Treatment typically involves steps to help you withdraw from using the
drug, followed by counseling and attending self-help groups to help you
resist using the addictive drug again.
The goal of withdrawal therapy (detoxification) is for you to stop
taking the addicting drug as quickly and safely as possible.
Detoxification may involve gradually reducing the dose of the drug or
temporarily substituting other substances that have less severe side
effects. For some people it may be safe to undergo withdrawal therapy on
an outpatient basis. Other people may require placement in a hospital or
a residential treatment center.
Withdrawal from different categories of drugs produces different side
effects and requires different approaches.
Minor side effects of withdrawal may include restlessness, anxiety,
sleep problems and sweating. More serious signs and symptoms also
could include hallucinations, whole-body tremors, seizures,
dehydration and weakness. The most serious stage of withdrawal may
include delirium and is potentially life-threatening. Withdrawal
therapy may involve your gradually scaling back the amount of the
Side effects of withdrawal typically include depression, fatigue,
anxiety and intense cravings. In some cases, signs and symptoms may
include suicide attempts, paranoia and impaired contact with reality
(acute psychosis). Treatment during withdrawal is usually limited to
emotional support from your family, friends and doctor. Your doctor
may recommend medications to treat paranoid psychosis or depression.
Side effects of withdrawal of opioids such as heroin, morphine,
oxycodone or codeine can range from relatively minor to severe. On
the minor end, they may include runny nose, perspiration, yawning,
feeling anxiety and craving the drug. Severe reactions can include
sleeplessness, depression, dilated pupils, rapid pulse, rapid
breathing, high blood pressure, abdominal cramps, tremors, bone and
muscle pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctors may substitute a
synthetic opiate, such as methadone, to reduce the craving for
heroin and to gently ease people away from heroin. The most recently
approved medication to ease withdrawal from opiates is buprenorphine
(Suboxone, Subutex). This drug is the first narcotic medications
used for the addiction treatment that may be prescribed in a
doctor's office rather than a treatment center.
Researchers are continually searching for new ways to help ease the
symptoms of withdrawal and to treat addiction more effectively.
The best way to prevent an addiction to an illegal drug is not to take
the drug at all. Your doctor may prescribe narcotics to relieve pain,
benzodiazepines to relieve anxiety or insomnia, or barbiturates to
relieve nervousness or irritation. Doctors prescribe these medications
at safe doses and monitor their use so that you're not given too great a
dose or for too long a period of time. If you feel you need to take more
than the prescribed dose of a medication, talk to your doctor.
Parents can take the following steps to help prevent drug dependency in
Talk to your children about the risks of drug use and abuse.
Be a good listener when your children talk about peer pressure, and
be supportive of their efforts to resist it.
Set a good
Don't abuse alcohol or addictive drugs. Children of parents who
abuse drugs are at greater risk of drug addiction.
Work on your relationship with your children. A strong, stable bond
between you and your child will reduce your child's risk of using or
After detoxification, therapies such as counseling, addiction treatment
programs and self-help group meetings can help you stay sober.
Individual or family counseling with a psychologist, psychiatrist or
addiction counselor may help you resist the temptation to resume
using addicting drugs. Behavior therapies can help you develop ways
to cope with your drug cravings, strategies to avoid drugs and
prevent relapse, and suggestions on how to deal with a relapse if it
occurs. Counseling also can involve talking about your job, legal
problems and relationships with family and friends. Counseling with
family members can help them to develop better communication skills
and to be more supportive.
Treatment programs generally include educational sessions and
individual, group and family counseling. They're available in
various settings from outpatient to residential and inpatient
These groups tend to use the 12-step model first developed by
Alcoholics Anonymous. Self-help groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous,
exist for people addicted to drugs such as cocaine, sedatives and
narcotics. The message is that addiction is a chronic disorder with
a danger of relapse and that ongoing maintenance treatment — which
may include medications, counseling and attending self-help group
meetings — is necessary to prevent a relapse. Your doctor or
counselor can help you locate a self-help group. You also can find
listings for self-help groups in the phone book, at the library and
on the Internet.
It is naive to expect a
treatment program - source of control outside of yourself - to free
you from dependence on external sources of control. The ability to guide
your course through life - by definition - means that the source of
control has to be within yourself.
It may be possible for you
to have an intentional influence over the course of your life. However,
it can only be achieved by your direct involvement; it cannot be done
for you. The path to self-determination is for your steps alone.
The behavior change
approach recommended here is based on the Relapse Prevention Model. A
central element of which is anticipating the likely problems and
developing effective coping strategies. Research indicates that the
skills individuals learn through this process remain after the
completion of treatment.