Medication - Drug Addiction

This is prescribed to treat withdrawal symptoms of an addiction or as a means of reducing someone’s dependency on a drug, for example methadone for heroin addiction. They also help to ease any cravings.

Medication is available from your GP or a community drugs team and prescribed on the basis that the addict is determined to give up their habit, and to attend a treatment programme.

The person prescribing medication will consider the nature of the addiction, the addict’s circumstances and lifestyle.

These drugs are not a ‘cure all’  and require the addict to have willpower and determination to succeed.

They are most effective when used as part of a treatment plan and combined with a support network.

There is a range of medications to treat different types of addiction, for example alcohol and hard drugs e.g. heroin. So what forms of medication are available to treat alcohol and drug addiction?

Drug, alcohol and nicotine addiction medication

Examples of medication include:

  • Methadone: used to treat heroin and morphine addicts. This can be taken over the long term and enables addicts to reduce their dependency. This must be carefully monitored as it is possible to develop an addiction to methadone.
  • Buprenorphine: used to treat an addiction to painkillers and other forms of opiates. It is taken every other day to reduce withdrawal symptoms. It is an ideal choice of drug for people who have experienced nasty side effects from methadone.
  • Naltrexone: used to treat alcohol and opiate addictions (e.g. heroin). What this does is to reduce the ‘high’ or other pleasurable feelings experienced from drug/alcohol use which often deters someone from using them. It can also ease cravings and help people who are trying to abstain.
  • Neurontin/Gabapentin: used to treat cocaine addiction. They help to minimise withdrawal symptoms and/or cravings but can have a sedative effect.
  • Baclofen: also used to treat cocaine addiction especially heavy usage. It affects neural pathways in the brain which are stimulated by cocaine and other similar substances. There are side effects with this medication which include nausea and sleepiness. This medication must not be suddenly stopped or withdrawn without medical supervision.
  • Disulfiram: also used to treat cocaine addiction but can be used for alcoholism as well. This works by magnifying unpleasant side effects of these substances. It must not be taken with either of these substances.
  • Topiramate: this eases any cravings for alcohol as well as regulating moods. It must NOT be taken with alcohol as this will cause serious side effects.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy: these over the counter forms of medication help to control cravings for nicotine as well as enabling the smoker to wean themselves off cigarettes. There are different strengths available so the smoker can gradually reduce the dosage over a period of time.

The vast majority of these medications are available on prescription only. See your GP as he/she will be best placed to advise you about these and help you decide upon the right medication for you.


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