Medications Used for Drug and Alcohol Detox

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Withdrawing from alcohol, opioids, and other addictive substances can be a difficult experience. In some extreme cases, it can even be life-threatening. Detox medications can help patients end their substance use safely and with minimal discomfort. 

At Peachtree Detox, our medical staff helps individuals go through the detox process utilizing evidence-based medications, if appropriate. If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, we can help. Call us now at 470-613-7881 or verify your insurance now.

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Common Types of Detox Medications

The general category of detox medications includes a variety of substances that have a range of effects. Depending on which medication a person takes, their benefits may include:
  • Easing the physical distress of withdrawal
  • Alleviating anxiety and other psychological symptoms
  • Blocking the pleasurable effects of some drugs
  • Minimizing drug cravings
Common detox medications include methadone, Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone), benzodiazepines, and non-benzo anticonvulsants. 

Methadone

Methadone is one of the most well-known detox medications. First synthesized in Germany in the 1930s, it was originally used as a painkiller and cough suppressant. In the 1950s, researchers began to investigate methadone’s potential as a detox med, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for this purpose in 1972. Methadone is a full opioid agonist. That means that it interacts with the same receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) that heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids do, but it doesn’t cause the same type of disorienting high.  When someone takes methadone as directed by the prescribing physician, they can stop using other opioids without experiencing the intense withdrawal symptoms that might otherwise quickly set in. 

Suboxone

Suboxone is the brand name of a detox medication that contains two active ingredients, buprenorphine and naltrexone:
  • When buprenorphine earned FDA approval in 2002, it joined methadone as the only two authorized detox medications in the U.S. This drug is a partial opioid agonist, so its effects are similar to methadone’s. Someone who uses buprenorphine – either on its own or in Suboxone – can end their opioid abuse without going into withdrawal.
  • Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. This means that it prevents opioids from attaching to CNS receptors, which blocks these drugs’ effects. If someone who is taking Suboxone uses heroin or another opioid, naltrexone will prevent them from experiencing the euphoric high that they are expecting.
It’s important not to confuse naltrexone with naloxone: 
  • Naltrexone is a prescription detox medication. It can be prescribed as a standalone drug or in combination with buprenorphine, as we described above.
  • Naloxone, which is sold under the brand name Narcan, is an over-the-counter medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose if it is administered in time.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are prescription medications that have sedative and anxiolytic properties. They are often used to treat anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms, and insomnia. Commonly prescribed drugs in this category include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and chlordiazepoxide (Librium). As detox medications, benzos may be used to help people who are going through alcohol withdrawal. They can be especially beneficial for people who are at risk of delirium tremens, a particularly dangerous set of alcohol withdrawal symptoms that can include agitation and seizures.

Other Anticonvulsants

Several non-benzo anticonvulsants can also be incorporated into alcohol detox programs to help people who are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, or who have an elevated risk of developing these types of symptoms.  Examples of anticonvulsants that may be used for this purpose include carbamazepine (Carbatrol), topiramate (Topamax), gabapentin (Gralise), and valproic acid. Some anticonvulsants affect the body’s production of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This can make them useful as long-term, post-withdrawal medications, helping people control the urge to drink and maintain their recovery.

How to Choose the Right Detox Center

Detox medications are just one part of quality care for people who are going through withdrawal. Other valuable elements include therapeutic support, patient education, and discharge planning.  The best way to choose the right detox center is to contact any facilities that you’ve been considering, and ask focused questions about what you can expect during and after your time in treatment.  Here are a few questions to help you find the detox center that’s right for you:
  • Does your center offer detox medications? (Note: Not every detox program has personnel who are authorized to prescribe and administer medications.)
  • What type of detox medication can you prescribe?
  • How will you determine if I need to receive medication, or decide which medication is best for me?
  • What types of therapy and support services do you provide?
  • What are the qualifications of the professionals who will be caring for me while I’m in detox?
  • What type of discharge planning services does your center provide?
  • How will you decide what type of treatment will be best for me after I complete detox?
  • Does your center accept my insurance?
Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions about any aspect of a center’s programming. The representatives of any reputable detox center will be happy to provide you with the details you need, so that you can make the most informed decisions about your health and your recovery.

Find Detox in Atlanta Today

If intense withdrawal symptoms have been preventing you from ending your use of alcohol, opioids, or other addictive substances, Peachtree Detox may be the ideal place for you to start your recovery journey. At our detox center in Atlanta, Georgia, you can expect to receive evidence-based services and compassionate support from a team of highly skilled professionals. With more than 60 years of combined experience, our team is uniquely prepared to help you successfully navigate the challenges of withdrawal, then recommend the optimal next steps to help you progress in your recovery. To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.