In most cases, people who take illicit drugs take them to get high. But what if there was some way that that high could be blocked? Can taking the high out the drugs help users quit? Considering that basically all kinds of existing drug addiction treatments can give no guarantee that a drug addict would never, ever relapse, there are many instances of addicts actually losing their craving for drugs and quitting after the high was taken out of them.
Drugs that take the high out of other drugs
So how does the high get taken out of drugs? Interestingly enough, by using other drugs. A prime example is naltrexone, a drug that is commonly used in detoxification centres around the world for its ability to take out the high or block the effects of heroin. Classified as an opioid receptor antagonist, Naltrexone basically works by blocking the normal reaction of the part of the brain responsible for producing the feeling of pleasure brought about by taking opioids.
Typically, patients are administered naltrexone orally, but more often than not, they trigger a rapid and painful detox because the formulation can be too strong. Fortunately, an Australian doctor named George O’Neil invented a delivery method that releases naltrexone more slowly into the bloodstream.
Naltrexine and flumanezil implants
O’Neil created the naltrexone implant, which is essentially a small pellet that is inserted into the lower abdominal wall under local anaesthetic. The pellet encapsulated the naltrexone pill, which is then released more slowly into the bloodstream. Naltrexone implants can last for 300 days, and they can be re-implanted indefinitely. So far, thousands of drug addicts have been treated using the implant with a very high success rate.
Another drug that also takes the high out of addictive drugs is flumazenil, which was first identified in 1981 as benzodiazepine blocker in 1981. It is, in fact, used for quickly reversing an overdose, and has been approved for that very purpose by the US FDA in 1991. Incidentally, Dr. O’Neil has also developed a flumazenil implant for use by people addicted to benzodiazepines, and it’s enjoying as much success as its predecessor, the naltrexone implant.
Only the first step towards recovery
Still, no matter how effective naltrexone and flumazenil have been at taking the high out of addictive drugs, they still do not guarantee that patients will not suffer a relapse, and Dr. O’Neil only knows this too well. One of his earlier patients stayed sober for 18 months, returned to using heroin, then took his own life when his wife walked out on him.
What we all need to realise is that getting off drugs with the help of naltrexone and flumazenil is only the first step towards recovery. The road to recovery is a long one, and it involves other programs like rehabilitation, counselling and even well-being programs. Patients who complete both are even advised to check into a sober living facility, where they could fully prepare for living in a world where they will not be taking drugs anymore.
Taking the high out of drugs may help users quit, but there is no magic bullet for drug addiction.