Heartland Human Services

Substance Abuse Treatment With Medications

Chasity Dunaway, LCPC, CDAC


Medications can be used to help reestablish normal brain function and to prevent relapse and diminish cravings.

Currently, we have meds for opioids (heroin, morphine), tobacco (nicotine), and alcohol addiction.

Other meds are being developed for treating stimulant addiction (cocaine, methamphetamine) and cannabis addiction (marijuana).

Most people with severe addiction, however, are typically polydrug users (use more than one drug) and require treatment for all the substances they abuse.


Other treatment medications include…


For opioid addiction: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone affect the same targets in the brain as heroin and morphine and help suppress withdrawal symptoms.


For tobacco addiction: patch, spray, gum, and lozenges (over the counter) are good places to start. FDA approved drugs include bupropion and varenicline. Both help prevent relapse when combined with behavioral treatments.


For alcohol addiction: FDA approved drugs include naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfrim. These help reduce relapse to heavy drinking and reduce withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, irritability.  Disulfiram interferes with the degradation of alcohol, resulting in very unpleasant reaction that includes nausea and palpitations when ingesting alcohol. Compliance with disulfrim can be a problem. However, for those who are highly motivated, this can be very effective.


Mental Health:

  • Mental health problems and substance abuse problems are often seen together because one makes you more vulnerable to the other
  • Experts estimate that at least 60% of people battling substance abuse or mental health issues are battling both
  • Estimated 1 in 5 adults in US suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health
  • When there is a biological/genetic factor that causes vulnerability to any type of mental health diagnosis/illness….substance abuse often triggers the onset of the mental health problem
  • Substance use causes the mental illness to manifest
  • Most users are unaware of their mental health condition until treatment begins (it wasn’t recognized or diagnosed until after treatment)
  • Bipolar is a prominent diagnosis among substance users. This disease is characterized by extreme mood swings, irritability, racing thoughts, poor judgment, abuse of drugs and denial that anything is wrong.
  • It has been found that people with bipolar disorder, particularly women, have an enormously high rate of alcoholism – up to 7 times that of the general population (according to Mark Frye, MD, Director of the UCLA Bipolar Disorder Research Program)


Recovery Tips:

  • Recognize and manage overwhelming stress and emotions. Learn to manage stress and know your triggers and have an action plan
  • Stay connected: Get therapy and/or get involved in a support group
  • Make healthy lifestyle changes: Practice relaxation techniques, adopt healthy eating habits, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.


Heartland Human Services offers both Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling Services and can assist in all these problem areas.


Psychologists advise those who have feelings of depression lasting more than two weeks to seek professional advice.  If you or a loved one are experiencing  any symptoms of depression, contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179 or take a free screening at www.heartlandhs.org