Overcoming opioid addiction is extremely difficult. One of the reasons why quitting is so challenging is because of the intense, flu-like withdrawal symptoms that appear when someone who has been abusing opioids for a long time suddenly stops using them.
While the FDA has approved a few different medications to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms, like methadone and buprenorphine, these medications are opioids themselves, so they can be physically and mentally habit-forming when abused. But in 2018, the FDA approved Lucemyra (lofexidine), the first non-addictive, non-opioid medication to treat opioid dependence and withdrawal.
People who are trying to overcome opioid addiction may be hesitant to take medications like Suboxone and methadone because they don’t want to continue being physically dependent on an opioid. Lucemyra offers a safe and effective alternative for people who don’t want to take opioid-replacement medications or for those who are at risk of abusing their medications.
What is Lucemyra (Lofexidine) and How Does it Work?
Lucemyra is the brand name for lofexidine, a non-opioid prescription medication used to treat opioid withdrawal syndrome. While it does not treat opioid addiction and won’t prevent relapse, it can alleviate certain withdrawal symptoms, making the opioid withdrawal process much more comfortable.
Lucemyra works by reducing the release of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter in the body that stimulates the central nervous system (CNS). Excess levels of norepinephrine are released during opioid withdrawal, contributing to symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, body aches, increased heart rate, insomnia, and more. By reducing norepinephrine levels, Lucemyra can reduce activity in the CNS, thereby reducing many symptoms of opioid withdrawal. When taken throughout opioid withdrawal, Lucemyra helps balance norepinephrine in areas of the brain that would otherwise be overstimulated due to withdrawal.
Some of the symptoms Lucemyra may treat include:
- Watery eyes
- Increased heart rate
- Body aches
- Stomach cramps
What to Expect When Detoxing With Lucemyra
Lucemyra can only be obtained via prescription, and if your doctor prescribes it to you, you should take it exactly as directed. Most people start by taking three 0.18mg tablets (0.54mg) four times a day for 5-7 days, but a lower starting dose may be considered for people with less severe withdrawal symptoms. The medication can be taken with or without food and there should be 5-6 hours between each dose.
Clinical trials demonstrated that most patients saw the biggest improvement in symptom relief on days 2 and 3, which is when withdrawal symptoms are usually at their worst. Results from clinical trials found that Lucemyra dosing improved the percentage of patients who successfully completed their detox.
People who are detoxing from opioids can take Lucemyra for up to 14 days if their symptoms persist. After withdrawal symptoms subside, doctors will gradually reduce the dose taken (usually by reducing the dose by 1 tablet per dose every 1-2 days) to avoid a rebound in withdrawal symptoms.
Does Lucemyra Cause Side Effects?
All medications, no matter how safe, have the potential to cause side effects. However, some cause more severe side effects than others. Lucemyra is linked to fewer and less intense withdrawal symptoms than other opioid withdrawal medications like Suboxone and methadone.
The most common side effects of Lucemyra are:
- Dry mouth
- Slowed heart rate
- Low blood pressure
It’s important to avoid taking opioids, drinking alcohol, or consuming any sedative medications while taking Lucemydra. Mixing any of these substances with Lucemyra can result in respiratory depression, extreme drowsiness, confusion, and other dangerous side effects.
What Happens When You Stop Taking Lucemyra?
Lucemyra is only used for up to 14 days and it isn’t habit-forming, so you won’t experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit taking Lucemyra. By contrast, long-term methadone or Suboxone use can result in physical symptoms of withdrawal upon cessation. Still, you shouldn’t stop taking Lucemyra abruptly, as doing so may cause a sudden increase in blood pressure and a return of opioid withdrawal symptoms. You should follow your doctor’s dosing instructions closely, even when tapering off the medication.
However, Lucemyra does not cure addiction–it only treats some physical symptoms of withdrawal. It will not reduce drug cravings or stop urges to use opioids. Instead, if you are trying to beat opioid addiction, you must seek continued treatment from a licensed substance abuse treatment provider.
Opioid addiction is a complex disease that affects the way you think, feel, and behave. While overcoming withdrawal is an important first step, it is only the beginning. You must engage in behavioral therapy and peer support groups to make positive lifestyle changes, embrace healthy coping skills, and learn how to prevent opioid relapse. There are no medications that can provide you with these skills the same way a drug and alcohol rehab center can, so Lucemyra should always be used in combination with a treatment program.
Find the Right Treatment for You
Lucemyra may not be right for everyone, and you should never start taking it unless it is prescribed to you. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments that can reduce the severity of opioid withdrawal and help you start your recovery. Take the first step to finding the right treatment for you by speaking with your doctor or a trusted addiction specialist.