Drug and alcohol addiction contribute to problems with a person's health, relationships, career, and other areas of his or her life. Many treatment programs use medication-assisted detox to reduce a person's withdrawal symptoms and facilitate a person's addiction treatment program.
This makes the transition easier, and complements other aspects of treatment such as psychotherapy. However, many treatment professionals have begun to question whether using other addictive substances to treat addiction should be used as a form of treatment.
What are the Different Treatment Methods?
There are currently approved medically assisted detox options for addiction to opiods, tobacco, and alcohol. Researchers are working on developing similar medications for treating other addictions, including to cocaine, methamphetamine and cannabis.
The most commonly used medication in treatment for opiods is methadone, although buprenorphine (Suboxone) has recently become a favorite, and naltrexone is also used. These work by targeting the same opioid receptors in the brain affected by heroin and other opiates, which suppresses withdrawal symptoms and relieves cravings. They also can block the effects of the opiods.
There are numerous drugs on the market to help with nicotine cravings. Three different medications have been approved for treating addiction to alcohol: acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Naltrexone likewise blocks the receptors in the brain that contribute to the desirable effects and the cravings.
Acamprosate works by reducing the withdrawal symptoms. Disulfiram works by causing a negative reaction in the body when a person consumes alcohol.
What are the Dangers of Using these Treatment Methods?
Although methadone has been used to treat opioid addiction for over 40 years, and Suboxone has had great success over the past two decades, they have lately come under criticism. Both of these substances are opioid drugs, although they have a lighter and more prolonged effect.
Many experts believe that by treating patients with methadone or Suboxone, they really are just trading one addiction for another. Although the withdrawal symptoms do not begin as quickly when using these drugs, a person still will face withdrawal if he or she skips a dose.
Most people only need one dose of methadone or Suboxone a day to avoid withdrawal, unlike the three to four doses of heroin.
Trading One Addiction for Another
However, the fact that they still will experience withdrawal symptoms means that the body remains dependent on opioids, which is one of the signs of addiction. Additionally, it is common for addicts to build up a tolerance to these drugs, which is a risk factor for addiction.
Ideally, these drugs are only used for a short period of time and the dosage tapered to slowly let the body overcome the physical dependence on the chemical. However, some people remain on these drugs for many months, years and even their entire life. They have simply replaced one addictive substance for another, albeit a more widely accepted and controlled form of addiction.
Some people have begun to abuse these drugs, engaging in the same disruptive and dangerous behavior patterns seen by addicts of other opioid drugs, such as heroin, oxycotin, and morphine. They shop around for prescriptions, steal money to pay for their habit, and purchase potentially uncontrolled substances off the black market.
They may no longer be abusing heroin, but now they find themselves doing the same actions to get methadone or Suboxone.The drugs that help with nicotine and alcohol withdrawal can likewise cause problems and dangerous symptoms, which is why they need to be monitored by a medical professional.
Although medically-assisted detox can be helpful in some situations, many in the recovery circles believe that there are better, and safer, ways to assist people in overcoming their addictions that do not include facilitating a new addiction.