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Pharmacotherapy is the treatment of an illness, pathology or substance addiction with the use of drugs. In this article we will focus on the use of pharmacotherapy on substance addiction. In this article we will also look at the history, the use, the effectiveness and the criticism of pharmacotherapy.


Methadone has been used since the mid-1960s. It is one of the oldest examples of pharmacotherapy treatments used for substances. It is a synthetic opioid. It was developed in Germany in 1937. It was brought to the United States in 1947. Disulfiram was discovered in the 1920s. The drug’s action was discovered in 1948 at Medicinalco, a Danish drug company.

Keneth Ferguson, Jens Hald and Erik Jacobsen were the discoverers of the potential of the drug.


Dissulfiram is one of the oldest drugs used to treat substance use, in particular alcoholism. The drug keeps the body from being able to break down the alcohol and makes the user physically ill. There was a similar drug released in the mid 1990s called Naltrexone. However, instead of just making the user feel nauseous, it was also an opioid antagonist (the drug is also used for opiate addictions). It also lowers the cravings for alcohol and reduces the likelihood of relapse. Acamprosate is another drug that is quite similar to Naltrexone in what it does, however, it’s chemical makeup is quite different. It has inhibitory effects at N-methyl-Daspartate receptors and agonist effects at gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors. A lot of time Acamprosate and Naltrexone are taken together. However, both can be taken separately.

Methadone is used to treat almost 180,000 people in the United States today. It is a replacement therapy. Treatment consists of a single dose everyday in order to help stop withdrawal symptoms and prevent cravings. Levo-alpha Acetyl Methadol is a drug similar to methadone. It is a type of replacement therapy. Its main difference is that it requires less dosing so the individual does not have to go to the pharmacy every day to get their treatment. Buprenorphine is the newest drug on the block used to help treat heroin addiction. They are used for maintenance and detoxification treatment.

Nurse Injecting Senior Male Patient In Hospital Bed


With the drug Dissulfiram it is questionable whether it is effective or not. Many that take the drug will stop use a few days before they plan to drink. Along with the side effect of nausea there is also a possibility of death. Unlike Dissulfiram, Naltrexone has had studies that have shown it to be quite effective. Discontinued use is one of the factors that keep it from being as effective as it could be. Many professionals now give one month injections of the drug to make sure that clients are complying with the treatment.

Methadone has been beneficial to thousands of people. It has either helped them to quit altogether or helped lead them to normal lives. It is important to remember that methadone is a life-long treatment and although you make not use heroin anymore you will have to take methadone for pretty much the rest of your life. Methadone, like heroin, does have negative effects on your body as well. In the United States it also causes 5000 deaths a year (as a result of misuse). One positive benefit of methadone is that it is legal and easy to acquire. If people have a choice between illegal means of getting drugs and simply walking to the walk-in clinic or pharmacy for methadone, they will generally go the safer, easier route. Buprenorphine has had some very promising success. However, at this point it is not available to many people. Professionals who wish to prescribe Buprenophine must undergo special training to do so and then are only allowed to prescribe it to 30 patients.


Many individuals in twelve step programs feel that using drugs to treat drugs works against them if they are trying to get sober. To them there is no difference between one mood altering drug to another, whether illegal or not. Many are addicted to prescribed drugs in the first place. There are even health care providers that feel the same way.

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