Medications for Drug Addiction

Medications for Drug Addiction: How They Work and Potential Side Effects

Drug addiction is a condition characterized by the compulsive use of substances that have detrimental effects on an individual’s well-being. 

It transcends social, economic, and cultural boundaries, affecting countless individuals worldwide. The consequences are far-reaching, as they may strain relationships, disrupt work or academic performance, and lead to legal troubles. 

The spiral of addiction often starts innocently, with individuals seeking temporary relief, pleasure, or escape from life’s challenges. Over time, this vicious cycle traps individuals in a web of dependency that becomes increasingly difficult to escape. 

Different medicines have been introduced to control and eventually prevent the addiction. But each has its side effects.

In this article, we are going to look at some of the prescriptions available and what are their side effects which may cause trouble.


It is an injectable form of medication that is used to treat alcoholism and opioid disorders. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006. Vivitrol releases naltrexone once it is injected into the gluteal muscle. 

It is part of a treatment plan that includes counseling and other behavioral therapies to give patients a holistic approach. Naltrexone is not suggested for anyone under the age of 18 or patients with underlying medical issues.

Side effects of the drug depend on the patient’s health condition, age, and other ongoing medication. Common side effects of Vivitrol are:

  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Low energy

Serious side effects may include:

  • Liver damage
  • Depression
  • Eosinophilic pneumonia (type of white blood cell)


It is mainly used to treat addiction to narcotic drugs such as morphine or heroin. Adults and children over 15 years of age receiving medical and psychological support use it with a ‘special’ prescription.

It contains two substances, buprenorphine and naloxone. A trial was conducted on 326 heroin-dependent patients. After four weeks, 17.8% who received Suboxone had no detectable opioids in their urine, compared to 5.8% who received a placebo.

However, the National Institutes of Health launched a study in October 2023 investigating the relationship between oral buprenorphine and the development of dental issues.

As per TruLaw, several lawsuits have already been filed against the makers of Suboxone. These lawsuits claim that the company failed to warn the patients about the potential side effects. Using Suboxone can cause permanent tooth decay, gum injuries, and other dental problems.

If you are thinking, can I still apply for a Suboxone Lawsuit, then yes you can. The US JPML is looking into claims filed in the Northern District of Ohio. Over 100 lawsuits have been filed against Suboxone by April 2024.


In May 2023, Brixadi, which also contains buprenorphine, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating moderate to severe opioid use disorder. It is not consulted for people aged 65 and more.

It is approved in both weekly and monthly injectable formulations. Brixadi is offered through a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program and is delivered solely by healthcare providers in a medical environment.

It is not available in a generic version although availability in the form of oral tablets is possible. Commonly, it is injected under the skin of your abdomen, upper arm, buttock, or thigh.

Side effects of this medication are:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Pain, itching, or redness at the site of injection
  • Common cold
  • Adrenal insufficiency

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the commonly used medications for treating drug addiction?

Several medications are used to treat drug addiction. Some commonly prescribed ones include methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, and acamprosate.

Are these medications effective on their own, or should they be combined with other treatments?

Medications for drug addiction are often most effective when combined with other treatments, such as counseling, behavioral therapies, and support groups. Comprehensive treatment approaches that address the physical, psychological, and social aspects of addiction tend to yield the best outcomes. 

Can these medications be used for all types of drug addictions?

The medications mentioned earlier are primarily used for opioid addiction (methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone) or alcohol addiction (acamprosate). Different medications may be prescribed for other types of drug addictions. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment for a specific addiction.

Are these medications addictive?

Medications like methadone and buprenorphine are opioids, but when taken as prescribed and under medical supervision, the risk of addiction is low. Naltrexone and acamprosate are not addictive substances. However, it’s essential to follow the prescribed dosage and instructions provided by your healthcare provider.

Like any medication, those used to treat drug addiction can have side effects. The specific side effects depend on the medication. Common side effects can include nausea, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, and headache.

It is necessary to be very aware of the medications and one should never take them without a proper prescription. If you face any side effects from the medications, consult first a healthcare provider and then a legal advisor.

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