Treating an addiction or substance dependence disorder comes with multiple cravings and physical symptoms. That’s why addiction specialists often subject patients to comprehensive treatment programs.

We can break this comprehensive approach down to the detoxification and rehabilitation stage. And each stage employs varying mechanisms, including medications, to fulfill its purpose.

The detoxification stage is an elaborate body-system flushing procedure meant to remove all traces of addiction from your system. Here, we’ll cover the medication-assisted treatment part of addiction detox. And we’ll answer the important question: What medications are used during drug detox?

What is a Medication-assisted Treatment?

As the name implies, this mode of treatment involves using specific medications to help addiction patients. The SAMHSA defines detox as using medication in combination with counselling and behavioural therapies to provide comprehensive treatment for addiction patients.

Of course, addiction specialists primarily use the medications during the detox stage, and counselling comes up during rehabilitation.

This brings us to another question – the why. Why are medications used during detox? The answer to this query will explain their application to addiction treatment processes.

Why Are Medications Used During Detox?

The regular detox process, either for alcohol or drug addiction, can be excruciating both physically and mentally.

Withdrawal symptoms will rear their ugly heads almost immediately you stop using the drug or alcohol. You also have to remember that long-term addiction comes with a significant deterioration in an addict’s health. These factors combine to make a medication an integral part of drug detox.

In some cases, the abrupt cessation of a drug or substance can lead to severe life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. So, the doctors may employ specific medications to speed up the detox process or make it more bearable for you.

Medications primarily help relieve the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings in the patients. These cravings result from a chemical imbalance in the body due to the addictive substance’s absence. Medications help restore the balance and thus reduce cravings for the substance.

In summary, the medications take the edge off and ensure your safety through the detox process. And since each medication undergoes a gruelling testing phase before regulatory approval, there’s nothing to worry about. The MAT process should go smoothly as long as the caregivers abide by best practices and guiding regulations.

Medications Used During Detox

Now back to the burning question – what medications are used during the detox process? Primarily, the type of drug used by the specialist will depend on the addiction and the patient.

Several medications are applicable for most forms of addiction, including;


Earlier, we mentioned “making the detox process more bearable.” Benzodiazepines are the medication that caters to this need.

Drugs that fall under this broad term are primarily tranquillizers. And, as you can guess, specialists use them for their calming and sedating effects. The caregivers often prescribe Benzodiazepines to manage anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, panic disorders, insomnia and seizures in patients.

Several medications fall under the broad category of benzodiazepines. Some of these drugs include:

  • Ativan
  • Librium
  • Xanax
  • Diazepam
  • Valium
  • Chlordiazepoxide

These drugs are beneficial in curbing withdrawal symptoms and making the detox process less painful for patients. However, a significant drawback to benzodiazepines is that they’re also addictive.

Many of the patients who use them during addiction recovery often go back in for benzodiazepine addiction. As such, caregivers need to be particularly cautious when administering these drugs to patients. They need to monitor the patient’s reaction to the medication and watch out for signs of addiction.

Another noteworthy disadvantage to this medication is the potential for precipitated withdrawal in opioid addicts. Precipitated withdrawal is characterized by the rapid onset of intense withdrawal effects. In other words, the medication may keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay for long. But, when it wears off, there can be an overwhelming rush of symptoms.


Often, addiction can either be the source or a result of psychiatric issues. Either way, the addiction will eventually be co-occurring with the mental issue. In such cases, caregivers may prescribe antipsychotic medications to reduce the patients’ symptoms.

Caregivers use antipsychotics when treating patients with bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, dementia and other psychiatric issues. This medication can help manage delusions, paranoia, hallucination and hearing voices.

Antipsychotic medication can also work for withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, irritation and agitation. Common antipsychotic medications used during detox include Abilify, Seroquel, Risperdal, Olanzapine and Clozaril.

Anti-nausea Medication

Nausea is a common withdrawal symptom. Almost every addiction patient will experience nausea at one point during the detox stage. Quite obviously, the purpose of the anti-nausea medication is to mitigate nausea and prevent vomiting.

Your caregivers will give you this medication to keep you from vomiting. Common examples of anti-nausea drugs include Promethazine, Zofran, and Metoclopramide.


Addiction detox often comes with depression symptoms. Addictive substances often force the body to produce an abnormal level of ‘feel-good’ hormones. Therefore, your body won’t know how to ‘feel good’ without the substance.

As a result, you feel low when you can’t get high. Sometimes, the ‘low’ can be as far as rock-bottom and depression. In this case, the doctors may prescribe antidepressants to relieve your symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Antidepressants work by correcting or attempting to remedy the chemical imbalance in your brain. It regulates the production of neurotransmitters responsible for changes in your mood. Common antidepressants used during detox treatments include Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro and Zoloft.

Related Article: How Does Medical Detox Work?

Medications Used For Drug Detox

Here are the medications experts prescribe for drug detox treatment and how they work:



Methadone is one of the medications caregivers primarily administer when treating heroin addicts. It functions perfectly to reduce withdrawal symptoms associated with opiates and other related drugs. Methadone is effective against opiates because it’s also a synthetic opioid. It works by binding to the same brain receptors that heroin and other opiate painkillers attach to.

With its mode of function, methadone serves as a perfect but harmless substitute for opioids. It helps to suppress withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. The best part is; it doesn’t create the same euphoria effect in users as actual opiates. As such, there’s a much less chance of addiction to this medication.


You can also expect your caregivers to prescribe Naltrexone during your detox from drug addiction. However, interestingly, naltrexone also works for alcohol use disorder. So, an addiction specialist may also prescribe it for alcohol addiction cases.

The primary function of Naltrexone is to block the euphoric and sedative effects of drugs and alcohol. It works by binding itself to opioid receptors in the brains and preventing them from creating the need for said effects. This mechanism allows Naltrexone to reduce your cravings effectively.


Buprenorphine is a partial agonist useful at all stages of medication-Assisted treatment I.e. the medication can be used during both the detox and rehabilitation stage. This is mainly because it’s proven safe and effective in diminishing physical dependency on hard drugs. In addition, it effectively reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Fortunately, it has a lower potential for misuse compared to many of the other medications employed to the same effect. Therefore, doctors may prescribe the drug directly or as a part of another product that serves a similar purpose.


Another popular drug caregivers may prescribe during your drug addiction detox program in Ontario is Suboxone. Suboxone is derived by combining naloxone and buprenorphine. Its primary function is to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms from drugs like Oxycontin, heroin and other opiates.

Using it requires ingesting the tablet sublingually. In other words, you’ll need to hold it under your tongue until it dissolves and diffuses into your cheeks.

Medications Used For Alcohol Detox

Since addictions are not limited to drugs, it’ll be preposterous for us only to discuss the medications used during drug detox.

Alcohol addiction is sometimes downplayed in substance use disorder conversations. However, it’s a significant problem that should not in any way be underestimated.

And just like any other addictive substance, its treatment may also require using some specific drugs such as;


Disulfiram is not as useful for the alcohol detox process; it’s beneficial for preventing alcohol use. When you take disulfiram, it interferes with how your body breaks down alcohol. It primarily creates an acute sensitivity to alcohol in the user. So when you use it, the drug combines with the alcohol in your system and causes you to experience discomfort.

So, you’ll experience symptoms similar to a hangover if you drink after using disulfiram. For context, you may experience headache, chest pain, disorientation, palpitation and nausea as a result.


Acamprosate is another medication that works perfectly for alcohol addiction treatment. Treatment specialists prescribe Acamprosate to help curb cravings for alcohol. It also works perfectly for curbing alcohol usage, similar to Disulfiram. Consequently, you can also take it as part of a more comprehensive recovery programme.


Nalmefene is another medication that doubles as both an opioid and alcohol antagonist. Addiction treatment specialists prescribe it to reduce the pleasurable effects of alcohol and thus reduce the patient’s cravings for it.

Per instructions, you’ll probably need to take the medication a couple of hours after drinking alcohol. If you follow that instruction, the medication will reduce your desire to drink more. However, don’t expect the drug to stop your craving for alcohol altogether; it’ll only make it less pleasurable. In other words, it makes you stop enjoying alcohol.

Related Article: What Medication is used for Alcohol Detox?

Final Thoughts

We hope you now have sufficient information regarding the medications used during the detox process. These medications may apply to your condition, but it’s always better to confirm with a medical practitioner. Unfortunately, you can be addicted to anything from drugs to alcohol to sex. That said, try to be proactive in getting the help you need to be free of your addiction.

If your addiction is not severe, you may go through detox without needing medications. Doctors prefer to go through the procedure without prescribing any medication because it reduces the risk you may develop a dependence on another substance.

Now that you know what to expect during drug detox, we believe you should be looking for a detox center. At Medical Detox Ontario, we provide top-notch addiction treatment services and support for all our clients — guaranteed to provide encouraging results in little time. Call us today to discuss treatment options!

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