Should Addicts Take Medication for Addiction?
Should alcoholics and addicts take medication for addiction? When I was on the dual diagnosis unit at a state hospital, an outside therapy group often joked that it was ironic that we took medication for addiction (Drug Addiction Treatment and Drug Recovery). Staff did not see the humor in the statement and warned them to stop saying that. But it raises a valid question: Should alcoholics and addicts take medication for addictions?
What Is Addiction? Is There A Test To See If Medication for Addiction Could Help Me?
Addiction is what happens when the substance in question becomes the most important thing in your life (What Is An Addiction? Addiction Information). For me, it's alcohol. I can't take it or leave it--whenever I have it, I have to do it to excess. Something called the C.A.G.E. test applies--I can't cut back; I get annoyed when people express concern about my drinking; I feel guilty about drinking; and I've had the occasional eye-opener. While I have dabbled with marijuana, I've never become addicted to it. Others are not that fortunate.
HealthyPlace has many excellent addiction tests, but I've found that if you wonder if you have an addiction, you probably do. A normal person doesn't wonder if they're drinking or using too much. A normal person can take it or leave it. A normal person doesn't have to have the substance in question. Alcoholics and addicts can't do any of these things.
So now that we know what addiction is, what, besides Twelve Step groups, are potential treatments?
What Medications Can Addicts Take for Addiction?
For many years, there were no medications to treat addiction. As a result, this made kicking the addiction almost as difficult as living with the addiction. Specialized treatment was required--you couldn't just go to your doctor, confess you had a problem, and start treatment. But now you can.
Buprenorphine HCL (Suboxone), used in the treatment of heroin addiction, is rapidly becoming popular--according to WebMD, one clinic boasts an 88 percent success rate after six months of treatment. Naloxone is a powerful anti-alcoholism medication. Acamprosate calcium (Campral) also treats alcoholism. Currently topiramate (Topamax) and baclofen are being tested as treatments for cocaine, heroin, and other opiates.
The most cutting-edge treatments, according to WebMD, are an "addiction vaccine" that blunts the effects of the drug should the patient relapse and a "pacemaker" that uses deep brain stimulation to treat cravings.
Do These Medications for Addicts Encourage Relapse?
A question any alcoholic or addict should ask whenever taking any medication is, "Will this encourage me to relapse?" It depends largely on the person. Some alcoholics and addicts can take medications safely, some can not (Can Alcoholics Take Prescription Pain Medication in Recovery?). I know of at least two alcoholics recovering from surgery who did not take prescribed painkillers out of concern that they would relapse. I personally don't have a history of painkiller abuse, so if I am prescribed painkillers and need them, I use them.
The decision whether or not to take medication should be made by the individual. Based on my experience, medications for addiction do not encourage relapse. I take a medication for my alcoholism and it has helped tremendously with cravings. The differences between alcohol and this medication are considerable. I don't have to take more and more of it to stay sober. I don't have withdrawal symptoms if I miss a dose of it. I don't have an altered state of consciousness on it. I don't cheat and lie to get this medication. I am not addicted to it like I am to alcohol. Thanks to it and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have been sober for more than two years.
The same can be said for other anti-addiction drugs. If it helps you stay sober and doesn't become the most important thing in your life, then it is treatment, not addiction.
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Oberg, B. (2015, November 23). Should Addicts Take Medication for Addiction?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2015/11/should-alcoholicsaddicts-take-medication-for-addiction
Author: Becky Oberg
Excessive beer drinking was one of my mental issues. I started making business mistakes and then hit rock bottom. Then I finally entered into therapy. For the first time in my life, I took medication for anxiety and depression. Yes, the old days were no help. I will have a beer now and then, but never the 10+ like the old days. I know Klonopin works because if I skip a day I can feel a 'higher' level of anxiety and depression. Little by little, I am getting better. It has been almost 2 years now. Yes you need self control and determination to get through addictions and mental health stuff. It is genetics + environment. It helps when environmental factors that you can control are reduced.