Medications Used in Detox from drugs or alcohol

The 6 Most Common Medications Used in Detox and What they Do

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

If you or a loved one suffer from a substance abuse disorder, you are not alone. According to recent findings by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 1 in 5 Americans over the age of 12 used an illicit drug in 2018. From that group, an estimated 60 percent ( or 164.8 million people) use illegal drugs, alcohol, and other substances at an excessive amount.

Luckily, there is hope if you’re ready and willing to take the first step towards improving your quality of life. One of the best ways to get healthy again is to remove harmful chemicals and substances during a detox at a residential drug and alcohol treatment program.

Medical professionals typically use certain medications during the detox process to curb withdrawal symptoms and correct the physical, emotional and psychological side effects caused by substance abuse. Read on to discover which medications are commonly used during the detox period and how it can help people struggling with the disease of addiction.


It’s not unusual for patients to feel depressed or anxious once they stop using a substance. As a result, a trained physician may decide to administer antidepressants to them. The drugs have the ability to regulate moods and stabilize the brain’s chemistry by altering the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Antidepressants may suppress their cravings for the substance and treat mood disorders.


Benzodiazepine is commonly used to treat alcoholism. The medicine can decrease anxiety as well as prevent withdrawal symptoms associated with the disease such as vomiting, nausea, insomnia, and seizures. Valium and Xanax are very popular forms of benzodiazepine.


Methadone, an opioid narcotic, is a powerful pain medication used for managing withdrawal symptoms that may occur during a detox from narcotics. It works by mimicking or replacing the chemicals found in drugs like heroin and oxycodone so that the body’s cravings for opioids are reduced.


The prescription drug Buprenorphine is used during replacement therapy to treat patients who are dependent on heroin and methadone. Buprenorphine is grouped into two major categories: Suboxone and Subutex. While Subutex is primarily administered in the early stages of the opioid detox process to combat withdrawal symptoms, Suboxone allows patients to maintain their addiction recovery during the later stages.


The physician may decide to prescribe Clonidine to patients who are easily agitated to help suppress their sympathetic nervous system. The medication works to lower blood pressure, decrease adrenaline levels, remove anxiety, prevent hot flashes, and suppress other symptoms typically associated with alcohol, narcotics, and methadone withdrawal. Clonidine may also be used in a combination with Valium or Xanax to treat alcohol dependence.


Lastly, Naloxone can improve breathing disorders and other side effects caused by opioid drugs. The opioid antagonist, which is administered through a physical injection or nasal spray,  is commonly used during emergencies to revive people who overdosed on narcotics. Naloxone is able to reverse and block the effects of opioids by binding to the drug’s receptors. The medicine can treat natural, semi-synthetic, and fully synthetic opioids. However, it can’t treat overdoses from cocaine, meth, and alcohol.

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If you or a loved one lives near Fresno, California, and suffers from a substance abuse disorder, please call us toll-free today at 844-489-0836. At First Steps Recovery, we are committed to helping people break free from their addictions with our residential treatment center. Our team of highly trained and compassionate specialists can guide you through the detox process during your consultation and further explain which medications may be involved during your detox treatment.

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