Drug addiction is a disease, and a complex one at that. If it weren’t, kicking a drug habit should be fairly easy. That, however, is far from being the case. Drugs alter the brain in more ways than one, and it will take more than good intentions and an iron will to draw those harmful substances out of one’s system. A drug addict needs drug addiction treatment, even more so when that drug addict is employed. We all are aware how workers under the influence of drugs pose a danger to the health and safety of everyone in the workplace, as well as how much they need help to recover from it.
There are a number of different approaches to addiction treatment. One of those approaches can be quite controversial, because it requires the use of other drugs. That’s right: some addiction treatment approaches use drugs—pharmacotherapy, to be exact—to treat a person’s addiction to certain substances. Here are some of those drugs, including some which actually have addictive properties themselves.
Buproprion for nicotine addiction
Many smokers have successfully kicked their nicotine addiction cold turkey. All they ever did was never light a cigarette or a cigar ever again, and they’ve become nicotine-free for the rest of their lives. Not all nicotine addicts, however, would find doing that easy. This is understandable. Nicotine, after all, is one of the toughest substances to quit. In their quest for a healthier life, many smokers turn to smoking cessation aids or nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine patches, sprays, gums and lozenges to get over their nicotine addiction. Some, however, take things a step further and resort to medication to get rid of their addiction to nicotine once and for all. Buproprion is one such medication.
Buproprion is primarily used as an antidepressant. The drug, however, has found another use as a smoking cessation aid. Marketed as Wellbutrin and Zyban, among other names, buproprion comes in pill form. The precise mechanisms of action remain unclear, but buproprion has proven to be effective at reducing the severity of nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms. About 10 days into a bupropion treatment course, a patient is expected to stop using tobacco products. In three months, a smoker’s chances of successfully quitting smoking doubles.
Most drugs have side effects, and buproprion is not an exception. Among the side effects of burproprion are:
- dry mouth
- increased sweating
- joint aches
- sore throat
- blurred vision
- strange taste in the mouth
Disulfiram for alcohol addiction
Disulfiram is one of the oldest medications available designed to treat alcohol addiction. The way it works, however, has probably given some alcoholics pause. After all, disulfiram makes drinking alcohol as unpleasant an experience as it can get.
The unpleasantness created by disulfiram arises from the fact that it prevents the breakdown of alcohol in the body. Anyone who takes the medication will experience flushing and nausea if they consume alcohol while this drug is present in the body. The whole point of disulfiram is to trigger alcohol avoidance in a person. It banks on a person’s fear of experiencing the unpleasant effects of drinking alcohol. With those consequences, disulfiram makes people think before they drink.
The problem with disulfiram is its results and complications, which can be potentially dangerous. This is why the medication is not used for everyone who expresses a desire to quit drinking. Some users are also said to stop using the drug a few days before they plan to consume alcohol. For this drug to successfully help a person get rid of alcohol addiction, it must be taken regularly.
Among the side effects of disulfiram, which is marketed under the brand names Antabuse and Antabus, include:
- metallic or garlic-like taste in the mouth
- skin rash or acne
- swollen or sore tongue.
Methadone for opioid drug addiction treatment
Methadone has been in use for decades as a treatment for opioid addiction. Ironically enough, methadone is itself a synthetic opiate. The way it works on the brain, however, makes it a popular form of opioid addiction treatment.
Methadone chemically targets the brain receptor sites that are affected by opiates such as heroin and other narcotics. As a result, the euphoric and sedative effects of opiates are effectively blocked. At the same time, methadone also fills these receptors and essentially relieves craving for opiates.
Using methadone for heroin addiction treatment, however, has had its fair share of opposition. Being an opiate itself, methadone has the potential to be addictive. Once it binds to the brain’s opiate receptors, methadone can cause a euphoric “high”. However, addiction treatment experts maintain that it is not as addictive as other opiate and opioid substances. As long as it is used properly and as prescribed, methadone is safe and effective for treating opioid addiction.
Methadone is sold under a number of brand names, including Dolophine, Biodone and Methadose. It can be taken orally or injected into a muscle or vein.
As with most medications, methadone has a number of common side effects, including:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Weight gain
- Stomach pain
- Sore tongue
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes
- Difficulty urinating
- Vision problems
- Decreased sexual desire or ability
- Missed menstrual periods
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Suboxone for heroin addiction
Suboxone is a branded form of buprenorphine, an opioid medication, that is combined with naloxone. Like methadone, Suboxone is widely used to treat addiction to heroin and other opiates. Suboxone, however, is regarded as generally safer than methadone.
Suboxone works like methadone in the sense that it suppresses withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids by binding itself to the same receptors in the brain. Suboxone, however, has a built-in “ceiling effect”. That means the satiation effects do not get more intense with increased dosage. Thus, Suboxone’s potential for abuse is significantly lower.
Still, the use of Suboxone for opioid addiction treatment is not without debate. As with methadone, using an opioid like Suboxone is seen by many as “substituting drug addiction with another drug addiction”.
Like most drugs, Suboxone has a number of side effects. These include:
- headache, mild dizziness
- numbness or tingling
- drowsiness, or sleep problems
- stomach pain, vomiting, constipation
- redness, pain, or numbness in the mouth
- feeling drunk
- trouble concentrating
Naltrexone for opioid dependence and alcoholism
Naltrexone is an opiod antagonist that works against the effect of heroin and other opioids. It does that by attaching itself to opiate receptors and blocks opioids from acting on the brain.
For patients to be able to use naltrexone as a drug addiction treatment for opioid dependence, they must already be detoxified or be free of heroin and other opioids for at least 7 to 10 days. That’s because they could experience instant and acute withdrawal symptoms if they use naltrexone with opioids still in their system. Fortunately for patients who choose naltrexone maintenance treatment, there are tests that can determine their current level of physical dependence on opioids.
Naltrexone is also used as a treatment for alcoholism. Unlike disulfiram, Naltrexone does not make the patient sick when he or she drinks alcohol while on the drug. Naltrexone is reputed to be capable of reducing the craving for alcohol and help people stay off it.
Naltrexone comes in tablet form, but it can also administered via an implant.
Like most drugs, Naltrexone has a few side effects, such as:
- Sleep problems
- Joint and muscle pains
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Nausea, vomiting
Acamprosate for alcohol dependence
Acamprosate is another widely-used drug to combat alcohol dependence. While its exact mechanism of action is still unknown, Acamprosate, which is sold under the brand Campral, is thought to work by stabilising the balance of certain chemicals in the brain of alcohol dependent individuals, especially those who have already used huge amounts of alcohol over their lives. By restoring that chemical balance in the brain, a patient’s desire to drink alcohol is reduced.
This drug, however, is not for alcoholics who already have kidney or liver issues.
As with any other drug, acamprosate can cause the following side effects:
- Nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- vision problems
In summary, the efficacy of these drug addiction treatments used in pharmacotherapy may vary from person to person. For all their claims, however, none of these drugs are magic bullets for drug addiction treatment. By themselves, the medications cannot be expected to fully treat or cure people with drug problems. In order to work best as intended, pharmacotherapy is often employed in conjunction with counselling and other forms of drug rehabilitation programs.
We hope you found this information useful. If you would like any assistance in helping your organisation to become a drug and alcohol-safe workplace in Australia, please contact us today.