What medications are used to help with addiction treatment?

Medication is often prescribed to help recovering addicts stay sober. Battling an addiction is a huge struggle for all involved, and many people trying to give up drugs or alcohol relapse because they are unable to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.

Drug withdrawal and detox

When a person is experiencing the initial stages of recovery, the body will be ridding itself of the drugs or alcohol via a process known as detox. Detox can last anywhere between several days to several months, depending on the drug.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with detox are often the most challenging part of the recovery process as they can be both physically and mentally challenging. Some symptoms may include:

  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating

Again, depending on the drug, people may be given a number of detox options. Certain factors will be taken into account such as the drug of choice, the dose taken at the time of detox, how long the person has been using the drug, and whether they are using other drugs. Detox approaches include:

  • “Cold Turkey” detox
  • Short-term medicated detox
  • Long-term medicated detox

Cold turkey detox means absolutely no drugs or substances will be taken, nor is there any pharmacological assistance. Those who opt for a medical detox will stop taking harmful substances, but as they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms, they will be given either short-term or long-term medication to ease discomfort.

There are different medications used to treat different withdrawal symptoms, some of which are:


This medication is used to treat symptoms of anxiety and any irritability the patient may be feeling. These are two common symptoms of withdrawal from many drugs including cocaine and heroin. However, benzos tend to have a sedative effect to help ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. For this reason, they can become highly addictive, and doctors are very cautious about prescribing them.


A person who has relied heavily on drugs or alcohol for some time will no longer be able to produce the right amount of natural happiness-inducing chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins) in their brain. People who are going through a detox are therefore likely to experience depression. Antidepressants are prescribed to relieve these negative feelings and thoughts until the brain can produce the right chemicals again.


Clonidine is used to treat withdrawal from alcohol and opiates. It can help to reduce sweating, cramps, muscle aches, and feelings of anxiety as well as preventing tremors and seizures.

Detoxing from drugs or alcohol is without a doubt an extremely difficult process and those experiencing it will require a huge amount of support from family, friends, and medical professionals. Many centres for rehab in London can offer tailored treatment programmes that can help those who are struggling battle their addiction and start to lead a healthy lifestyle.

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