Question:

Are there medications to prevent drug relapses?

A Pill to Prevent Relapse?

Drug and alcohol abusers may start their addictions as self-medication for problems like anxiety and depression, or may develop such problems as a result of the addiction. Treating these conditions may help prevent relapse, but must be done with care, as some antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs are themselves addicting.

Antabuse is meant to be a relapse-prevention drug for alcoholics, and acts by producing unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and vomiting when alcohol is consumed. Its effectiveness is limited because the relapsing alcoholic can either stop taking Antabuse or ignore the symptoms.

Naltrexone and suboxone are two drugs that act not to punish the relapsing addict, but to prevent drugs from taking effect if consumed. The addict who uses alcohol or opiates while on these drugs simply doesn't experience the same high because the relevant receptors in the brain are blocked. Some addicts report these drugs have helped them achieve successful abstinence.

In the case of some other drugs, notably methamphetamine, there is no medical way to prevent relapse, and the best known treatments involve behavioral therapy and support groups. In any case, such non-medical treatments should accompany any drug used to prevent relapse.

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