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Pharmacotherapies are the use of medications as treatment for a disease. Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease that causes the individual to compulsively seek and use drugs or alcohol no matter what the consequences are. No matter how bad their life has gotten, no matter how their overall health has become, and no matter what the legal consequences are, when an individual is addicted they're unable to stop. Over time when a person uses drugs their brain chemistry and structure changes and they experience intense compulsive impulses to use more of the drug. Many times when treating substance abuse and addiction medications can be administered to help control and decrease these uncontrollable urges and manage withdrawal symptoms that are associated with their addiction.
Medications are extremely helpful and beneficial for individuals working toward recovery form many drug addictions. When combined with Behavioral Therapy relapse can be prevented, abstinence can be maintained, and recovery can be achieved. Pharmacotherapies are much more affective when combined with behavioral therapy when it comes to maintaining abstinence and for long term sobriety. Some pharmacotherapies include:
- Methadone maintenance treatment can be used for opioid addiction. Methadone is a man-made opioid medication that is long acting and helps block the negative effects of drugs like heroin for individuals receiving treatment to overcome their addiction. Methadone is administered to the patient in specific doses to help prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for the drug.
- Another drug that's used to reduce and sometimes eliminate the withdrawal symptoms that are associated with opioid addiction is Buprenorphine. The risk of overdose is very low and it doesn't produce euphoria or sedation that's normally caused by heroin or other opioids. There are two different formulas of buprenorphine that are available for patients going through treatment for opioid dependence. Subutex is a pure form of buprenorphine and Suboxone are both used in the treatment of opioid addiction but Suboxone is the medication that's more commonly prescribed.
- Naltrexone is a man-made opioid antagonist that has very few side effects. Naltrexone neutralizes the effect that the abused opioid has on the individual's body. Most of the time Naltrexone is prescribed to patients in an outpatient setting and usually after the detoxification process is completed. Naltrexone is also prescribed for individuals that have stopped drinking as long as they're not using any other drugs. When taken as prescribed naltrexone is successful in reducing cravings for alcohol or other drugs and helps the individual maintain abstinence as they work toward sobriety and recovery.
As stated above, medications that are prescribed to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal and decrease cravings are very effective when taken as prescribed. Behavioral therapy is extremely helpful when combined with medications because the individual learns coping skills that help reinforce their abstinence and sobriety. Stress, depression, and anxiety are a part of everyone's life and when trying to maintain abstinence from drug or alcohol addiction these mental health issues can be extremely difficult.
It's important to learn new ways to cope with stress in order to avoid relapse in the future. Behavioral therapy is very beneficial for long term sobriety. Anyone that's used drugs or alcohol for any length of time also has to recognize people, situations, and areas of their life that can trigger a relapse. In behavioral therapy the individual learns to recognize their own personal triggers, how to avoid them, and how to maintain what they've learned.
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