Anti-Craving Medications: Can They Help Curb Addiction?
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Anti-Craving Medications

Alongside counseling, support and lifestyle changes, anti-craving medications help maintain lasting sobriety.

Cravings are part of the ongoing cycle of addiction. In recent years, scientists have discovered specific medications that block these cravings for drugs or alcohol. Though not a “cure” for addiction, these medications can be life-changing in early recovery by removing the physical cravings that often lead to relapse.

“Everyone is a candidate for anti-craving medication. It’s an added layer of protection for a disease prone to relapse.”

Dr. Sal Raichbach PsyD, LCSW at Ambrosia’s drug rehab Florida

Alongside counseling, support and lifestyle changes, anti-craving medications help maintain lasting sobriety.

The Options

Perscription Pain Pills Heroin Alcohol

Naltrexone

Brand name: Vivitrol, Revia

Naltrexone works for both opioid and alcohol addictions to block receptors in the brain for endorphins (the proteins produced by the body to elevate mood). The medication reduces the pleasure that alcohol and opiates provide and curbs the physical cravings. Taken in shot form (Vivitrol), the medication only needs to be administed every few weeks by a medical professional, eliminating the option to skip or mistake the dose. Naltrexone can be started on day 7-10 of sobriety, has no serious side effects and is not addictive.

Alcohol

Acamprosate

Brand name: Campral

As a chemical messenger system in the brain, Acamprosate reduces the symptoms of withdrawal and cravings from alcohol. Acamprosate stabilizes the chemical balance in the brain by protecting neurons from damage and death caused by the effects of alcohol withdrawal. Some symptoms can include insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and unpleasant mood changes which could lead to relapse. Acamprosate is taken by mouth three times daily.

Perscription Pain Pills Heroin

Buprenorphine/Naloxone

Brand name: Subutex, Suboxone
Buprenorphine works in the brain and nervous system to help prevent withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine stays in the body for at least 24 hours and replaces the effects from opiates such as heroin or morphine with a lesser effect that does not produce a “high”. Placing the tablet under your tongue and allowing it to slowly dissolve is the most effective method of use. Taking the medication at the same time each day is recommended.

Perscription Pain Pills Heroin

Methadone

Brand name: Dolophine

Methadone is an opioid medication that reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs. Methadone is used as a pain reliever and as part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs without causing the “high” associated with opiates. However, methadone is itself physically addictive. Methadone can be taken by mouth daily or by injection only given by a physician.

The Benefits

Over 24 million Americans have issues with alcohol and drugs. Anti-craving medications can help, but are underused due to lack of awareness and education. The truth is, the more comprehensive your recovery plan, the greater the chances of success. Most anti-craving medications can be taken for months, a year, several years or even for life. Though, 3-12 months is typical, as most relapses occur in this time frame.

  • Re-balances the brain chemistry
  • Increases focus in therapy and addiction programs by removing distracting cravings
  • Decreases the rate of relapse and increases the rate of lasting sobriety
  • Prevents further legal, financial, health and relational consequences of continued addiction
Hear from Others Rehab Reviews Highest Rated
7.5K+ Clients Helped
Ambrosia Treatment Center
4.5 7500
Ambrosia Treatment Center
Nervis F.
Treatment Center

I tried everything to get off of heroin. I went to over twenty halfway houses, and I had ten different sponsors. No matter what I did, I always ended back using drugs. Everytime I quit, I couldn't handle the cravings.

When I was introduced to Naltrexone, my entire recovery process changed. It didn’t take the cravings down to zero, but it brought the noise down. It helped me develop a strong foundation. I finally got sober and stayed sober for longer than five days.

It also gave my mom peace of mind knowing I couldn’t get high.

March 12
5 5
Ambrosia Treatment Center
4.5 7500
Ambrosia Treatment Center
John F <small>Father</small>
Treatment Center

When my daughter entered sobriety this time around, my wife and I had exhausted all of our efforts. We put her in the best rehabs, halfway houses and communities but nothing worked. She used every time. We were at our wit's end when a doctor suggested Vivitrol. We were hesitant at first, but it ended up working.

Our daughter has now over a year clean. She needed people to believe in her, but most importantly she needed to believe in herself that she could reach and keep sobriety. Because of the advancement of addiction medications, she has been able to achieve this new life.

June 3
5 5
Ambrosia Treatment Center
4.5 7500
Ambrosia Treatment Center
Bridgette O.
Treatment Center

I believe Naltrexone saved my life. I was incapable of making any decisions for myself when I was using drugs and alcohol. I didn't even know how to take care of myself. I was convinced I was going to die addicted because I couldn't find any relief. I've tried getting sober dozens of times, but nothing worked.

Naltrexone was a temporary solution to a long-term problem. I was okay with that because it allowed me to adjust to a sober life. My head wasn't clouded, and I was finally able to take responsibility for myself. It was frightening but well worth it. Now, I no longer even need Naltrexone to stay sober day-to-day.

July 23
5 5
Ambrosia Treatment Center
4.5 7500
Ambrosia Treatment Center
Carl D.
Treatment Center

I had been to treatment multiple times and anti-cravings were one thing I hadn’t tried yet, so I decided to give it a go. My cravings had decreased significantly. It gave me a chance to actually do the work and apply things I was taught in treatment because I couldn’t use. It helped keep me clean.

Recovery is about learning how to live life without getting high. This is an adjustment for everyone in recovery, even those using these medications. I am glad I finally took advantage this powerful tool help me fight such a viscous disease. Cravings are no joke.

5 5

Everything Else You Need to Know About Anti-Craving Medication

Each medication comes with different levels of risk and side-effects. However, all of the anti-craving medications are insurmountably better than continued drug or alcohol use.

Naltrexone (Vivitrol/Revia): Nausea, Fatigue & Stomach Pain
Acamprosate (Campral): Headaches, Diarrhea & Memory Loss
Buprenorphine (Subutex)/Naloxone (Suboxone): Numbness, Drowsiness & Constipation
Disulfiram (Antabuse): Headaches, Chest Pain & Low Blood Pressure
Methadone (Dolophine): Restlessness, Nausea & Loss of Appetite

Both Methadone and Buprenorphine/Naloxone can be addictive and abused. These medications should always be administered with a taper plan to gradual decrease the dosage to zero.

A physician prescribes the ideal medications after a thorough assessment as one part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Medications for underlying physical and mental health issues (including depression and anxiety), as well as addiction-related medications that are not anti-cravings are also prescribed and evaluated.

If the prescribed anti-craving medication is not working as expected, the physician may adjust the dose or prescribe a different medication. The medication is correct when and individual feels normal, has no side effects, and cravings are minimized.

“You don’t need to come in knowing what medications will be best. That’s the physician’s job. You just need to be open to the idea of anti-craving medications and bare with the process until you get something that helps your recovery.”

– Dr. Sal Raichbach PsyD, LCSW

Other medications may be prescribed with purposes other than stop cravings. These medications are not considered anti-craving, because they do more than stop cravings, but instead assist in body and mood stabilization.

Disulfiram

Brand name Antabuse

Disulfiram works by interfering with the body’s ability to absorb alcohol – specifically by preventing the body’s natural process of breaking down chemicals, such as alcohol. Disulfiram is most effective when its use is monitored at a clinic or home by a physician or family member.

Baclofen
Baclofen is an anti-spasmodic medication that is being researched for alcohol withdrawal. It works on the GABA receptors in the brain as a muscle relaxer.

Neurontin
Neurontin is an anticonvulsant used to prevent seizures that helps treat alcohol and cocaine withdrawal symptoms as well.

Topamax
Topamax is used to treat headaches and mood disorders associated with alcohol withdrawal.

Unlike an anti-craving medication, these medications help the after effect of opiate dependence. Doctors are more likely to prescribe Naltrexone and Suboxone, but if those don’t work for the individual, they will prescribe the medications below.

LAAM (Levo-alpha-acetylmethadol)
Also known as Olaam, LAAM blocks the euphoric effects of opiates and prevents opiate withdrawal symptoms. Prescribed as an oral solution, LAAM is administered two to three times a week.

Robaxin
Robaxin is a muscle relaxant used for opiate withdrawal. When withdrawing from opiates, the body may experience muscle soreness and stiffness. Robaxin is used to treat muscle conditions such as pain or injury. Some common side effects of Robaxin are the chills, slow heart rate, and dizziness. Take the medication as prescribed to prevent any uncomfortable side effects.

Thorazine
Thorazine is used for treating certain mental or mood disorders and the anxiety and restlessness of opiate withdrawal. Thorazine is usually given as an injection under the supervision of a physician. If taken improperly, Thorazine may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or blurred vision.

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