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What medications are used to treat substance use disorders?

The following medications may be used to treat substance use disorders. They are most effective under a program of medical management directed by a healthcare professional.

  • Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug, generally a pill or liquid, used mainly in the treatment of heroin addiction. Studies show that treatment for heroin addiction with methadone combined with behavioral therapy reduces death rates and many health problems associated with heroin abuse.
  • Buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone) is related to morphine but does not produce the same high, dependence or withdrawal syndrome as morphine. It is long-lasting, less likely to cause respiratory depression and well-tolerated.
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse) is a prescription medication used to help people avoid alcohol and thus overcome addiction to or dependence on alcohol. If a person uses disulfiram and drinks alcohol, the medication causes severe symptoms that can last several hours, including flushing, rapid or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and headache. When taken according to the prescribed schedule, the medication is used to discourage someone from resuming drinking once they've stopped.
  • Naltrexone (Revia) is used to help narcotic addicts and alcoholics. Naltrexone works by blocking the effects of narcotics, especially the "high" feeling that makes the person want to use them. When used with behavioral treatments, it can reduce the craving for alcohol and drugs and help people avoid relapse. It does not, however, block the effects of these substances.
  • Acamprosate (Campral) is approved to prevent people who have already stopped drinking from starting again. Campral is thought to work by regulating the brain chemicals that have been altered by long-term alcohol use. For Campral to work, people taking it must be alcohol-free before they take their first dose and must be prepared to follow a complete alcohol treatment plan including mental and behavioral counseling.
  • Vivitrol, a version of naltrexone, is the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved injectable drug to treat alcohol dependence. It is injected by a health care professional once a month.
  • Clonidine (Catapres), a drug used to treat high blood pressure, can be used to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms but is not used to manage long-term recovery.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.