List of Medications Used in Drug Detox

Drug detoxification is designed to smooth the transition between a life marred by intoxication and a life enhanced by sobriety. Rather than shoving people from one state to another, detox slows the process so the body can adjust in a measured and controlled manner. Discomfort is reduced when the transition is slow, and the risk of serious medical side effects is also ameliorated. Medications play a major role in this process, as medications can help to soothe discomfort and ease chemical transitions. The medications people need during detox can vary, depending on the person’s medical history and drug abuse history, but these are the tools typically used in a detox program.


Opiate drugs like heroin or prescription painkillers can be intensely sedating, and at times, people enter opiate drug detox programs in a state of overdose. The amount of drugs they’ve taken is just too high to be sustained, and their bodies are actively slowing down. Suboxone can be a helpful medication here, as it can render any existing opiates inactive, and within mere moments, the person could be jolted into sobriety. The dosing is delicate, and sometimes the drugs must be given more than once as the opiates may linger in the body after the Suboxone has been washed away, but this drug has the capacity to save life.


This medication is also provided to people with opiate addiction histories, although this medication is appropriate for people who aren’t overdosing. In essence, buprenorphine convinces the body that it has access to opiates, even when it does not, and as a result, the symptoms of discomfort that often accompany an opiate withdrawal are reduced to nothingness. Studies suggest that using buprenorphine during detox can keep people involved in therapy, so they won’t be likely to leave before they’ve learned the lessons they need in order to stay sober. For example, in a study in the journal Life Sciences, of the 16 patients given this medication, only one left the study due to withdrawal discomfort. As this study demonstrates, buprenorphine can be a powerful tool medical professionals can use to ease pain and boost compliance with therapy.


Alcohol isn’t commonly considered a “drug,” but within the human body, it can cause intense chemical changes that lead to widespread dysfunction. In other words, alcohol behaves much like a drug within the body, and medications are often needed to help people wean away from alcohol. Without help, people can develop a suite of symptoms, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Anxiety

Benzodiazepines can sedate the overactive mind and stop these symptoms from progressing. It’s important work, as without the help of medications, some people can develop seizures due to alcohol withdrawal. In a study of the effectiveness of medications, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, seizures took place in only 1.1 percent of people, and those seizures were quickly treated with higher doses of benzodiazepines. For those with serious alcohol addictions, these drugs can provide vital help.


Some addictive drugs cause chemical imbalances within the brain that lead to an overwhelming feeling of sadness and depression. People begin to feel as though life isn’t worth living, and they may feel as though there’s no end to the misery that stands before them. Antidepressants can help, as they can correct these imbalances and allow the person to see that life really can get better in time. Antidepressants can be difficult for some people to take, as the dosing can be imprecise and some people need to take them for months before they feel changes, but they can be a vital tool as people move forward with detox.

Anti-Nausea Medications

Addictive drugs tend to lock into receptors inside the brain, but many drugs also have receptors dotting the stomach and intestine, and when the drugs are gone, those receptors can experience withdrawal symptoms of their own, and contractions and pain can take hold. Prescription anti-nausea medications can be vital in soothing discomfort and allowing people to feel at ease as their bodies learn to adjust.

Individualized Support

Not everyone who goes through detox needs medications, and not everyone who needs medications needs access to those drugs every day. It’s a personal decision and it’s a process the patient has a significant amount of control over. At Axis, for example, we outline our therapy options at the beginning of the detox process and we ensure that our clients are comfortable with the therapies we’re suggesting. We check in periodically as well, just to ensure that our clients are happy with the work we’re doing. If you’d like to know more about our therapies or our treatment philosophy, please call us. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.