As the battle against substance abuse and addiction continues, researchers are discovering new medical treatments to aid in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Addiction affects about 40 million Americans. This number is higher than the number of Americans diagnosed with heart disease and diabetes. Only about 1 in 10 people addicted to a substance will seek treatment, and many of those who do get substance abuse treatment end up in programs or facilities that don’t provide adequate, evidence-based treatment from qualified medical professionals. While there are treatment methods out there that have been scientifically validated to be successful, many facilities are still using the same therapies and treatments that were used back in the 1950s.
There is still lot of debate out there as to whether addiction is a disease or not, but however you look at it, the facts are that drugs alter pathways in the brain, people are genetically predisposed to addiction, and there are lifestyle factors that contribute to the risk of addiction. When drugs are used for an extended period of time, they begin to rewire the brain, specifically the reward center and pleasure centers. Drugs take hold of same reward response that usually occurs in a healthy person from eating or having sex. These motivations have evolved to ensure our survival as a species. Drugs somehow take over this system, making the need or drive to obtain these substances greater than even the need for food.
Vivitrol -- Vivitrol is simply naltrexone, a drug that has been used for years to treat opioid and alcohol dependence, but what makes Vivitrol unique is that it is an injection rather than a pill. It is a monthly injection that blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol, heroin and other narcotics. It also stops cravings. The reason that Vivitrol has a higher success rate than naltrexone pills is that the patient doesn’t have to make the daily decision to take the pill and consciously make an effort not to fall off the wagon. They only have to decide once a month to maintain treatment. Dr. Frederick Hesse, Medical Director at Arms Acres, a recovery and treatment center in New York, states that, “Vivitrol is the most important breakthrough in addiction treatment in the past 25 years.”
Probuphine -- Probuphine, or buprenorphine in its generic form, is used to treat narcotic addiction. It is a main ingredient in the addiction medication commonly known as Suboxone. Buprenorphine works by controlling cravings and reducing the euphoric effects of other opioid or narcotic drugs if taken simultaneously. What makes Probuphine unique is that it is an implant that is placed under the skin to deliver treatment for six months at a time. This drug offers similar benefits to that of Vivitrol in that the patient doesn’t have to consciously make the daily decision to take medication to control drug use. With Probuphine they only have to make this decision every six months. The company that makes Probuphine, Titan pharmaceuticals, has had several meetings with the FDA and is waiting for approval to come through in the near future.
Gabapentin -- Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug that was approved in 1994 for treatment of epileptic seizures. Besides being a first-line treatment for seizures, it is also used to relieve neuropathic pain. Recently researchers have discovered that gabapentin is safe and effective in treating alcohol dependence. Those treated with gabapentin in studies refrained from drinking twice as often as those in a placebo group. Gabapentin has not only been shown to curb the craving for having a drink, but it also helps to balance out the negative mental effects that come from quitting drinking that include anxiety and insomnia. Gabapentin works by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter GABA, which has a calming effect over the central nervous system. Due to its calming effects, gabapentin has also been tested and proved to help people who are addicted to marijuana.
Selincro/Nalmefene -- Selincro is a new European-approved medication for alcohol abuse. This medication, also known as nalmefene in its generic form, has been used in the U.S. for years in the form of an injection to treat overdose. In Europe, it has been approved in the form of a pill. What makes Selincro unique is that it is used to reduce consumption rather than aim for abstinence. Some people are incapable of abstinence and repeatedly fall off the wagon. Selincro is taken as needed, rather than being taken on a regular schedule like other addiction medications. The recommended dose is one tablet 1-2 hours before an occasion where the addict is likely to drink. Keep an eye on news about nalmefene tablets this medication should be entering the U.S. market in the near future.
Future breakthroughs in the medicinal treatment of addiction and substance abuse seem to lie in long-term or extended release treatments. Researches are currently working on such a vaccine for cocaine addiction. These treatments take away the daily temptation to fall off the wagon by refusing to take medication. Temptation will always arise, but future substance abuse treatments will block cravings and control euphoric effects should an addict choose to relapse. One of the most advantageous features of these drugs is that the choice to take the addiction medication will only need to be made once a month or even less frequently. Visit our Addiction and Substance Abuse page for more information about addiction treatments and for discounts on addiction medications.