Effectively Treating Drug Addiction

Drug addiction can affect everything in a person’s life, their family, work, school, relationships and reputation in their community. Every single addict’s addiction is different due to their background, family situation, and type of dependency. Treatments need to be tailored towards the individual addict and their needs, with the goal of getting these people back to functioning in society without using drugs.

Image credit: The Addiction Treatment Center

Symptoms of Drug Addiction

First you must be able to recognize signs of drug addiction in yourself and loved ones. According to the Mayo Clinic, a non profit medical care organization,  some symptoms of drug addiction include:

  • Intense drug cravings and needing to use the drug frequently, up to several times per day
  • Growing a tolerance to the drug, requiring more to achieve the same high
  • Maintaining a drug supply by any means, even if you can’t afford it
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and recreational activities due to drug use
  • Not meeting your obligations in regards to work, financial matters, and family obligations
  • Doing things you normally wouldn’t, such as stealing, driving, or doing other risky activities when you're under the influence of the drug
  • Spending an increasing amount of time and energy focused on drugs
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you go without drugs
  • Failing in your attempts to quit

Replacing One Drug with Another

One of the major areas of concern in drug addiction is opiates. The CDC estimates “at least 980,000 people in the United States are currently addicted to heroin and other opiates.”

Many sufferers receive Methadone Maintenance treatment to reduce or stop injecting these powerful and dangerous drugs. Methadone helps addicts by:

  • Blocking the effects of opiates, such as euphoria
  • Relieving the symptoms of withdrawal
  • Reducing opiate cravings
  • Releasing slowly, so that it may be taken once per day
  • Not causing a high itself, allowing the addict to function normally in society

However, switching one drug out for another is not a cure-all. In an ironic twist, many people begin abusing their methadone, the one thing that was supposed to help them end their addiction. 

Mental Illness Complications

According to DualDiagnosis.org, “Addictions can manifest in different ways in different people, particularly if the patients in question have complicating factors such as schizophrenia, eating disorders, anxiety or conditions on the autistic spectrum. At times, it can be difficult to untangle the knot of competing types of causation, which can make attributing symptoms to their proper conditions a little difficult.” 

Dual diagnosis is when a person is diagnosed as an addict and also suffers from a mental illness. To be truly effective, the user must receive treatment for both diagnoses, as they often go hand-in-hand. One influences the other. 

For a guide on professional references related to dual diagnosis.

Therapy and Support Groups

Therapy for the individual as well as family counseling and group counseling can be beneficial to help addicts deal with the underlying issues of their addiction. Some people begin abusing substances due to a traumatic event, such as sexual or physical abuse. Without proper therapy to deal with these issues, they are susceptible to relapse.

Other support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can also be beneficial tools to help addicts stay clean and sober. 

Only providing drug therapy and support to a user is not going to cure his addiction, especially if the addict in question suffers from a mental illness in addition to drug abuse. Relying on these two small aspects of treatment can easily lead to relapse. The underlying issues and illnesses must be treated. A well-rounded treatment covering detox, rehab, therapy, family counseling, and long-term support is going to be more effective in keeping an addict from relapsing.

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