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Prescription Pain Killers and Cravings

by James Heller 24. December 2009 10:47

Those who suffer from opiate addiction may want to learn a few things about Vivitrol, or injectable Naltrexone, which reduces alcohol cravings for those with alcohol dependence.  This may be of interest because phase 3 trials have been successfully completed on Naltrexone for opiate dependence, and it is going through the process for FDA approval.

So far it appears that Alkermes has produced a drug that passes all trial phases to the point that it should be approved.  But we will not pre-determine the outcome at this time.  While remaining prudent until final FDA approval comes, the potential for this type of medication assisted treatment provides us an opportunity to discuss different scenarios where it will be of use.

Prescription drug addiction, specifically opiate based pain killers, has many origins these days.  Teen prescription drug abuse is a growing concern and many individuals start using medications for pain relief and become addicted, to name two.  In any case, opiate dependence is largely driven by opiate cravings.

Adolescents generally start using pain medication for 2 reasons.  When teens lack something to do, they become bored and seek an outlet for the angst that comes with this critical time of growth.  Many will be offered illegally obtained prescription drugs, and some will try them.  Others who suffer injuries in sports or other physical activities may be prescribed opiates by their doctors.

This group of teens falls into a greater part of the population who, through accident or illness, start using prescription opiates for the reason they are intended.    While these drugs perform a great service to those suffering from pain, they are also highly addictive and some will continue to use them past the time they are necessary for pain.

Opiate cravings usually begin with the first use of a drug.  The brain responds to the euphoria they produce in an allergic fashion, manifesting in signals that the body needs more.  To date, there are no FDA approved non-narcotic medications to reduce these cravings, so once they are triggered they exist for life.

The excerpt below is from an article posted on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.  The full article discusses current treatments available for opiate dependence.  

-- Begin external content --

The two main categories of drug addiction treatment are behavioral and pharmacological. Behavioral treatments encourage patients to stop drug use and teach them how to function without drugs, handle cravings, avoid drugs and situations that could lead to drug use, and handle a relapse should it occur. When delivered effectively, behavioral treatments-such as individual counseling, group or family counseling, contingency management, and cognitiveÐ behavioral therapiesÑalso can help patients improve their personal relationships and their ability to function at work and in the community.

Some addictions, such as opioid addiction, can be treated with medications. These pharmacological treatments counter the effects of the drug on the brain and behavior, and can be used to relieve withdrawal symptoms, treat an overdose, or help overcome drug cravings. Although a behavioral or pharmacological approach alone may be effective for treating drug addiction, research shows that, at least in the case of opioid addiction, a combination of both is most effective.

-- Source: http://www.nida.nih.gov/researchreports/prescription/prescription7.html --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides medication assisted treatment and youth drug treatment as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one has a problem with drug addiction or alcohol dependence, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

For more information on Vivitrol, contact us via email at vivitrol@tarzanatc.org.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.