For many drug addicts, recovery is an uphill battle where every ounce of help is another relapse prevention device. That is why drug addiction treatment often includes prescription medication.

Why trade in one drug for another? In the right setting, it is a good idea. Medication can help support drug addiction recovery as long as it is part of a supervised plan with a drug that eases symptoms, helps manage a co-occurring condition, or both.

Medication Helps Ease the Transitions Through Withdrawal

Withdrawal from certain types of drugs, such as heroin, is notoriously dangerous. The effects can be fatal in some situations, which is why detox at home is rarely a safe plan. Medications can help manage withdrawal symptoms and help the addicted person through the tumultuous and potentially life-threatening stage of ridding the body of toxins.

What is the worst that could happen during detox?

  • Alcohol: pain, delirium tremens (DTs), nausea, fever, death
  • Benzodiazepines (Ativan, Xanax, Valium): sleeplessness, anxiety, heart palpitations, muscle and joint pain, psychoses and hallucinations, seizures, nausea, death
  • Opiates: anxiety, muscle aches, sweating, abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea. Death is unlikely.

Withdrawal is never easy. It always involves physical discomfort, psychological effects, and certain health risks specific to the drug. With medically-assisted detox to help manage the symptoms, the risk of relapse diminishes. In cases where withdrawal can be fatal, medication administered under supervision saves lives.

Certain Drugs are Beneficial in Long-Term Recovery

After withdrawal, recovery begins in earnest. That is when skilled drug addiction treatment center staff works with the addict to understand not just the addiction but any underlying or co-occurring conditions that contribute to or worsen it. At this stage, medication can be a life-saver again.

Co-occurring disorders are common among addicts. For some, addiction is the result of self-medicating to control what is happening under the surface. The addict may try a drug and feel relief from a disorder, such as ADHD. Over time and without medical supervision, the self-medicating experiment can go terribly wrong.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  says people who have one of these disorders (or others) are more likely than anyone else to suffer from addiction:

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Generalized anxiety
  • Social anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Medication can control anxiety and panic disorder. It can treat depression and regulate bipolar disorder. With the co-occurring condition managed, relapse into drug addiction is less likely to happen.

Some addicts and their families worry that trading one drug for another is a slippery slope. Without the help of a caring and knowledgeable drug addiction treatment center, that might be true. However, treatment experts can get to the heart of an addition and any other conditions that exist alongside it. They can administer the right medication to not just help the addicted person make it through withdrawal, but to keep them on track for long-term recovery.

If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction, do not try to go it alone. Help is available and recovery is attainable if you call us today to learn more about admissions.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village 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.