Prescription drug addiction – Part 3: How to treat dependence on opioids

Prescription drug addiction – Part 3: How to treat dependence on opioids

Prescription drug abuse is a serious health problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of deaths from prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone jumped fourfold between 1999 and 2014. Another data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that nearly 54 million people have used such medications for non-medical purposes at least once in their lifetime.

In the first two articles of the series “Prescription drug addiction” we talked about the most addictive prescription drugs and the ways to prevent misuse through collaborative efforts of clinicians, pharmacists and patients. Here, we will focus on treatment options.

Psychotherapy and medications are two main treatment options for prescription drug addiction, but a combination of these techniques is found to be more effective. Psychotherapies may include behavioral aspects, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management.

Behavioral therapy

The aim of behavioral therapy is to improve personal and social skills of the addiction patient. The focus is on repairing the negative attitude and instill confidence to effectively thwart the resultants of drug addiction. Behavioral therapy includes teaching strategies to avoid cues and behaviors that may lead to a relapse. It may also include incentivization for abstinence. Besides, counseling at individual, family or community levels may be a part of behavioral therapy.

Use of medications

The use of medications for treating an individual depends on the type of prescription drug abused. The main aim of the medication process is to reduce cravings and provide support for the ongoing recovery from addiction. The three major types of prescription drugs that people abuse are opioids, CNS (central nervous system) depressants and stimulants.

Opioids: For opioid (painkiller) addiction treatment, naltrexone is an effective medication that prevents opioids’ action on the brain. Vivitrol is the injectable form of this drug. Synthetic opioid agonists, including methadone, can also be used to target the same areas of the brain that opioids affect. Buprenorphine is also used as a partial opioid agonist and it reduces cravings of the addict like methadone does. Opioid overdose and subsequent effect on breathing can be effectively handled by an antagonist known as naloxone. It is widely used by medical personnel and first time responders. Opioid use disorder leads to imbalances in brain circuits related with reward, decision-making, impulse control, learning and other functions. The medications rebalance the circuits, preventing opioid withdrawal and bringing the patient back to a normal state.

CNS depressants: There is no approved drug yet for CNS depressant addicts who abuse tranquilizers, sedatives and hypnotics. Medically supervised detoxification is usually the first step for people abusing depressants. Inpatient and outpatient treatments and psychotherapies such as CBT are effective for patients dependent on benzodiazepine (Ativan, Valium).

Prescription stimulants: Addiction to stimulants such as Adderall and Concerta is like those of methamphetamine and cocaine. Currently, CBT and other psychotherapies are used to manage the addiction to stimulants. There is no medically approved drug for treating stimulant addiction. Treatment is mainly aimed at tapering off the medication and prevent withdrawal symptoms, such as sleep, appetite and mood disturbances.

Seeking treatment

Effective prescription addiction treatments are available. If you or a loved one is addicted to prescription drugs, take a measured step to get rid of it. You can find the best prescription drug rehab in Florida by connecting with the Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline. Chat online with our staff or call our 24/7 helpline at (866) 292-3211 to learn more about the best options for prescription drug addiction treatment.


Read other articles of the series “Prescription drug addiction”:

Part 1: The most addictive prescription drugs

Part 2: Preventing misuse through collaborative efforts of clinicians, pharmacists and patients

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