Medications Used During Drug Detox

When you start trying to overcome your addiction, you will often find that checking into a drug detox center is the essential first step that you have to take. During your time in such a program, you may receive medication assisted treatment.

The goal of this type of treatment is to help you go through detox to eliminate the mind altering and intoxicating substances that you were abusing. Additionally, they will manage your withdrawal symptoms, reduce your drug cravings, and make you feel more comfortable during your detoxification process.

Often, you will get to work with behavioral health experts, nurses, support staff, and medical physicians if you are receiving medication assisted treatment. This would reduce your risk of becoming addicted to the prescriptions that you receive.

Drug Detox Medications

In many situations, drug detox tends to be uncomfortable and distressing. As such, you may need some prescription medications to help ease your withdrawal symptoms and deal with your drug cravings.

The FDA - the Food and Drug Administration - has approved some medications for use during the drug detox process. These medications are particularly effective at the management of certain withdrawal syndromes involving alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines.

You might also receive supportive medications - such as antidepressants. These drugs are useful for the treatment of co-occurring mental health and medical disorders and other types of substance use disorders.

The goal of most medications is to deal with withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, seizures, nausea, fevers, headaches, and delirium tremens. At the moment, however, no medications have received FDA approval for use in speeding up the process at which the body gets rid of drugs through detox. However, many of them can be used to reduce drug cravings.

How Medication Management Works

When you are enrolled in a medically managed drug detox program, doctors will prescribe various medications to help with your withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Examples of the most commonly used prescriptions include:

a) Anticonvulsants

You might also receive a prescription for anticonvulsants. These drugs can lower your risk of seizures, or prevent them from occurring in the first place. They are used in the treatment of addictions involving benzodiazepines and alcohol. Further, doctors might prescribe them for stabilizing your mood if you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder over and above your addiction.

The anticonvulsants that are most commonly used during medical detox include:

  • Atretol (carbamazepine)
  • Gabitril (tiagabine)
  • Neurontin (gabapentin)
  • Tegretol (carbamazepine)
  • Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)

b) Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are effective at treating alcohol withdrawal syndromes, sleep problems, and anxiety. It can also be used to prevent delirium tremens and seizures, as well as relieve anxiety and tremors. The most commonly used benzos during withdrawal management include:

  • Ativan (Lorazepam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Librium (Chlordiazepoxide)
  • Serax (Oxazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)

c) Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics are effective at treating:

  • Agitation
  • Delirium
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychotic symptoms

These drugs are also effective at managing alcohol detox. Some examples of these antipsychotics include Haldol (haloperidol) and Thorazine (chlorpromazine).

d) Antidepressants

Doctors sometimes prescribe antidepressants during detox if the patient is struggling with co-occurring psychological disorders over and above their addiction. Today, there is a new type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that are also effective at withdrawal management, and other adverse effects like depression.

You might also receive a prescription for sedative antidepressants like Tofranil (imipramine) and Oleptro (trazodone) for the treatment of insomnia during your drug detox program.

e) Barbiturates

If you are addicted to sedatives or alcohol, you might receive an administration of barbiturates during your detox process. These drugs are effective at withdrawal management because they interact adversely with alcohol.

SAMHSA recommends the use of phenobarbital, but advices that it should be taken sparingly. It is useful in helping patients overcome their benzodiazepine abuse and addiction.

f) Others

Other drugs that might be prescribed when you are going through a drug detox program include:

  • Anti-nausea drugs, including Zofran (ondansetron) and Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate)
  • Buprenorphine, for opioid detox
  • Clonidine, for detox from multiple drugs of abuse
  • Fever reducers and pain relievers like Tylenol (acetaminophen), aspirin, and Advil (ibuprofen)
  • Laxatives, including milk of magnesia and fiber supplements
  • Methadone, for opioid detox
  • Sedatives, including Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Vistaril (hydroxyzine)

Getting Help

Apart from using medications during a drug detox program, the nurses and doctors at the facility will also try to make you feel comfortable, safe, and secure. They may also continue providing round the clock monitoring so that they can deal with any emergency situations that arise.


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