I write a lot of different articles about various drugs and related topics, along with information about passing drug tests, and this is an important topic as well, and it’s essential to be educated whether you may need help, or if you are looking into helping a loved one with a problem.
It is important to remember, first and foremost, that an addiction to drugs or alcohol is an illness, and like all illnesses there are different ways that the symptoms and the causes can be treated. Addiction may be considered a mental illness, but there is no doubt that drugs and alcohol cause physical harm to our bodies too.
Drinking too much can lead to liver failure and increases the risk of developing cancer. The physical effects of drug addiction depend on the kind of drug being abused, but all cause damage throughout the body: cocaine can cause heart problems; injecting heroin leads to an increased risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV through sharing needles; even marijuana raises your blood pressure — very dangerous if you have a heart condition already — and smoking pot increases your chances of developing cancer according to research, despite the fact it is also used for various treatments of the same.
Drugs and alcohol damage you physically and mentally, and they also take their toll on your friends and family who have to watch you struggle with your addiction. Many addicts finally make the choice to do something about their problems because of the effect it is having on their family, especially their own children. Once you have made the decision to get help for your drug or alcohol addiction, you will need to speak to a doctor to assess the different treatment options available, and which one is most likely to work for you.
Drug Addiction Treatment Options
The first thing to know about treatment for drug addiction is that there is no “one size fits all” solution. Treatment will be different for every person who asks for help, and successful treatment will usually involve a combination of the different therapies available.
The eventual outcome for any drug treatment program is for the addict to become drug-free, to stay drug-free, and to start to live a productive life within their family and community.
These may sound like simple goals to many of us, but for someone who is addicted to drugs, even the first step can seem like an impossibility at the start of their treatment.
Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms
The first step to successful treatment for drug addiction is to stop using. Unfortunately, this first step can often be the most demanding, physically and mentally; as the body begins to detoxify, getting the last remaining traces of the drug out its system, the patient will start to experience withdrawal symptoms.
The symptoms and their severity will vary, depending on the drug and the length of time the individual has been using. Withdrawal symptoms for heroin users can be extremely debilitating, so much so that medications have been developed to safely replicate the effects of heroin on the body to prevent withdrawal symptoms from developing while other addiction treatment options are explored.
Heroin users will often be prescribed a drug called methadone, which works on the brain in the same way as heroin, but which is taken only under strict medical supervision. Methadone prevents withdrawal symptoms from developing and, almost as importantly, suppresses the cravings an addict would ordinarily have for heroin. This allows doctors to work with drug addicts on other aspects of their treatment while they are “clean,” with a view to stopping even the methadone doses in time.
Therapy and Counseling
While the detox process is underway, it is vital that counseling begins as soon as possible. These therapy session allows the addict to explore the reasons they first started using drugs, how and why they became addicted, and the reasons they now want to quit and clean up their life.
These sessions need to be held regularly, if they are to be of any use, and may involve individual or group meetings. Many people who have been successfully treated for drug addiction find it useful to continue with their therapy, in an effort to ensure that they don’t relapse during difficult times in their lives.
Some people choose to go to rehab centers for a few weeks, although this is often an expensive option. The advantage is that you have access to medication and counseling under one roof, at any time of the day or night. You are also kept under lock and key which makes relapse in the early days and weeks virtually impossible. However, while rehab works for many people, it is not essential for successful treatment of drug addiction.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Treatment for alcohol addiction has many similarities to treatment for drug addiction. Long-term, you need to work with a therapist to identify the reasons you started drinking, and all the many reasons you now have for giving up drinking. In the short term, the use of medications to hold off withdrawal symptoms and suppress cravings can be useful until you have made progress in therapy sessions.
There are four main medications which are used to prevent withdrawal symptoms from alcoholism from developing; acamprosate, naltrexone, nalmefene and disulfiram. Each individual responds differently to the different medications, and it might take a little trial and error to find the medication that is most effective for each person.
The long-term goal is to reduce the dosage of these drugs until you no longer need to take them at all, but only once you have addressed all the issues relating to your alcoholism in therapy.
Dealing with Addiction Long-term
Addicts, whether they are drug addicts or alcoholics, have to deal with their condition for the rest of their lives, long after they may appear to have made a full recovery. Many refer to themselves as recovering addicts for the rest of their lives; and they know that they cannot have another drop of alcohol or take any drugs for as long as they live, without risking a full relapse back into addiction.
Many addicts find it useful to attend support groups on a regular basis, during their efforts to give up drugs and alcohol and for years afterwards. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most famous of these support groups, but there is also a similar organization for drug addicts, and many other self-help programs are based on the same ideas. Here, individuals can continue their therapy in a kind of group session, as well as enjoying the support of people who understand their situation. Some people swear by these types of 12-Step programs, insisting that nothing else helped them successfully with their problem.