Deep inside drug development laboratories, chemists blend particles of substances in new and innovative ways, looking for the perfect combination of ingredients that can reduce the impact of a specific type of disease or ailment. When that drug is released to the public, more experimentation takes place, and doctors sometimes use medications developed for one condition in the fight against another devastating illness. These “off-label” medication uses might sound risky, but they can be incredibly helpful for people who have conditions that haven’t yet been ameliorated by modern science.
One such drug, Topamax, was designed to help people who have abnormal brain activity that leads to seizures or migraines. The medication can soothe those strange signals and provide people with a sense of relief that they may not find in any other way. The medication might also be helpful in the fight against addiction, as some drugs of abuse can also cause electrical problems within the brain.
Topamax, also known by the generic name topiramate, is sometimes used during the alcohol detoxification process. People who habitually abuse alcohol have unnaturally slowed the activity inside the brain for long periods, and when the substance is removed, the cells can spring to life too rapidly, and an electrical storm of sorts can take hold. People can develop seizures during this process, and they could lose their lives. Medications can soothe this reaction, allowing people to withdraw slowly and adjust incrementally, so they don’t face life-threatening complications as they attempt to get sober.
In the past, benzodiazepine medications were often used during detox from alcohol, but these drugs can boost a feeling of euphoria in the brain, and as a result, some people abuse these medications. Instead of healing, they just trade their addictions. Topamax doesn’t boost euphoria like this, and it also seems to change the way alcohol tastes and the way alcohol reacts inside the body. People taking Topamax feel less inclined to drink as a result. For example, in a study in The Lancet, people who took this medication had 27.6 percent fewer drinking days, and they had significantly reduced cravings for alcohol. Studies like this might indicate that Topamax could be used to help alcoholics who haven’t yet agreed to even try detox. With the help of the drug, they might be able to taper their drinking, and in time, they might be able to stop drinking altogether.
Cocaine, methamphetamine and other stimulant drugs cause the brain to fire at a rapid pace, boosting feelings of:
Topamax may also help people who abuse these drugs, as it seems to reduce the cravings for these drugs and provide people with a modicum of control over the amount of drugs they take on a regular basis. In a study in the journal Addiction, researchers attempted to determine just how much Topamax helped people who were addicted to methamphetamine, and they found that those who took the Topamax were able to significantly reduce the amount of meth they took, although they didn’t achieve abstinence. Pairing Topamax with therapy might be a good way to reach people like this, as the medication might help them to stop using meth so compulsively, while therapy might help them see the need to quit for good.
Some people who attempt to withdraw from stimulants experience unusual electrical activity in the brain, leading to anxiety or nervousness. Topamax may be helpful here, as it can slow down those signals and help people to feel calm. Short-term use of the drug in these scenarios could be vital in helping people to achieve sobriety, so they’ll be prepared to move forward with therapy.
Topamax is a powerful medication, and it can impact many vital systems within the human body. As a result, it can cause some side effects that some people find unpleasant. It can change the way the brain processes signals of taste and smell, for example, so foods that were once appealing can seem bland and tasteless while people are on the medication. Some people also find that their hands tingle or their dreams become more vivid while they’re taking the medication. Low doses used for addiction may not provide any symptoms at all, but it’s vital for people to discuss their concerns, rather than simply choosing not to take the drug in the future. A sudden cessation of the drug can cause yet more side effects to take hold, and sometimes, a craving for drugs can cause a relapse to drug use.
If you’d like to know more about Topamax or you’d like to find out how we use this drug at Axis, please call. We have admissions counselors available to answer your questions.