Using Anti-Craving Medications for Addiction [Full Guide]

Anti-craving medications are an option and are used in addiction treatment. However, it is not recommended that you take anti-craving medications alone without going through a recovery program.

Any type of anti-craving agent can be beneficial under the supervision and administration of trained medical professionals. While in treatment, you will be evaluated and given the correct anti-craving medications that will work for you.

This guide will help you learn all you can about anti-craving medications and their powerful role in addiction recovery.

Table of Contents

Anti-craving Drugs for Opioid Addiction

Methadone and Buprenorphine are anti-craving agents. Specifically, they are designed to help lower opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone

Methadone is a synthetic chemically made 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 outcome results in reduced withdrawal symptoms.

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

Buprenorphine is an agonist just like Methadone, but it is partial. Because it is only a partial agonist, it is not as strong as Methadone, but it operates in the same way. It still activates the opioid receptors in the brain, but it is not as powerful. Therefore, this anti-craving agent can be used on individuals who have more medium than severe addictions. Regardless, even though it is a partial agonist, it still works as long as the correct dose is given for an appropriate amount of time. We will say it again, this all should be accomplished 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”.

If you have any questions or concerns about either of these medications, call us today. Our experts are happy to help clarify any questions you may have.

Naltrexone

Does Naltrexone stop cravings? Technically speaking, no Naltrexone does not stop cravings because it is designed to help differently. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist; 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. Once the addictive euphoric feeling is taken away, it becomes easier to withdraw from the drug and start on the path to sobriety.

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Anti-Craving Medications for Alcohol

There are anti-craving medications available that are designed to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Having alcohol dependence is a disorder that can form from either environmental, genetic, or psychosocial variables.

Interventions have been used to help individuals see what is happening to them, hoping that they will agree to seek treatment for their alcoholism. Withdrawing from alcohol can be a painful process. Thus several different methods have been created to help.

study called “Pharmacotherapy for Alcohol Dependence: Anticraving Medications for Relapse Prevention” was conducted by Young-Chul Jung and Kee Namkoong.

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”.

Naltrexone can be used as an anti-craving medicine for alcohol as well as drugs. A version of Naltrexone was created into a liquid and named Vivitrol in 2010. Its effects on easing withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks at a time after injection.

Even though Naltrexone is used to treat alcohol use disorder, it is still recommended to take it under medical supervision because each patient’s chemical make-up is different.

Acamprosate and Disulfiram

There are currently three medications used for treating alcohol dependence. They are Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram, and they are all approved by the FDA. Acamprosate is another anti-craving medicine for alcohol, and it is distributed under the brand Campral.

This medication is more of a stabilizer for the chemicals in your brain. It maintains the chemicals that would usually be firing during the withdrawal process that cause comfortability. Studies have found that Acamprosate is usually only effective alongside other practices.

Combining this medication with therapies has shown greater improvements than when used alone. Simultaneously taking this medicine under medical supervision while 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.

Used together, they teach the individual about their addiction while making the detoxing process more bearable, thus leading them to recovery and hopefully full abstinence. Detoxification and rehabilitation go hand in hand to produce this positive outcome.

Disulfiram has a more controversial 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.

The intense reaction produced by Disulfiram is exactly why this medication should be used in treatment under medical supervision with therapy. Disulfiram is sold under the name Antabuse and essentially causes the user to experience hangover-like symptoms immediately following the intake of the alcohol drink.

This sensitivity is caused because Disulfiram is blocking the alcohol from being processed throughout your body.

Therefore, if alcohol is ingested, bad 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.

Negative Side-Effects of Anti-Craving Medications for Addiction

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that these medications only be taken under medical supervision. Every individual has a different chemical make-up 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, a trained professional is on standby to help you. This way, you are completely safe and cared for if a negative side effect is to appear.

For example, Naltrexone might cause:
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Headache

These symptoms are not as severe, but they can be uncomfortable. Therefore, you always could ask for help if you are in any pain. There are more negative symptoms from Naltrexone, but they are less common.

However, it is still important to realize what could happen if you decide to take Naltrexone unsupervised.

You might experience:
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sinus problems
  • Chills

It could be quite terrifying to experience some of these side effects while being unattended too. That is why it is extremely crucial not to administer these medications on your own.

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Side Effects of Acamprosate and Disulfiram

Acamprosate has similar side effects that can be unpleasant. It has been noted that this medication should not be taken if you are an individual who has kidney problems. These side-effects and contraindications would be something you would be informed of while in treatment. Thus, you would not be given Acamprosate.

Some side effects of Acamprosate do include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Low or high blood sugar
  • Insomnia

Disulfiram

Winston W. Shen conducted a clinical review called the “Anticraving therapy for alcohol use disorder.” He discovered a huge side effect of Disulfiram. According to the observation, “patients who are pre‐medicated with disulfiram, alcohol consumption 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. Such as:
  • Facial Flush
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Becoming thirsty
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeats
  • Restlessness
  • Exhaustion
  • Extreme confusion

Disulfiram is essentially a controversial 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 a negative reinforcer to stop alcoholism and should strictly be used under supervision.

If you or a loved one have any questions about the detoxification process, call us today. We would love to help you find the right treatment center with the anti-craving medications you need.

Your Recovery Journey Should Start Here

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 anti-craving agent without medical supervision. Therefore, a medical professional at a treatment facility or clinic will be able to prescribe you the correct kind of anti-craving medication. There are different kinds of treatment centers that you can get involved in, depending on your condition. There are outpatient treatment and short-term or long-term residential treatments.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment means you are going to and from 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 group or individual therapy sessions. Depending on your specific needs, you might give anti-craving agents to help your recovery.

Short-term Residential Treatment

Short-term residential treatment is a program where you can stay at a hospital or facility and receive more hands-on help. The 12-step method is used in these programs and was designed to treat alcoholism.

Your stay can last anywhere between 3 to 6 weeks and can always be followed by more outpatient care. Here is where you will more likely receive anti-craving medication under the supervision of a medical professional at the residency. This way, you can be monitored and explain how you are feeling.

Long-Term Residential Treatment

Long-term residential treatment is where you would stay at a facility like a big house or mansion. You receive 24-hour care and socialize and learn from other patients who are going through the same struggles you are.

You might stay at this therapeutic community anywhere from 90 days to six months or a year, depending on your condition and willingness to heal. These communities focus on resocialization for their patients. The focus tends to be on correcting the psychological aspect of addiction by teaching accountability and responsibility.

Before this occurs, the detoxification process has to occur, and the withdrawal symptoms have to be met. This stage of early recovery is where the anti-craving agents come in. Just like in the short term, you will be supervised and prescribed anti-craving medications as you go through treatment.

Anti-Craving Medications During Detox and Withdrawal

We can help direct you to the treatment program that will benefit you the most by calling us. Whether an outpatient or an inpatient program, you will still have to go through detoxification and withdrawal.

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”.

Hence, this is why detoxification is only the first step. Detoxing does not mean you are sober. You must attend treatment for detoxing so you can receive both guidance and medication.

As your body is detoxing, you will experience withdrawal symptoms from the alcohol, which can be quite unpleasant.

Some individuals choose to do this process at home; however, it is much safer at treatment, where you can receive anti-craving medications. This is called a ‘medically managed withdrawal.

Anti-Craving Medications Can Help if Done The Right Way

There is no denying that anti-craving medications can make a tremendous impact on the recovery process. The important aspect of anti-craving medications is that they only work when administered and supervised by a medical professional.

While it may seem that recovery is as simple as beginning an anti-craving medication, they will not solve all of your problems. You see, addiction is not a physical disease but a disease that impacts every aspect of your being.

People suffering from addiction need to begin the journey of recovery through an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Call us now for a free and confidential consultation! We will help you get started on the road to recovery.

Sources of Information

[1] Drug Abuse.gov
[2] NIH Study
[3] NIH.gov Study II

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