Anti-craving medications can be very helpful as part of a larger treatment regimen. However, it is not a good idea to take anti-craving medications if you are not in treatment. Any type of anti-craving agent can be beneficial under the supervision and administration of trained medical professionals. While in treatment you will undergo an evaluation and receive the anti-craving medications most likely to work for you.
Anti-craving medication does not work for everyone. It is unwise to randomly try these medications on your own. There are potential dangers if you do not know what you are looking for. Therefore, if you are unsure of what kind of anti-craving medication to use, call us today and we can direct you to the treatment center that fits your needs. The experts there can help you decide your best course and whether it will involve anti-craving medications to help ease your withdrawal process.
We are here to help you through this journey because we know it isn’t easy. The first step to a sober life is seeking help, and we want to guide you through any questions or concerns you might have. Call us today at 405-583-4390.
Jump to a section below to learn more about anti-craving medication and how it might figure in your treatment. Be sure to reach out to our experts with any questions you have.
Types of Treatment
In order to see if anti-craving medication is the right path, you first have to find a treatment center to attend. It isn’t safe to test out any kind of anti-craving agent without medical supervision. A medical professional at a treatment facility or clinic will be able to prescribe you the correct kind of anti-craving medication.
For instance, there are different kinds of treatment centers that you can attend depending on your condition. The main types are outpatient treatment and short-term or long-term residential treatments.
Outpatient treatment means you are commuting to the clinic to receive care. It is a more suitable option if you cannot leave a job, school, or family behind to live on-site. In outpatient treatment, you receive drug and alcohol education along with a group or individual therapy sessions. Depending on your specific needs, clinicians may prescribe anti-craving agents to help your recovery.
Short and Long-Term Residential Treatment
Short-term residential treatment involves a stay at a hospital or facility where you will receive more hands-on help. The 12-step method, originally designed to treat alcoholism, is often a fixture of these programs.
Your stay will last anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks, and can always be followed by more outpatient care. Here is where you will most likely receive anti-craving medication. This way you are under the supervision and can explain how you are feeling.
Long-term residential treatment is where you would stay at a residential facility for up to six months, sometimes even a year depending on your condition and willingness to heal. You receive 24-hour care while socializing with and learning from other patients who are going through the same struggles you are.
These communities focus on resocialization for their patients. The emphasis tends to be on correcting the psychological aspect of addiction by teaching accountability and responsibility.
Furthermore, before this occurs, the patient has to get through the detox process and the withdrawal symptoms. This is where anti–craving agents come in. Just like in short-term residential treatment, you will be supervised and prescribed anti-craving medications as you go.
Detox and Withdrawal Process
By calling us, we can help direct you to the type of treatment program that will benefit you the most. But whether it is an outpatient or an inpatient program, you will still have to go through the detoxification (detox) and withdrawal process.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “detoxification is the process by which the body clears itself of drugs or alcohol. Detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with addiction and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery.”
In addition, detoxification is only the first step. It is crucial you attend treatment for detoxing so you can receive both guidance and medication. As your body is detoxing, you will experience withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or other substances, and they can be quite unpleasant. However, some individuals chose to do this process at home; however, it is much safer at a treatment facility where you can receive anti-craving medications. This is called a ‘medically managed withdrawal.’
The Federal Drug Administration has approved multiple medications to be used for this process. For example, they are:
Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone
Methadone and buprenorphine are anti-craving agents. Specifically, they are designed to help lower opioid withdrawal symptoms.
In addition, Methadone is a synthetic medication that works by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain. This method is exactly where and how heroin and other addictive opioids connect. Thus, methadone replaces the drug by stimulating these receptors but doesn’t cause euphoria. It is not addictive either, rather it replaces the activation of the opioid receptors in the brain for the time being as an individual begins to stop taking heroin or another addictive drug. It is called an ‘opioid agonist’ whose action results in reduced withdrawal symptoms.
Moreover, according to the National Institutes of Health, “Methadone has been used successfully for more than 40 years to treat opioid use disorder and must be dispensed through specialized opioid treatment programs.” We will highlight why it is so important to administer these anti-craving medications in programs and not at home in the coming sections.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means it is not as strong as methadone but it operates in the same way. Moreover, it still activates the opioid receptors in the brain, but in a milder way. Therefore, this anti-craving agent can be used on individuals whose addictions are more medium than severe. However, it is still highly effective as long as you receive the correct dose for an appropriate amount of time. Again, all this is best done under medical supervision.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved buprenorphine in 2002, making it the first medication eligible to be prescribed by certified physicians through the Drug Addiction Treatment Act.”
Does naltrexone stop cravings? Technically speaking, no. Naltrexone does not stop cravings because it is designed to help in a different way. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist; this means it blocks opioid receptors from being activated instead of stimulating them. According to the National Institutes of Health, naltrexone “treats opioid use disorder by preventing any opioid drug from producing rewarding effects such as euphoria.” Thus, naltrexone doesn’t stop the cravings, rather it changes the way our brains perceive them. Subtract the addictive euphoric feeling and it becomes much easier to withdraw from the drug and start on the path to sobriety.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of these medications then call us today. Our experts are happy to help clarify any questions you may have.
Anti-craving Medicine for Alcohol
There are anti-craving medications available that specifically treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Having a dependence on alcohol is a disorder that can form from either environmental, genetic, or psychosocial variables. Interventions can help the individual see what is happening to them, in the hopes that they will agree to seek treatment for their alcoholism. However, withdrawing from alcohol can be a painful process; thus, researchers have created several different methods in order to help.
The scientists Young-Chul Jung and Kee Namkoong conducted a study called “Pharmacotherapy for Alcohol Dependence: Anticraving Medications for Relapse Prevention.” According to the study, “naltrexone and acamprosate are at the forefront of the currently available pharmacological options. Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist and is thought to reduce the rewarding effect of alcohol.”
In addition, Naltrexone can function as an anti-craving medicine for alcohol as well as drugs. A liquid version of naltrexone, called Vivitrol, was created in 2010. Its effects on easing withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks at a time after injection.
Even though naltrexone is recommended to treat alcohol use disorder, medical professionals still advise taking it under medical supervision due to each patient’s chemical make-up being different.
Acamprosate and Disulfiram
There are currently three medications used for treating alcohol dependence. Aside from naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram have also been approved by the FDA. Acamprosate is another anti-craving medicine for alcohol, distributed under the brand name Campral. This medication is more of a stabilizer for the chemicals in your brain. It maintains the chemical balance that would usually be disrupted during the withdrawal process, making the patient much more comfortable. Studies have found that acamprosate is usually only effective alongside other practices.
Combining this medication with therapies has shown great improvements. Taking this medicine under medical supervision while simultaneously receiving therapy is more beneficial to the patient’s overall journey of becoming sober. An individual can participate in psychotherapy, psychosocial therapy, or cognitive-behavioral treatments while taking acamprosate.
Furthermore, acamprosate and therapy teach the individual about their addiction while making the detoxing process more bearable, thus leading them to recovery and hopefully full abstinence. Detox and rehab treatment go hand in hand to produce this positive outcome.
Disulfiram has a more medieval approach. This medication isn’t exactly an anti-craving drug. Rather it makes your body have horrible reactions if you drink alcohol while using the medication. This is why this medication should absolutely be limited to treatment under medical supervision with therapy.
Likewise, Disulfiram is sold under the name Antabuse and essentially causes the user to experience hangover-like symptoms immediately after drinking alcohol. This sensitivity results from disulfiram blocking the alcohol from being processed throughout your body. Therefore, if you ingest alcohol it results in nasty side effects such as nausea, face flushing, and headaches. More severe side effects can be hyperventilation, fainting, or vertigo. Accordingly, do not take disulfiram unless you are in treatment under the guidance and supervision of a trained professional.
The Downside of Anti-Craving Medication
We cannot stress enough how important it is to take these medications only under medical supervision. Every individual has a different chemical makeup and medical history. Each of these medications could produce a reaction that is different for one patient than another.
When you are under supervision, if you have side effects from taking your medication there is a trained professional on standby to help you. This way you are completely safe and cared for if a negative side effect were to appear. For example, naltrexone might cause:
- Stomach pain
These symptoms are not as severe but they can be uncomfortable. With professionals around, you are able to ask for help right away if you are in any type of pain.
There are more side effects of naltrexone but they are less common. However, it is still important to realize what could happen if you decide to take naltrexone unsupervised. For instance, you might experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Fast heartbeat
- Sinus problems
However, it could be quite terrifying to experience some of these side effects while being unattended. That is why it is crucial to not administer these medications on your own.
Side Effects of Acamprosate and Disulfiram
Acamprosate has similar side effects that can be unpleasant. This medication is risky if you are an individual who has kidney problems. Professionals will ask you about this during treatment and may decide not to administer acamprosate as a result. For example, some side effects of acamprosate include:
- Low or high blood sugar
Winston W. Shen conducted a clinical review called “Anticraving therapy for alcohol use disorder.” He discovered a major side effect of disulfiram, observing that “in patients who are pre‐medicated with disulfiram, consumption of alcohol causes rapid accumulation of acetaldehyde in the body, producing disulfiram ethanol reaction (DER).”
DER produces quite terrible reactions if you mix the medication with alcohol. For example, these include:
- Facial flush
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Becoming thirsty
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeats
- Extreme confusion
However, Disulfiram is essentially negative reinforcement. But of course, if you were in treatment you would not have access to alcohol and you would not experience these symptoms. Rather you would know what the side effects could be if you decided to drink again. In conclusion, disulfiram is used as a negative reinforcer to stop alcoholism and should strictly be used under supervision.
Reach Out For Help
Finally, if you or a loved one have any questions about the detoxification process call us today. We would love to help you find the correct treatment center that has the anti-craving medications that you need. We highly encourage you to call us at 405-583-4390 instead of searching for these medications on your own. Medical supervision is always the safest option.
In conclusion, we are here to answer any questions or concerns you may have about this process. We understand this may be uncharted territory for you, and we would love to help guide you down the correct path.
Written by Julia Bashaw
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