Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

What Medications are Used in Addiction Treatment?

Table of Contents

Is addiction making life tough for you or someone you care about?

Addiction is a chronic condition that may impact a person’s life dramatically, affecting their health, relationships, and ability to function in daily life. It can feel like an uphill battle, but there is hope.

One aspect of managing and overcoming addiction is through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs. These medications, used alongside counseling and other therapies, can help ease withdrawal symptoms, lessen cravings, and pave a path toward a brighter, addiction-free future.

Introduction to Addiction Treatment Medications

Understanding Substance Use Disorders and Addiction

Substance use disorders (SUDs), including drug addiction and alcohol addiction, are serious mental health conditions. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), SUDs involve compulsive substance use despite negative consequences. SUDs can range from mild to severe and can impact individuals differently based on various factors, including the type of substance used.

Importance of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Programs

MAT programs combine medications with behavioral health services to treat substance use disorders effectively. These programs aim to help individuals maintain sobriety, manage withdrawal symptoms, and ultimately achieve recovery.

Withdrawal Symptoms and the Need for Medical Assistance

Overview of Withdrawal Symptoms in Substance Use Disorders

When a person suddenly stops using a substance on which they’ve become dependent, they may experience a host of uncomfortable symptoms known as withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can span both physical and psychological areas, and their intensity can range from mild discomfort to severe, life-threatening conditions.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms in Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

Individuals grappling with opioid use disorder often face a tough battle when they stop taking the drug. Some of the withdrawal symptoms that they may experience include:

  • Restlessness

  • Pain in the muscles and bones

  • Insomnia

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Cold flashes

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms in Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

When someone with an alcohol use disorder stops drinking, their body can react in unpredictable ways. Common withdrawal symptoms might include:

  • Tremors

  • Anxiety

  • Nausea

  • Sweating

  • In severe cases, hallucinations and seizures

Dangers and Risks of Unassisted Detox

Attempting to detox without professional medical help can pose serious health risks. Severe withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be life-threatening, particularly in instances of alcohol and opioid withdrawal.

Importance of Professional Medical Care during Detox Process

It’s critical to seek treatment from medical and mental health professionals during the detox process. They can provide medications for addictions and much-needed support to manage withdrawal symptoms. This reduces risks and increases the chances of a successful recovery. These professionals can also offer advice on self-help groups, like Narcotics Anonymous, that offer peer support throughout recovery.

Utilizing a treatment plan devised by a licensed therapist or other mental health professional can make the detox and recovery process safer and more effective. This treatment plan may also include strategies to avoid relapse, a common issue for people battling substance use disorders.

Remember, withdrawal is just one part of the larger picture of addiction. Treating it involves addressing not just physical symptoms but also psychological and behavioral aspects.

A holistic approach often involves a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and self-help or support groups to assist with ongoing recovery. If you or a loved one needs help in navigating this path to recovery, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call us today at (323) 307-7997 or send us a message from our contact page to schedule your consultation.

Medications for Addictions

Medications for Opioid Use Disorder and Opioid Addiction

  1. Methadone: A Long-Acting Opioid Agonist for OUD Treatment

    Methadone is a widely used medication to combat opioid addiction. Its primary benefits are twofold:

    • It interacts with the same brain receptors as opioids, thus mitigating withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

    • Unlike opioids, methadone doesn’t cause a potent high, enabling users to function normally.

  2. Buprenorphine (Suboxone): A Partial Opioid Agonist for OUD Treatment

    Buprenorphine shares several traits with methadone:

    • It relieves withdrawal symptoms by acting on the same receptors as opioids.

    • It suppresses cravings, further bolstering its effectiveness.

    • An additional benefit is its ability to reduce the risk of opioid overdose.

  3. Buprenorphine (Sublocade): A Long-Lasting Buprenorphine Injection for OUD Treatment

    Sublocade is a monthly injection of buprenorphine, providing a constant level of medication in the body. This long-acting formulation:

    • Reduces the need for daily dosing, making treatment adherence easier.

    • Minimizes withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids.

    • It can be particularly useful for individuals who struggle with daily medication adherence.

  4. Naltrexone (Vivitrol): An Opioid Antagonist for OUD Treatment

    Naltrexone, often available as Vivitrol, a once-monthly injection, works differently – it blocks the effects of opioids, which means if a person relapses and takes an opioid, they will not experience the expected high. Its advantages include:

    • Blocking the euphoria or high associated with opioid use.

    • Reducing cravings for opioids.

    • Its once-monthly formulation simplifies treatment and aids in maintaining treatment continuity.

Medications for Alcohol Addiction

  1. Disulfiram (Antabuse): Deterring Alcohol Use in AUD Treatment

    Disulfiram discourages alcohol use by creating unpleasant side effects such as nausea and flushing when alcohol is consumed.

  2. Acamprosate (Campral): Promoting Abstinence in AUD Treatment

    Acamprosate helps to manage post-acute withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for individuals to maintain abstinence from alcohol.

  3. Naltrexone: Reducing Cravings and Relapse Risk in AUD Treatment

    Just as with opioid addiction, Naltrexone can also be used to treat alcohol addiction by reducing cravings and the risk of relapse.

Medications for Other Substance Use Disorders

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for Nicotine Addiction

For nicotine addiction, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is commonly employed. Available in several forms, such as patches, gum, lozenges, and sprays, NRT manages cravings and withdrawal symptoms in tobacco users.

Modafinil and Bupropion for Stimulant Addiction

While no medications are currently FDA-approved to treat stimulant addiction, preliminary research suggests that Modafinil and Bupropion might reduce cravings and enhance treatment outcomes.

Commonly Used Medications for Treating Various Substance Use Disorders

For some substance use disorders, such as those involving benzodiazepines and cannabis, no medications have yet been approved for treatment. In these cases, supportive therapies and comprehensive medical care become crucial for managing withdrawal symptoms and aiding recovery.

How Medications Help With Addiction Treatment

Targeting Brain Chemistry and Reward Systems

Interaction with Neurotransmitter Receptors

Many medications used to treat addiction interact with neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. This similarity to how drugs affect the brain aids in managing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. For example:

  • Methadone and Buprenorphine bind to the same opioid receptors as drugs, mitigating withdrawal symptoms and cravings in opioid addiction.

  • Disulfiram interferes with alcohol metabolism, creating unpleasant effects when alcohol is consumed.

Modulation of Dopamine and Serotonin Pathways

Certain medications impact neurotransmitter pathways, specifically those involving dopamine and serotonin, which are often overstimulated by substance use. This action can regulate mood and decrease the rewarding effects associated with drug use.

  • Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain, diminishing the rewarding sensation of opioid and alcohol use.

  • Bupropion, used in nicotine addiction, influences dopamine and norepinephrine pathways, reducing cravings for nicotine.

Alleviating Withdrawal Symptoms and Cravings

Normalizing Brain Function and Minimizing Discomfort

Addiction treatment medications play a pivotal role in normalizing brain function and reducing the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms:

  • Acamprosate, used in treating alcohol addiction, reduces post-acute withdrawal symptoms, helping to stabilize brain function and facilitating abstinence.

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) replaces nicotine from tobacco, lessening withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Reducing the Reinforcing Effects of Drugs

Many medications for addiction treatment work by reducing the reinforcing effects of drugs, enabling individuals to resist the urge to use substances:

  • Naltrexone for both alcohol and opioid addiction makes the use of these substances less rewarding, therefore reducing their appeal.

  • Disulfiram creates a deterrent effect by causing unpleasant reactions when alcohol is consumed.

Ensuring Safety and Efficacy of Addiction Treatment Medications

Role of Licensed Medical Professionals and Mental Health Experts

It’s crucial to work with licensed therapists and mental health professionals who can evaluate individual needs and create a comprehensive treatment plan.

Ongoing Monitoring and Adjustment of Medications

The journey to recovery from substance use disorders often involves ongoing treatment and potential adjustments to medication dosages. It’s critical for treatment to be flexible and dynamic, tailored to the patient’s evolving needs:

  • In the initial phases of treatment, medications like Methadone or Buprenorphine may be prescribed in higher doses to manage severe withdrawal symptoms in opioid addiction.

  • Over time, and as patients stabilize, these dosages can be gradually reduced under professional supervision.

  • Regular check-ins and assessments are necessary to monitor a patient’s response to medication, make necessary dosage adjustments, or even change the medication if required.

Addressing Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions

Common Mental Health Disorders in Substance Use Disorders

It’s not uncommon for those struggling with substance use disorders to also have other co-occurring mental health conditions. These might include:

  • Depression: Often linked with substance use disorders, with one potentially exacerbating the other.

  • Anxiety Disorders: These might be present before the onset of a substance use disorder, or they might arise as a result of it.

  • Bipolar Disorder: Individuals with bipolar disorder may use substances in an attempt to manage their symptoms.

Importance of Integrated Mental Health Services in Treatment Programs

Integrating mental health services into addiction treatment programs is crucial:

  • Inpatient treatment centers often offer therapy sessions, medications, and support for various mental health conditions alongside substance use disorder treatments.

  • This integrated approach enables a comprehensive treatment plan, addressing all aspects of a person’s health and well-being, thus improving the chances of a successful recovery.

Supportive Therapies and Family Involvement

Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches

Incorporating therapeutic interventions into addiction treatment programs provides crucial support:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps individuals to understand their thought patterns, enabling them to better manage stressors and avoid relapse.

  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) is another approach that can foster motivation to change, enhancing the effectiveness of treatment.

Benefits of Family Therapy Sessions and Support Groups

Family and community can play a significant role in recovery:

  • Family therapy sessions allow family members to understand the nature of addiction and how best they can support their loved one.

  • Support groups provide a platform for individuals to share experiences and gain advice from others who have had similar experiences, creating a network of mutual understanding and encouragement.


Medication-assisted treatment is a critical aspect of addiction treatment. The specific medications used depend on the substance involved and the individual’s unique needs. These medications can effectively manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and improve outcomes.

Begin Your Journey to Recovery with NuView Treatment Center

Is drug abuse or opioid addiction affecting your life or the life of someone you love? At NuView Treatment Center, we understand the complexity of substance use disorders and the toll it takes on both the individual and their family members. But remember, overcoming drug addiction is not a journey you have to do alone.

Our holistic treatment program incorporates the use of prescription medications, behavioral health interventions, and a strong support network to treat addiction effectively. Our dedicated team of experts is highly trained in managing various mental health conditions that often co-occur with opioid use disorders.

In addition to providing medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings, we also help individuals understand the reward system related to drug use and how to break free from this vicious cycle. Our facilities are equipped with all the necessary resources to provide comfort and aid on your path to recovery.

We also believe in the power of self-help and support groups in nurturing a sustainable recovery. Our treatment center offers an inviting space where individuals can connect, share experiences, and find encouragement from others navigating the same journey.

Don’t let substance use disorder control your life any longer. Reach out to NuView Treatment Center today at (323) 307-7997 or send us a message from our contact page. Let us help you find the treatment that fits your unique needs, so you can reclaim your life from addiction.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Hasin DS, O’Brien CP, Auriacombe M, Borges G, Bucholz K, Budney A, Compton WM, Crowley T, Ling W, Petry NM, Schuckit M, Grant BF. DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorders: recommendations and rationale. Am J Psychiatry. 2013 Aug;170(8):834-51. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12060782. PMID: 23903334; PMCID: PMC3767415.

Hasin DS, O’Brien CP, Auriacombe M, Borges G, Bucholz K, Budney A, Compton WM, Crowley T, Ling W, Petry NM, Schuckit M, Grant BF. DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorders: recommendations and rationale. Am J Psychiatry. 2013 Aug;170(8):834-51. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12060782. PMID: 23903334; PMCID: PMC3767415.

National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Immunotherapies and Sustained-Release Formulations for Treating Drug Addiction; Harwood HJ, Myers TG, editors. New Treatments for Addiction: Behavioral, Ethical, Legal, and Social Questions. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004. 2, Clinical Trials. Available from:

“A New Treatment for Addiction.” American Psychological Association, Jun. 2003,

Latest posts

Share this post


Leave a comment

Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Read More

Addiction & Recovery

Did you know that we are always here for you 24/7?

You don't have to try to cope with life and addiction all on your own. Reach out to us now, no matter the time of day or night, even if you're not sure what you want to do yet and just need someone to listen.

We understand what you're going through and we can help you or a loved one survive addiction and find happiness in your life again.

Fill out the form below and we will contact you soon or call us any time at (323) 307-7997.
Contact Form - Blog

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

Our advisors are waiting for your call: (323) 307-7997

Ready to get Help?