Exploring Medically Assisted Treatments for Addiction

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When addictions become too severe and ingrained within people’s lives, professionals often have to wean patients off their dependencies through the use of clinical medication. A number of different treatments are utilized depending on the type of substance use disorder. While some like Suboxone have been criticized for their regulation and potential for abuse, others like naloxone have saved countless lives from overdose.

Suboxone and its current controversy

Suboxone, which is medically known as buprenorphine, is an opioid used to treat heroin addiction. In 2002, this prescription drug was approved for use and rapidly replaced the previous pharmaceutical option, methadone. Unfortunately, Suboxone was not carefully regulated. As a result, many doctors were left unsure of the medication’s health risks and government officials began to doubt its public safety.

According to a report from the Governor’s Council on Alcohol And Drug Abuse, “One effect of this controversy within the treatment community has been to stigmatize medication-assisted therapy, making it unavailable for those who might benefit from it… the decision to forgo is based on what is essentially a philosophical predilection that is maintained by some without regard to clinical studies that reveal recent advances in addictions medicine.”

Growing use of naloxone

The latest triumph for medically assisted treatment has been the implementation of naloxone in medical emergencies where a person has overdosed on opiates. Each year, more than 44,000 people lose their lives due to an accidental overdose in the United States, but naloxone has demonstrated it can reverse a potentially fatal event in a matter of minutes. In fact, the drug has been proven so safe and valuable that the supermarket vendor, Ralph’s, has approved naloxone to be sold without a prescription.

However, some experts worry that this line of treatment relies too much on naloxone’s effectiveness. In Ithaca, New York, Mayor Svante Myrick is spearheading a new proposal to allow for supervised injection sites. Addicts would be able to use heroin under the watch of clinical staff and be administered naloxone if an overdose occurs. Although opponents of this treatment believe it enables people’s conditions, Myrick argues that heroin addiction has become too ingrained in American culture to tackle in any other way.

Other clinical medications

  • Naltrexone: Used to treat alcohol and narcotics, this substance blocks opiate receptors and dopamine release. Without the sense of reward, cravings lessen and abusive behavior weakens
  • Disulfiram: Mainly used in the case of alcohol addiction, drinkers quickly experience nausea, vomiting, and headaches five to 10 minutes after consuming the liquid
  • Methadone and Levo-alpha-acetylmethadol (LAAM): Although they directly affect heroin receptors, these drugs cause much milder and less rewarding effects
  • Acamprosate: This drug decreases irritability during the early stages of sobriety as well as the rewarding effects of alcohol






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