Apr 05, 2008
Can drug addiction be cured?
, Apr 04, 2008 11:12PM
Can drug addiction be cured?
In the past, drug addicts were portrayed in the media as flawed people with weak, moral characters, who withdraw from life’s difficulties and pressures by getting high and disappearing into their own psychedelic worlds. In reality, drug abuse and addiction does not discriminate, it affects men, women and children of all ages, races, cultures and socio-economic strata. Today, the majority of substance abuse professionals treat drug addiction like a disease. This change in attitude has brought hope to many addicts and their families. Not unlike a diabetic who must make lifestyle changes by taking medication and watching their diet, an addict will have to make changes as well but because addiction is a chronic brain disorder characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behaviors, and high rates of relapse, the abuser must also learn how to make behavioral changes to deal with their cravings. There is no magic pill that will cure drug dependency, but learning new ways of coping and having a strong support system can make all the difference in the world.
What do I do first?
Feeling overwhelmed at this early stage in the game is very common. Once you’ve made the decision to make a change in your life you can attend a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and when you’re ready to stop using drugs you need to think about whether you’re at a risk for experiencing withdrawal symptoms which may require medical intervention.
Withdrawal from painkillers and anti-anxiety medications usually requires medical help
Stopping the use of opioids (painkillers) such as heroin, vicodin and oxycontin usually requires a stay in a detoxification (detox) facility while the drugs are being cleansed from your system. A medical provider at an emergency room, free clinic, or detox facility can talk with you about your symptoms and drug history to determine whether your problem with drug use is abuse or dependence, and can determine whether you will need to be medically monitored during detox. Withdrawing from benzodiazepines (valium and xanax) without medical advice can be dangerous. When stopping the use of any anti-anxiety medication it is best to contact your doctor on how to taper off the medication slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Agitation, insomnia, anxiety, depression, anger, cravings, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shakes, irritability, muscle pain.
Extreme fatigue, disturbed sleeping patterns, irritability, restlessness, intense hunger, moderate to severe depression, anxiety, angry outbursts, lack of motivation, mental confusion, psychotic reactions, depression, intense cravings for the drug.
The average length of stay in detox program for methamphetamine addiction is approximately 3-5 days but might be longer depending upon medical problems, drug combinations and severity of withdrawal symptoms. Fluoxetine (Prozac) has been found helpful in reducing short-term cravings.
Watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, sweating, chills, stomach cramps, shakes, feeling jittery, irritability, panic, tremors, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, dilated pupils, goose bumps, rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches and pains.
Cravings, fatigue, hot/cold sweats, heart palpitations, joint and muscle pain, vomiting, nausea, uncontrollable coughing, diarrhea, insomnia, watery eyes, excessive yawning, depression.
Restlessness, muscle pain, bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, goose bumps, involuntary leg movements, watery eyes, runny nose , loss of appetite, irritability, panic, nausea, chills, sweating.
Benzodiazepine (Anti-anxiety medications)
Sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety, feeling shaky, headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, rapid heartbeat, sweating, agitation, and in extreme cases seizures.
Guidelines for Length of Stay in Detox Programs
3 days Marijuana
3-5 days Cocaine, Crack, Methamphetamine
5-7 days Heroin, Oxycontin, Amphetamine
7-10 days Benzodiazepine
7-14 days Barbiturate
10-30 days Methadone maintenance
Choosing a drug treatment program
Questions to ask
Obviously, the quality of care and the credentials of the caregivers who assist in recovery from alcohol addiction are of utmost importance. Questions to ask include:
What type of accreditation or licensing does the program have? Several national accreditation agencies evaluate detox and aftercare facilities, checking whether they offer effective elements of treatment and a well-documented patient complaint process.
Have there been studies to measure the effectiveness of the program's treatment methods? Treatment effectiveness is a new field of study, but treatment centers should at least have some statistics on their success rates, preferably from an objective external agency.
What sort of aftercare program does the facility offer to prevent relapse? Intensive treatment requires follow-up, therefore, programs should offer a well-run aftercare program, with referrals to appropriate self-help groups. It’s important that a staff member collaborate with you to create a discharge plan before you leave detox.
For more details about these questions, visit the page “Some Questions to Ask When Choosing an Addiction Treatment Program” on the pbs.org website (listed in Related Links, below).
Choosing a drug abuse treatment program
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers an extensive listing of drug treatment facilities by location through its Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator. SAMHSA also operates a helpline: (800) 662-HELP (4357) with help in English and Spanish, or TDD at (800) 487-4889.
I’m clean, is it over?
After detox a discharge planner will discuss your aftercare plans. Usually an Intensive Outpatient Program is recommended. They will locate a facility for you, confirm availability, and schedule your first appointment. Plan on attending a 12-step meeting or another type of support group the day after your discharge from detox. If you have any questions, this is the time to ask.
Life without drugs
The road to recovery is not easy and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. From a medical standpoint drug use affects your brain chemistry. Once the drugs have been cleansed from your system, it takes time for your body to readjust. Feelings that were masked by the drugs will resurface, and when they do, you will need to do something different because you won’t have the drugs to fall back on. Relapse prevention includes identifying triggers to using drugs, learning more adaptive coping skills, and making better decisions when dealing with life’s challenges.
Your chances of staying clean improve if you are participating in a social support group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, have a sponsor, and are involved in an Intensive Outpatient Program or individual therapy. If you choose not to seek help from a treatment support group, chances are you’ll revert back to your old habits and relapse becomes more likely. An important thing to think about during the treatment process is how you perceive a relapse. If relapse occurs, it is more helpful to look at it as a normal part of the process, rather than a personal failure.
Additional changes in your social routine will probably become necessary as well. There are people, places and things that represent a slippery slope for you and it’s in your best interest to stay away from them. Surrounding yourself with people who can support your recovery makes things easier. Living life without drugs is possible. Just take it one day at a time.