs such as Tegretol or Depakote can be used in conjunction with other medicines to help with withdrawal seizures that may occur.
Methamphetamine, Cocaine Detox Medicines:
- Gabapentin, Vigabatrin, Topiramate: These are anticonvulsant drugs the are used to prevent seizures and restore feelings of wellbeing due to the release of GABA neurotransmitters.
- Modafinil: This drug can help fight the fatigue and sleepiness that cocaine withdrawal can bring on by helping patients sleep more soundly and increase dopamine production.
- Baclofen: This muscle relaxant helps with muscle aches.
- Antidepressants: Since depression is one of the withdrawal symptoms that go along with these drugs, an antidepressant can help.
Medicines for Benzodiazepine Detox:
- Long-acting benzodiazepines: These can be substituted for shorter-acting sedatives like diazepam.
- Clonidine: This acts much in the same way as methadone does for heroin and opioid abuse.
Depending upon the substance of abuse, there are other medicines available to help with the withdrawal symptoms associated with detox. Recovery and treatment in a facility that has medical supervision is an important part of any addiction program.