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What Medications Are Used for Different Addictions?

If you decide to detox in a hospital or detox center, the staff can give you medications to moderate your withdrawal symptoms and help with recovery. Some of these medications may be mild, over-the-counter medications or they may be stronger prescription medications, depending on the drug you’re are detoxing from and the severity of the symptoms. Every case is different and no single drug protocol works for everyone. The following are some common addictive drugs and the medications that might be given for them in detox.

Heroin and opioids.

Opiate withdrawal can have many symptoms and they can be relatively mild or severe. If they are relatively mild, they may be treated with over-the-counter medication. Imodium may be used to treat diarrhea, Pepto may be used to treat nausea and stomach cramps, and pain can be treated with NSAID pain relievers or topical ointments. Since there may be harmful drug interactions even with over-the-counter medications, they should be used under a doctor’s supervision.

More severe symptoms may require prescription medications. Clonidine may be necessary to reduce agitation and anxiety. Depression is common at some point during some point in detox and recovery and may require anti-depressants.

Methadone and buprenorphine help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings by mimicking the behavior of opioids but without the high. Methadone and buprenorphine are often continued indefinitely into recovery and help prevent relapse.


Alcohol withdrawal usually includes agitation, irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are often prescribed to treat these. The most common medication is probably Ativan, or lorazepam. Other common medications are Librium and Valium, or chlordiazepoxide and diazepam, respectively. Valium is generally considered safer but Librium has stronger anticonvulsive effects, which can be important if withdrawal progresses to delirium tremens.

Depression is also common at some point in alcoholism recovery and so anti-depressants are often prescribed.

If the patient experiences elevated heart rate and blood pressure, he may be prescribed clonidine or propranolol to bring them under control, but these do not reduce DTs or hallucinations.


Benzodiazepines have the most dangerous drugs to detox from because the risk of seizure is high. Detox from benzos typically requires a long taper, usually lasting 10 weeks or more. This means dosages are gradually reduced or time between doses is gradually lengthened or both. This gives the body time to adjust slowly to a different chemical environment.

In addition to tapering, there are some medications that can help with benzo withdrawal. People with generalized anxiety disorder might be prescribed buspirone to relieve symptoms. It takes a couple weeks to start working, but because it takes so long to taper off benzos, it could still be worthwhile.

Another medication is flumazenil. It is a benzodiazepine antagonist and is typically used to treat overdoses, but may speed up detox from severe benzo addiction. Dosage has to be carefully controlled because might make withdrawal more severe.  

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. We specialize in detox and getting you started in treatment that works best for you. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.