Addiction Medicine Specialist Questions Drug addiction

How do patches work for treating drug addiction?

My cousin is addicted to opioids. In the hospital, they actually gave her a patch to help her. What are the patches used on patients suffering from drug addiction? How do they help?

2 Answers

To answer this correctly, I have to make an assumption. You can put LOTS of drugs into a patch so they may be absorbed through the skin. The only patch commonly used in drug addiction is clonidine (brand name Catapres), which helps with alcohol and opiate withdrawal. I assume that's what they gave your cousin. Clonidine is sedating, cuts down on nausea and body aches, and lowers the risk for seizure. I reserve clonidine for use during the first few days of detox, because it can cause problems if continued for more than a week or so.
While I'm not sure which medication is being given to your cousin in a patch, I can think of 2 possibilities. The first is a clonidine patch. Clonidine is a blood pressure medicine which helps to treat some of the symptoms of withdrawal. It reduces or relieves insomnia, anxiety, rapid heart rate, chills, goosebumps, racing thoughts and restless legs. The second would be a buprenorphine patch. Buprenorphine alleviates even more of the symptoms of withdrawal by working on the opiate receptors themselves. The beauty about this medication is the addict feels "normal", not high but doesn't feel withdrawal symptoms. I hope this helps!