The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines an addiction treatment as anything that’s a planned, intentional intervention. In other words, if someone on your treatment team assesses your case and then makes a specific decision to provide you with some kind of therapy, that therapy would be defined as an addiction treatment.
Typically, when people think about how addictions are treated, they think about:
- Support group meetings
- Group therapy
- Addiction counseling
- Private study
There’s one more thing to add to this list: medication management.
With this technique, medical specialists use a specific type of medication in order to help you combat your addiction. Read on to find out more about how this works.
Some of the tools your doctor might use in a medication management program will be familiar to you. For example, you might know what antidepressants are and what they do. You might also know what sleeping aids are or what anti-anxiety medications are designed to do. These familiar substances can help to ease discomfort in the early days of sobriety, allowing you to concentrate during the day and sleep soundly at night.
But there are many other medications that are designed specifically for people who are dealing with an addiction to drugs. Many of these medications are made for those who have a history of opiate or opioid abuse.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are three medications made for those who need help with opiate or opioid addictions: methadone, buprenorphine, and naloxone. They all work just a little differently.
Methadone and buprenorphine work on the same chemical pathways used by illicit drugs, and that can trick your brain into thinking it has access to the drugs you’ve been taking. But while you might feel high when you take drugs, these medications produce no euphoria. If you take them properly, you’ll just feel normal, not high.
Naloxone is a little different, as it simply blocks the effects of drugs. It won’t make you feel calm or reduce the feelings of withdrawal caused by drugs. But, should you give into temptation, naloxone will keep the drugs from working. That could help to break the connection your brain has formed between taking drugs and feeling good, and that might make the next relapse a little less likely.
Medications are also sometimes used for people who have alcoholism. Just as the drugs mentioned above can block the sensations opiates and opioids can bring, alcohol-specific drugs like naltrexone can make a sip of alcohol a lot less rewarding. That might make a return to drinking less likely.
Do They Work?
Typically, medications like this are used to boost the effectiveness of the other therapies you’re using in the fight against addiction. That means you’ll still go to therapy sessions and you’ll still participate in support groups, even as you take medications for your addiction. They’re not meant to replace the work you’ll do in a formal treatment program for addiction.
But when medications are used as part of a structured treatment program, they can be really effective. Consider this: In the Addiction Treatment Forum, researchers examined several different studies of the effectiveness of using naltrexone as a treatment for alcoholism. Out of the 14 studies they examined, only two found that the therapy didn’t work well, and the authors suggest that these studies were conducted just a little differently, which might account for the unusual results.
Similarly, a report written for ASAM suggests that methadone maintenance can result in astonishing success rates ranging from 60-90 percent. By contrast, ASAM says, those who try to get sober from opiates or opioids without medications struggle, and only 5-10 percent see success.
Each story of recovery is different, of course, and the success one person achieves might not be the success that you see. That’s just the way that addiction treatments tend to work. However, studies like this do seem to suggest that most people get better when they have access to medications in addition to therapy. Putting the two together just seems to work for a lot of people, and it could work for you, too.
Recovery at Orlando Recovery Center
At Orlando Recovery Center, we believe in specialized treatment plans. That means we’ll work with you to develop a suite of tools that’s best for you and your addiction. You might need medication management in order to recover, but you might not. Please call us, and we’ll tell you more about our comprehensive addiction assessment program and the tools we use to help you design a program that’s best for your path to recovery. Please call.
Medical Disclaimer: The Orlando Recovery Center aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.