The Role of Pharmacotherapy in Substance Use Disorders

If you are struggling with addiction, particularly to things like alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines, you might learn that part of your treatment includes pharmaceuticals. But if you are being treated for drug addiction, why are drugs part of the care plan?

What is Pharmacotherapy?

Pharmacotherapy is any treatment of a health condition with prescription medications. 

How is Pharmacotherapy in Rehab Used?

Pharmacotherapy in substance use disorders replaces whatever substance you are addicted to with a substitution that is:

  • Legal
  • Safer
  • Less addictive
  • Helps with withdrawal
  • Reduces cravings/relapse

What to Expect with Pharmacotherapy in Rehab

Pharmacotherapy in SUDs can be a helpful part of your overall treatment plan, used at several stages. 

For example:

Those who are struggling with opioid addiction might be prescribed medication by their treatment team to help reduce the intensity of their withdrawal during detox. This makes it easier to get through the first few days of detox and, subsequently, makes it more likely that you will complete the rest of your treatment. 

Thereafter, medication might be prescribed in conjunction with behavioral therapy and holistic care to help reduce your dependence and make cravings less likely. 

Types of Pharmacotherapy in Substance Use Disorders

When used in therapy, pharmacotherapy is often tied to what is called medication-assisted treatment or MAT. Using FDA-approved medications, these prescriptions are administered during detox, during the rest of your treatment, and sometimes after your initial care.

Categories of medications used include the following:

Alcohol Antagonists

This category makes you sick when you drink alcohol, so you don't have any positive effects from alcohol consumption. It's helpful in reducing relapse.

Examples: Disulfiram is an antagonist, one which causes things like nausea, vomiting, headaches, and chest pains. It's a tablet that you take once a day after your initial detox to avoid relapse. 

GABA Analogs

This category blocks the signals in your brain associated with your withdrawal symptoms. This makes the withdrawal process slightly more comfortable so that you are more likely to get through it and move on to the remainder of your treatment.

Examples: Acamprosate is given within the first five days of your detox, and it can be used to block some of the negative symptoms. You take it as a tablet, and later, it can also be used to reduce cravings.

Opioid Agonists

This category attaches to the brain receptors that opioids would normally use, but it prevents you from feeling any high. This means you can get rid of your intense cravings for opioids and alleviate some of the discomfort during withdrawal while tapering.

Examples: Methadone is one of the most popular, one which is administered as an oral concentration or tablet. Another is Buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid agonist designed to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It can be applied directly to your skin, implanted, injected, or given as a tablet.

Opioid Antagonists

This category blocks any activation in your opioid receptors in the brain. This decreases your craving significantly and helps you avoid feeling high if you do take opioids, which means you won't enjoy any of the benefits and are more likely to reach sobriety long-term.

Examples: Naltrexone is one of the most popular options, and it's used to reduce the long-term risk of relapse, administered as an injection. 

However, there are limitations. You have to go to a qualified and licensed facility like 90210 Recovery to receive this type of treatment. Moreover, you have to complete ongoing behavioral therapy as part of the agreement. 

Pharmacotherapy in SUDs with 90210 Recovery

FDA-approved pharmacotherapy in substance use disorders is required for things like detox and ongoing prescription medication. 90210 Recovery is a luxury addiction treatment center in Los Angeles.

Located along the marina, we have a team of medical professionals who understand the importance of using pharmacotherapy in SUDs in addition to individualized care with things like family therapy or traditional psychotherapy, as well as holistic programs. With our structured and supportive environment, we provide smooth experiences, starting with detox and transitioning into residential programs that provide you with the tools you need to succeed in your recovery and reduce your risk of relapse. A big part of this is achieved through our small patient-to-staff ratio and the individualized programs we provide.

Overall, pharmacotherapy in substance use disorders is an essential part of treatment for many people, especially those struggling with alcoholism or addiction to opioids. The medications prescribed are administered by licensed facilities and overseen by a team of professionals to ensure they help you through your withdrawal and prevent cravings. Call our inpatient drug rehab in Los Angeles today!

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