Many in the addiction and recovery communities are wary of taking/being prescribed medicine to help with cravings and other manifestations of substance use disorder. It seems counter-intuitive, especially as many Americans get hooked to pills they were prescribed in the first place. However, as both alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder are bonafide diseases, scientific and medicinal treatments are really not so out of place. Of course, many people find their answer with 12-step programs, yoga, meditation, therapy or more. However, some addicts and alcoholics may benefit from a drug that cuts down on cravings or another addiction-related drug. Of course, here at Recovery Care Partner, we recommend a holistic approach at combating addiction- medication should be paired with therapy which should be paired with meetings. This approach truly helps fight the fact that addiction affects you inside out, and affects all parts of your life. In this blog post, we will help you take a look at different addiction medications that you may be interested in, or perhaps not.
One popular and up and coming addiction drug is Naltrexone. Naltrexone falls under the class of opioid antagonists and has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of opiate addiction and alcoholism. So how does it work? Well, it works in three primary ways. It blocks the effects of the opiate, decreases the desire one has for opiates or alcohol and also interferes with desire to drink thus preventing a drinking relapse. It essentially cuts down on cravings one has for both opiates and alcohol, which is as any addict or alcoholic knows, is a big win. In terms of alcohol, it can also be administered via what is called the Sinclair Method. The Sinclair Method is a treatment for alcohol use disorder. Also known as pharmacological extinction, the method works by the addict taking naltrexone an hour before taking a drink. Woah, what? Yes, this method doesn’t revolve around abstinence. It totally may not be the right method for you, but for those who have tried it, the method has a 78 percent long-term success rate. One quarter of those doing TSM eventually become completely abstinent, the rest of the successful TSM users continue to take naltrexone prior to drinking. Another important thing to say about naltrexone is that it also comes in the form of a shot, called Vivitrol. This is known by a lot of heroin and other opiate addicts to cut down cravings, by blocking both opiates and endorphins. There are not a lot of side effects to naltrexone, it is regarded by the FDA and large scientific institutions as completely non-addictive. However, some addicts report, when taking naltrexone regularly (not just before a drink), a loss of interest/pleasure in usually enjoyable things such as eating food or having sex. This is because of the blocking of endorphins. However, if you subscribe to the Sinclair Methods or other practices in which you are not taking naltrexone regularly, this is very unlikely. Perhaps it is not for you, but with all the talk and hubbub surrounding naltrexone in the scientific community, we had to put it on our list.
Other addiction medications include bupropion (brand name- Wellbutrin) and suboxone and methadone. Bupropion is primarily used to treat cravings for nicotine and food, but in some cases has been found to cut down cravings for drugs and alcohol. Suboxone and methadone are partial opioid antagonists and opioids, respectively. However, they are considered pretty controversial because often, addicts transfer their addiction to these more legalized, less dangerous (but still highly addictive) drugs. Perhaps medication is not the treatment you are seeking, but Recovery Care Partner wants to make sure you are up to date on all cutting-edge addiction treatment- we want to make sure you have all the tools in your toolbox to treat the addiction you or a loved one are battling.Learn More
The War on Drugs is a vast, complex phenomenon, spanning from its origins in Nixon’s presidency to the push for legalized marijuana and more lenient sentencing laws. Most people have a lukewarm understanding of how the War on Drugs has impacted society- huge expenditures of taxpayer money going to fund state/private prisons, millions of Americans in jail (of which, a disproportionate amount are those of color), bloodbath in Latin America and derision in Washington, D.C. But few people, besides those afflicted, can speak to how the War on Drugs has unfairly impacted those struggling with substance abuse.
In order to understand the impacts of this policy, one must first understand the history of the War on Drugs. President Nixon was the first person to coin the term “War on Drugs,” in 1971, in response to the proliferation of drug culture in the 1960’s. During this time, Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in Schedule One, the most serious category of drugs. Though the level has since changed, the stigma has stuck. The 1970’s witnessed more permissive drug laws, it was with Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980’s that mass incarceration and drug abuse really took off. Reagan incited a period that witnessed the number of people imprisoned for drug crimes growing from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997. Additionally, his wife, Nancy Reagan, coined one of the most popular anti-drug catchphrases (“Just Say No”) as a response to rampant drug use, especially use of newly-created crack cocaine. The hysteria witnessed by the public during this time allowed a myriad of drug policies that spurred incarceration to be passed. This stigmatized view of drug use continued until the mid-2000’s. During this time, drug use admissions from political figures helped America begin to adopt more sensible drug policy. This includes health-based initiatives and a shift towards decriminalization, especially in regards to marijuana. However, there’s still a long way to go with half a million people still behind bars for nothing more than a drug law offense. Additionally, little is being done to combat the opiate crisis. President Trump recently selected Kellyanne Conway to be the “czar” in the fight against opioids, but almost no money has been appropriated to really combat the issue.
This brings us to the struggle of addicts, helpless against the whims of American politics and in desperate need of treatment and services. Current drug policy not only is ineffective in helping addicts, it also deeply hurts them. As anyone who has experience with an addict knows, an addict will go to any lengths to get their drug of choice. Because the War on Drugs has driven drugs so far underground, addicts put themselves in extremely dangerous, precarious situations to obtain their fix. Another way in which the War on Drugs severely impacts addicts is that the majority of drug-related funding goes to the incarceration of drug-related offenders. Addicts end up in jail, rather than a treatment center. Over 50 percent of federal inmates are in prison for drug-related crimes and the solution that’s supposed to “set them straight” usually just leads them to relapse and do the same things that got them into jail (shockingly, current American recidivism rates are at 68 percent within just three years of release).
Surely, there’s no easy fix to the behemoth national drug problem, but policies that act to rehabilitate and help drug addicts rather than place them in situations that only serve to be triggering, are a good place to start. If you have a personal experience with an addict and don’t know where to begin, contact the empathetic, supportive professionals at Recovery Care Partner.Learn More