Medications to combat drug addiction

Posted: September 01, 2012

Three types of medication - two of them considered major advances in addiction treatment - may complement the behavioral therapies and support programs that help addicts. They are:

Methadone, which binds to opiate receptors in the brain, mimicking the original addictive drug. The pills prevent withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and limit the effects of other opiates. Maintenance therapy, administered daily in special clinics, is long-term, often for life.

Methadone can be dangerous if not used properly, causing fatal overdoses.

Suboxone, a maintenance therapy, combines two medications. One is buprenorphine, which reduces withdrawal symptoms. The other is naloxone (it binds to opiate receptors and blocks them).

The combination is prescribed as a pill. It can be given less often than methadone, and is less likely to cause overdose.

Vivitrol is a monthly injection of extended-release naltrexone, which is not addictive and blocks opiate receptors.

Naltrexone may be tapered down to zero over time. And it is virtually impossible to abuse. But it costs three to five times the price of the other medications, although experts say insurers are increasingly covering the expense.

- Don Sapatkin

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|