There is a widespread misperception that substance abuse can be fought with nothing more than willpower. According to this train of thinking, if a person wants to quit taking drugs or chemical substances, they just have to will themselves to quit; by not quitting, the person is lazy, not serious about quitting, or is morally weak. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Drug addiction treatment options are currently varied and widespread, but what works for one person may not be as effective with another person. Many attempts may be made over a long period of time before treatment is successful. Effective treatment should follow a process of prevention, withdrawal (or, detox) from the substance, followed by counseling and support groups and possible medications. By eliminating the substance from your body, you will be able to live a more stable, and healthy, life. Let's take a look at this process:
Of all the treatment options available, clearly the most desirable one is prevention. Preventing yourself or loved ones from participating in drug abuse is the best practice to ensure that there won't be a substance addiction problem. Effective education to prevent substance abuse can begin at home, between parent and child. Conversations that explore the consequences and risks of drug abuse are important. But, in order to have effective conversations, communication is key: listening to the child's concerns are just as important as expressing a parent's concerns. And, of course, a parent sets a clear example by not abusing alcohol or drugs.
Withdrawal / Detox
Detox is the process of weaning your body off a drug as quickly, but as safely, as possible. During withdrawal, the body physically reacts to the absence of the drug. Symptoms of withdrawal will depend on the type of substance abuse, the strength of addiction, and individual body reaction. The withdrawal process may take from 3 to 10 days, depending on the type of drug abused. Withdrawal and detox can be a difficult period of time as an addict attempts to resist physical cravings for a drug, and exhibits unusual symptoms. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
- abdominal pain
- bone and muscle pain
- night sweats
- physical cravings for the substance
Detox can be "cold turkey" or you may be given increasingly smaller dosages or substitutions for a substance over time.The withdrawal process may be conducted in either an outpatient basis or you may participate in a residential treatment program, where your treatment will be monitored. Residential treatment is often preferred to limit access to drugs. Withdrawal is labor intensive on behalf of physicians, so you if you do not have many personal funds, you may be able to seek help through a state or county treatment facility for substance abuse.
Additionally, you may go through withdrawal at a hospital. For some types of addictions, hospitalization is necessary, as is the case for alcohol, barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Hospitalization may also be necessary when there are other diseases present, a history of severe effects during previous attempts at withdrawal, or if the patient is elderly. Ultimately, where you go through withdrawal depends on the doctor's recommendations, the patient's preferences, and how much personal income there is.
Counseling and support groups
Therapy is one of the most important parts of treating drug abuse. After chemical dependence has been resolved, a drug abuser must address initial problems that provoked drug abuse. The problems might be at home, in the family, at school, or at work but also require resolution. Otherwise the drug abuser will return to the same pattern used for solving problems=DRUG ABUSE.
Counseling helps an addict understand the cycle of addiction and resist drugs. This counseling will allow you to learn how to avoid situations that may expose you to the abused substance (e.g. through socializing with known substance abusers), and how to react if a relapse does occur. Counseling can be carried out alone, in a group or with loved ones through an addiction specialist or rehabilitation center, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
You may also choose to participate in support groups, where you can be introduced to the theory that battling addiction is a life-long process in order to prevent a relapse. Many of these groups follow 12-step programs similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups may either be therapeutic or educational in focus, or both, so that you can learn to deal with this chronic disease. Support from family and friends can also be crucial to recovery from drug addiction. People who care about you can provide needed emotional support.
Doctors occasionally prescribed anti-depressants or other medications to treat emotional disorders that were present before substance abuse began. Substance abuse problems may be the result of an underlying emotional or mental disorder where drugs are used to to mask feelings of depression, anxiety, etc. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are just one of several types of anti-depressants used to treat a variety of emotional disorders; SSRIs may be prescribed to treat eating disorders; depression; anxiety disorders; etc. Patients with schizophrenia and related disorders may take anti-psychotics. And, bipolar disorder may be treated with mood stabilizers, perhaps in combination with anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. Emotional disorders must be treated to ensure that a substance abuser has the best chance possible to remain clean, healthy, and happy.
Substance addiction problems are not going to go away any time soon. Addiction is a life-long chronic brain disease which can be extremely difficult on the abuser, and on friends and family. Even after treatment has been successful for years, a constant effort must be made to not fall back into previous habits, that will allow addiction to occur again. But successful treatment is available. Although going through withdrawal and the beginning of treatment may be difficult, the benefits of living life free from a need to a substance is worth it.