Overcoming Substance Addiction
The most important first step in overcoming addiction is to ensure safe withdrawal or detoxification from the addictive substance. This may be possible on an outpatient basis, but if withdrawal symptoms are severe, inpatient treatment may be necessary. In either case, medical supervision of the withdrawal period is recommended. Different categories of substances will have different withdrawal symptoms and therefore require different approaches.
Withdrawal from opiates in particular can be very difficult. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal may resemble severe influenza, with runny nose, coughing, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The potential dehydration resulting from these symptoms needs to be aggressively treated.
Individuals undergoing a planned medical withdrawal from opiates may be administered buprenorphine or methadone as they taper off the addictive substance. Clonidine is a medication often given to help relieve severe anxiety symptoms that may accompany withdrawal.
There are many alternative methods available to treat withdrawal symptoms, such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, nutritional therapy, and psychic healing. Although some of these methods may be quite helpful, research is limited as to safety and effectiveness. Always consult a physician trained in treating substance addictions to help make wise choices regarding a treatment regimen.
Symptoms of withdrawal seen in individuals addicted to depressants include restlessness, anxiety, sleep problems, and sweating. It is possible to develop hallucinations, seizures, increased blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Delirium may also develop and is potentially life-threatening. Tapering off the drug gradually is one way of managing withdrawal from depressants. Medical treatment is definitely needed for more serious symptoms.
Withdrawal from stimulants often induces fatigue, anxiety, depression, and intense cravings. Suicidal thoughts and attempts, paranoia, and acute psychosis are possible, requiring inpatient treatment for safety. Physicians may prescribe antidepressant and/or anti-psychotic medications to treat symptoms.
Remember, withdrawal from any addictive substance must be taken seriously. One can see that symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening. Factors determining severity of withdrawal symptoms include the individual physical makeup of the addict, the properties of the addictive substance itself, the amount of substance consumed, the length of time the person was addicted, and complications such as coexisting medical problems, other mental health disorders, or dealing with multiple addictive substances.
In addition to managing withdrawal, treatment of substance addiction may involve inpatient hospitalization, partial hospitalization, outpatient therapy and/or self-help support groups. These treatment modalities utilize individual and family therapy, cognitive-behavior therapy, and education designed to help an addict manage his cravings and prevent relapse.