Medications Used to Treat Withdrawal

medication for withdrawalMaking the initial choice to get clean from drug abuse is a difficult first step. However, when dealing with symptoms of withdrawal, the decision to remain clean can sometimes make an individual feel powerless against addiction. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and drugs can be mild to moderate or more intense. Anxiousness, irritability, shaking, vomiting, and insomnia are some common reactions to the body’s deprivation of a substance. The signs of withdrawal may vary from person to person, depending on the length of drug use and the severity of the addiction.

Many drugs make it so the user feels the need to keep using in order to quell the symptoms of withdrawal. This cyclical process can be tough to get out of, especially when the withdrawal process is severe. Luckily, medications are available to help ease the symptoms while an individual is seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction.

You can call us today to learn more about the different types of treatment and medications offered here at The Oaks at La Paloma. We are committed to helping you or your loved one get free of addiction. Our licensed professionals understand the nature of addiction and how to treat it.

Alcohol Withdrawal Medications

Those going through a withdrawal from alcohol may experience restlessness, insomnia or anxiety. An article by Psychology Today cited that while most alcoholics do not need to undergo hospitalization for alcohol withdrawal, some medications can prove extremely helpful in managing the deprivation.

  • Benzodiazepines are commonly used medications that have been used since the 1960s to assist in withdrawal and are among the safest to use. Examples of “benzos” are diazepam (Valium) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium). These have been shown to decrease the restless feelings that some experience. Benzos slow down the nervous system and allow the body to reach an equilibrium without many of the negative effects of withdrawal.
  • Other medications include lorazepam (Ativan), clorazepate (Tranxeme), and phenobarbitals.

Medications for Stimulant and Opiate Withdrawal

Many of the medications used for alcohol withdrawal are also shown to be effective for stimulant and opioid withdrawals, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). These prescriptions can be administered as part of an inpatient treatment program while some can be used during an outpatient or residential community treatment plan.

Diazepam is commonly used for stimulant withdrawal when symptoms are milder. When the effects of withdrawal are more severe in scope, desipramine (Norpramin) may be used. This antidepressant combats the anxiety, depression, and mood changes one might experience when coming off drugs like cocaine or amphetamines. Because it is used for more intense withdrawal symptoms, the AAFP does not recommend using it as part of a routine withdrawal management plan.

Opiate addiction may be considered one of the more serious types of illicit drug dependencies due to the high potential for addiction in the first place. Opiates, like heroin and OxyContin, can cause devastating side effects during use and through withdrawal. Medline Plus, a service by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, estimates that approximately 9 percent of the American population has used an opiate over a lifetime. While some are used for medicinal purposes, others are used recreationally.

Two Most Commonly Used Medicines

  • Clonidine is typically used for intranasal users and can be part of an outpatient program. It helps reduce anxiety, agitation, and the cramping that accompanies opiate abstinence.
  • Methadone, perhaps the most well-known of opioid withdrawal medications, is often used at first in an inpatient setting when the individual has very little control over his/her addiction.

Using medications can be an effective step in the recovery process; however, medications should not be used a lifelong solution to addiction. Successful use of medications depends on the specific person and their desire to stay abstinent from drugs or alcohol. Some prescriptions require ongoing treatment at first to help prevent relapse. Especially in situations that require detoxification, medications should be administered under professional care to ensure that no adverse side effects occur.

If you have any questions about how medication is used to treat withdrawal symptoms, or addiction care in general, please call us here at The Oaks at La Paloma.