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    Treating an Addiction to Painkillers

    Medications for Opioid Withdrawal continued...

    Buprenorphine alone (Subutex) or buprenorphine plus naloxone (Suboxone) is a newer drug that helps with detox from opioid addiction. Buprenorphine activates opioid receptors, reducing drug craving and preventing withdrawal. Naloxone helps prevent misuse of the medication. Subutex is typically used for acute opiate detoxification, while Suboxone is used either for acute detoxification or maintenance prevention of opiate relapse.

    Clonidine is a blood pressure medicine that acts on the brain. Clonidine reduces the effects of the "fight or flight" response, which is over-activated during opioid withdrawal. However, clonidine does not reduce drug craving and is less effective when used alone.

    "Rapid detox" programs claim to accelerate the process of detox and opioid withdrawal by giving large doses of opioid blocking drugs. Some programs place an addict under general anesthesia during the detox process. These programs have not proven to be more effective than traditional methods of detox, and may be more dangerous.

    Maintenance Therapy After Detox

    Completing detox subdues the physical effects of narcotic addiction and opioid withdrawal. But experts say psychological and social factors are the main drivers that push addicts back to using. Stress and situations that remind the brain of the drug's pleasure are common triggers.

    When drug cravings strike, they can be extremely hard to resist. Most people who only go through detox and short-term counseling without maintenance treatment  will most likely relapse to prescription drug abuse.

    Studies show that the chances of beating narcotic addiction are better with long-term maintenance therapy with either methadone or buprenorphine paired with naloxone (Zubsolv, Bunavail, Suboxone) . These drugs are used during the maintenance phase of treatment. People on these drugs are still opioid-dependent, but they are often freed from their destructive drug addiction. They can return to work, drive without impairment, and function normally in society. Naloxone has also been combined with oxycontin ( Targiniq ER ) to deter abuse by snorting or injecting the drug. A person can still become addicted by taking it orally, however.

    Methadone is the best-studied, most effective method of recovery from narcotic addiction. Suboxone, while newer, has gained wide acceptance as maintenance therapy.

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