Pharmacotherapies are drugs (medicines) which are used to reduce the harmful effects from alcohol and other drug use [34324][23505]. Some examples of pharmacotherapies are:

  • nicotine replacement therapy
  • opioid substitution treatment
  • naltrexone
  • naloxone
  • antabuse.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provides nicotine in controlled doses in the form of patches or gum to reduce cravings to smoke tobacco [23505]. Overall NRT assists with helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to quit smoking, especially when follow up support is provided [29583][23804]. Other medications are varencline (champix) and bupropion.

Opioid substitution treatment (OST) is prescribing drugs such as methadone or buprenorphine to replace opioids such as heroin or pharmaceutical oxycodone [23505]. These drugs work by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They also help to take the person away from the harmful effects of injecting drug use and the drug taking environment.

Naltrexone blocks the effects of heroin (and other opioids) so that people cannot get high from using [23505]. Naltrexone can also be used to block the effects of alcohol. If people drink alcohol while taking naltrexone, they are still affected (their coordination and memory are affected and they slur their words) but they get less of a high.

Antabuse (disulfiram) is a medication that works by blocking the way alcohol is absorbed in the body [23505] . If a person has taken antabuse and then drinks alcohol, they will be very sick with nausea, vomiting, headache and diarrhoea.


Key resources



Mina Mina Jukurrpa (Mina Mina Dreaming) by John Japangardi Lewis

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