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How do addiction recovery medications stop addiction? Aren’t you trading one drug for another?

Let’s look at the medications available for substance and alcohol addictions and see how they work to stop addiction.

Common drugs used for addiction 

Let’s break down the common drugs used to stop addiction into categories. 

Substance addiction

Substance addiction including opioids such as pain relievers, heroin, or fentanyl benefit from the following medications:

  •     Methadone
  •     Buprenorphine
  •     Extended-release naltrexone
  •     Lofexidine
  •     Suboxone

These medications work by either blocking receptors in the brain that the drug, like opioids, attach to making the drug unable to get the person high; the other way these work is to partially activate the brain’s opioid receptors but not to the extent that a “full opioid agonist” like heroin does; creating a ceiling to the effects of the substance.

Now, Naloxone is given as a lifesaving drug to overdose patients of opioids but it is also combined with Buprenorphine into a drug called Suboxone which is used to combat heroin addiction. Suboxone blocks the desired opioids effects but also can have a person trying to misuse it, have instant opioid withdrawal. 

These medications can help the patient manage their recovery and greatly reduce the risk of relapse.


When it comes to alcohol addiction, there are some medications that can help the alcoholic to stop drinking these include:

  •     Naltrexone
  •     Disulfiram
  •     Acamprosate

Disulfiram (Antabuse) will cause an extremely disagreeable reaction if the person drinks even a small amount of alcohol. These reactions include the following

  • reddening of the face  
  • headache 
  • upset stomach 
  • retching 
  • chest pain 
  • faintness 
  • distorted vision 
  • bewilderment 
  • perspiring
  • gagging
  • breathing difficulty 
  • nervousness

These effects begin within 10 minutes of drinking even a small amount of alcohol and last for roughly an hour. It does this by obstructing the action of a specific enzyme essential in digesting ethanol. This is a huge deterrent to drinking. 

Acamprosate (Campral) is made to sustain the chemical stabilities in the mind that are distressed in a person with distinct alcohol addiction. According to a study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, it decreases the chance of relapse by 35%. 

Combining medications with other treatments

All these medications can be combined with other treatments such as CBT, group therapy, exercise and diet, and others. They allow the addict to learn tools to cope with stress, cravings, and other good behaviors that will help them with long term recovery.

Like all addictions, alcoholism has no cure but the drug Acamprosate can help reduce the likelihood that the alcoholic relapses. Each day the substance or alcohol abuser stays clean and sober is a milestone and with drugs that can help them with that, they stand a much better chance at recovery for a longer period of time. 

If you are ready to end addiction, 449 Recovery offers a safe conducive environment for recovery. Call us (855) 435-7449 to find out about our treatments including monitored detox. 449 Recovery can help you begin your journey to recovery. 

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