Addiction to drug and alcohol cannot be cured, but there are many methods of effective treatment available today, some of which did not exist a few years ago. Doctors have learned a great deal about addiction in the past few decades, especially what works and what doesn’t. It should be noted that there is a difference between chemical dependency, which is a physical symptom caused by the drug itself, and addiction, which is a genetic, compulsive disorder. These things may, and often do, coexist with one another.
Most people are familiar by now with 12 step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, but that is not the only choice available. The 12 steps don’t work for everyone, at least not as a stand alone method.
Other options for the treatment of drug and alcohol addictions include medications such as methadone, suboxone, and oral naltrexone. Methadone has been in use for some time for narcotic opiate addicts, however, due to government restrictions, it is difficult for many addicts to receive treatment, and the medication must be doled out daily, requiring addicts to visit a clinic every day.
Suboxone comes in a tablet form and is used to treat severe opiate addiction. It contains a drug similar to morphine or heroin, but does not generate the same “high” and reduces cravings for opiates. It also contains a drug which, if injected or otherwise not used as directed, will counteract all effects of the first drug, and cause withdrawal and negative side effects. This means that although it can cause drug dependence, there is a smaller likelihood of abuse by an addict taking it unmonitored. It is for use during initial detox and can be continued afterward as a maintenance medication.
For alcoholics, a drug called Campral – used for quite some time in Europe, but only recently available in the United States – is a drug that blocks the brain from receiving the enjoyable aspects of alcohol, which stops the cravings associated with drinking. Other medications have been used against alcoholism, but they work much differently, in part by creating more negative side effects.. Some suggest that this drug may also be useful against other addictions, such as addiction to stimulants. Campral does not block withdrawal from alcohol and may not be helpful to someone who has not already stopped drinking.
Naltrexone is a medication which eliminates the patient feeling any of the effects of narcotics, which helps to guard against relapse. Because it must be taken daily to remain effective, it is suggested that having a patient take it while observed by a medical professional is best, so use of the Vivitrol Extended-Release Injectable Suspension form is preferred when daily monitoring is not possible or convenient.
Nalterxone can be used as a maintenance measure, when a doctor feels a patient should stop taking Suboxone, but is also often used for rapid detoxification. Like Campral, Naltrexone is currently only approved for alcoholism, but doctors have found benefit when used for other types of addiction.