Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
What medications are used for the treatment of addiction?
Several medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of addiction to alcohol and certain types of drugs. The specific medication used can depend on the substance the person is addicted to, their overall health, and other individual factors. Here are a few examples:
For Alcohol Addiction:
- Disulfiram (Antabuse): This medication causes unpleasant effects such as nausea and flushing of the skin if a person drinks alcohol. The aim is to discourage them from drinking.
- Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol): Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of alcohol, helping to reduce cravings.
- Acamprosate (Campral): Acamprosate works by restoring the balance of certain chemicals in the brain that may become disrupted due to alcohol addiction. It can help people maintain abstinence from alcohol after they quit drinking.
For Opioid Addiction:
- Methadone: This is a long-acting opioid agonist that can prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for opioids. It is dispensed through specialized opioid treatment programs.
- Buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone): Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that can help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone also contains naloxone to prevent misuse.
- Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol): Like its use in alcohol addiction treatment, naltrexone can block the euphoric effects of opioids.
For Nicotine Addiction:
- Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs): These come in various forms like gums, patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers, and can help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings when quitting smoking.
- Bupropion (Zyban): Initially developed as an antidepressant, bupropion can also help reduce cravings and the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
- Varenicline (Chantix): Varenicline helps reduce cravings for nicotine and decrease the pleasurable effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
What are the symptoms of opioid withdrawal?
Opioid withdrawal can be a challenging process that presents both physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on factors like the type of opioid used, the duration and intensity of use, individual health status, and genetic factors. Here are common symptoms that might be experienced during opioid withdrawal:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Restlessness and agitation
- Runny nose and teary eyes
- Excessive yawning
- Goosebumps (hence the term "cold turkey")
- Abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Intense cravings for opioids
These symptoms can begin as early as a few hours after the last dose of the opioid and typically peak within 72 hours, though they may persist for a week or more. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms, which are primarily psychological, can continue for weeks or even months.
It's important to note that while opioid withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, it is generally not life-threatening. However, complications like severe dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea can occur, which is why medical supervision is recommended during the withdrawal process. Furthermore, the risk of relapse is high during withdrawal, and using opioids again after a period of abstinence can lead to a potentially fatal overdose, as tolerance may have decreased.
What does fentanyl do to a person?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It's typically used to treat severe pain, especially after surgery, or to manage pain in individuals with chronic illnesses who have developed a tolerance to other opioids.
When used under medical supervision, fentanyl can effectively relieve pain. However, when used illicitly or without a prescription, it can have severe, and even fatal, effects. Here's what fentanyl can do to a person:
Physical Effects: In the short term, fentanyl can induce feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and decreased perception of pain. However, it also slows breathing and can lead to unconsciousness or death from respiratory failure, particularly in high doses or when combined with other substances that depress the central nervous system.
Dependency and Addiction: Fentanyl is highly addictive. Regular use can lead to physical dependence, where the body requires the drug to function normally, and psychological addiction, where a person feels a compulsive need to use the drug despite its harmful consequences.
Overdose Risk: Due to its potency, the risk of overdose with fentanyl is high, especially if a person mistakenly believes they're taking a less potent opioid, as illicit fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs. Overdose can lead to severe respiratory depression, unconsciousness, and death.
Withdrawal: Once a person becomes dependent on fentanyl, stopping its use can result in withdrawal symptoms. These can include muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and uncontrollable leg movements.
Long-Term Health Effects: Chronic fentanyl use can lead to an array of health problems, including severe constipation, increased sensitivity to pain, confusion, depression, and increased risk of infections due to needle sharing (if injected).
Due to its potency and high risk of overdose, non-medical use of fentanyl is extremely dangerous. If you or someone you know is struggling with fentanyl or other opioid use, it's crucial to seek professional help immediately.