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American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Medications Used in Addiction Treatment Rehabs

The use of medications in combination with behavioral therapy to treat addiction is called medication for addiction treatment (MAT), formerly referred to as medication-assisted treatment.1 Evidence supports the use of addiction treatment medications are an evidence-based option for treating alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid use disorder (OUD) by relieving cravings and withdrawal symptoms.2 Common medications for addiction treatment include acamprosate, disulfiram, naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone.2 This page will share information on some of the medications used to help during addiction treatment.

Addiction Treatment Medications

When a person is struggling with opioid addiction or alcohol addiction, certain medications have been FDA-approved and may help some people maintain lasting recovery. Some rehabilitation programs combine these medications with behavioral interventions as a way of providing a “whole patient” approach to treatment.3

This combination of medication and behavioral therapy can help ensure patient retention, reduce the risk of relapse, and improve birth outcomes for pregnant women with substance use disorder (SUD).3 Medication with behavioral therapy can increase the likelihood for a person to remain in treatment and participate more fully in therapy so they can learn to identify and deal with the core issues that led to their addiction.4

What Medications Are Prescribed for Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder?

There are currently 3 medications approved to treat addiction to alcohol by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).5 The approved medications include:6

  • Disulfiram.
  • Acamprosate.
  • Naltrexone.

Disulfiram Used in Addiction Rehab Programs

Disulfiram helps people who are dependent on alcohol and still experience cravings but have already undergone withdrawal.6 Often, the best candidates for this type of daily medication treatment for alcohol are those who are committed to staying abstinent and are willing to accept the guidance of supervision from a treatment program or support person.6

Its efficacy relies on aversive conditioning. If a person were to drink alcohol while taking disulfiram, they may experience unpleasant effects, including nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations.6 The anticipation of experiencing these strong negative physical reactions can work as a deterrent to drinking.6

Acamprosate Used in Alcohol Addiction Rehab Programs

Acamprosate is a medication best suited for those who have achieved abstinence from alcohol before beginning a treatment program.6 This medication works by restoring the balance of certain neurotransmitters that can occur during abstinence following chronic alcohol use and may help reduce cravings for alcohol.6

Acamprosate is deemed a safe drug as it does not appear to create tolerance, does not have any significant reactions with other medications, and has no abuse potential.6

Naltrexone Used for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Naltrexone is an alcohol-cessation medication that comes in oral form or as extended-release injectables.6 It acts by blocking endorphins, the body’s natural opioid receptors responsible for craving and reward, reducing a person’s desire for alcohol.6 It is indicated for people who can abstain from drinking before beginning treatment.6

Naltrexone has proven effective in reducing relapse to heavy drinking and is also used in the treatment of opioid use disorder.6

Opioid Addiction Treatment Medications

The FDA has approved three medications for the treatment of OUD. Some of the medications can reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms, while all have been shown to have effects in limiting blunting or blocking the effects of illicit opioids and reducing or eliminating craving to use opioids.3 The medications are considered evidenced-based options for effective treatment.3 The three opioid addiction treatment medications are:3

  • Methadone.
  • Buprenorphine.
  • Naltrexone.

Methadone Used in Opioid Addiction Treatment

Methadone is a full opioid agonist medication that reduces cravings, eliminates or reduces withdrawal symptoms, and blunts or blocks the effects of illicit opioids.7 It is a medication that can only be accessed through certified providers who can monitor and supervise use .7,8 It is typically used as part of a comprehensive strategy involving medication for addiction treatment for opioid addiction.8

To ensure safe treatment, individuals should never use more methadone than is prescribed, and alcohol should not be consumed while on methadone.8

Buprenorphine Used in Opioid Addiction Rehab

Buprenorphine is another drug to treat addiction to opioids. It is often prescribed in conjunction with behavioral therapy.9 Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that can reduce physical dependence on opioids and alleviate withdrawal and craving.9

To use buprenorphine, a person can’t use opioids for 12 to 24 hours and they should be in the early stages of opioid withdrawal. Dosing is then adjusted as needed. There is no limit to the amount of time a person can take buprenorphine.9

Naltrexone Used for Opioid Addiction Treatment

Naltrexone for opioid addiction treatment binds to and blocks opioid receptors in the brain, eliminating the euphoria and sedative effects of illicit opioids and reduces cravings.10  It is in the form of a pill or an extended-release injectable, is non-habit forming, and does not cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped.10 Candidates for naltrexone need to have been sober from opioids for 7 to 10 days before treatment.10 Those benefiting from this medication will have a lower tolerance for opioids and may be at risk for overdose if they use opioids after naltrexone is discontinued.10

Before using naltrexone for the treatment of OUD, a person should be sure they are not pregnant, are not actively taking illegal drugs, do not have liver problems or other medical conditions, and should tell their physician about all medications they use, including vitamins and herbal supplements.10

Finding Addiction Rehab Programs Using Medications

Treatment is available for people wanting to experience support and guidance in their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Medications like those mentioned are used in local rehabs that incorporate medication-assisted treatment. These medications, in addition to behavioral therapy, can help individuals move through treatment and begin their journey toward recovery. Find out about the potential cost of treatment.

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