A drug addict craves drugs and compulsively seeks them out, regardless of the consequences. A drug addiction typically arises gradually – beginning with voluntary, intermittent and/or acute drug usage, increasing to drug abuse and then escalating into a full-blown addiction. When a drug addict begins using drugs he/she probably uses them primarily during social occasions, but may also use them while alone. As time progresses, the drug user may increase the quantity and frequency of the drug use – possibly leading to drug abuse.
Over time, the drug abuser may continue to increase the amount of drugs he/she consumes until he/she develops an uncontrollable urge to use drugs. Once the abuser gets to the point where drugs is the only thing on his/her mind and actively seeks those drugs, regardless of the negative consequences – an addiction to drugs has formed. At this point the drug addict experiences intense daily, weekly or monthly drug cravings that continue to intensify until those cravings are satisfied. The drug addict compulsively seeks out his/her drugs of choice, regardless of any possible danger. He/she is consumed with drugs. The drug addict’s brain chemistry has been altered and he/she no longer thinks or behaves like he/she once did.
Drug addiction is a disease that negatively affects various regions of the brain. These regions are responsible for incentive, learning, memory, mood and behavior. Chronic drug use can compromise the addict’s ability to make good decisions, maintain a job and retain friendships and romantic relationships. It can also cause psychological problems such as: despair, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, mood swings, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and suicidal ideation.
Drug addiction takes over much of the addict’s life, so it is extremely important that you seek treatment as soon as possible, if you feel that you have a problem with drugs. There are a variety of treatment programs, medications and therapies that can help you with your drug abuse or drug addiction. An effective drug rehabilitation program will not only help you admit you have a problem, it will also help you make amends to those you have hurt because of the drug addiction and teach you the skills you need to obtain and maintain sobriety. At the end of treatment, you will be drug-free and on your way to a healthy, productive life.
It is important to note that you will always crave drugs so it is important that you attend support groups for recovering addicts or repeat the treatment process when your urges overwhelm you. It is also important that you call someone (such as sponsor or a trusted family member or friend) when you feel stressed. Stress can cause a drug addict to seek comfort from drugs. Research suggests that the most effective treatment for drug addiction is psychotherapy, outpatient treatment, medication and/or residential treatment.
Effective Treatment Approaches:
Medications are often used during the drug detoxification process to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Most treatment programs offer this as the first step in the recovery process. Once you have removed the drugs from your body, you are ready to begin the actual treatment program. If you decide to leave the program after detox, you run the risk of returning to your previous drug habits. In order to achieve sobriety, you must stay for the entire program.
Medications may be prescribed to improve your brain function, reduce your cravings and prevent a setback (relapse). If you have a severe drug addiction or if you use multiple drugs, you will have to be treated for all of the drugs that you use.
Medications that may be used to treat drug addictions include:
Opioids have shown success in the treatment of drug addictions. These medications appear to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings by targeting the areas of the brain responsible for incentive, moods and behaviors. Common opioids used to treat drug addiction are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.
Anti-depressants have also proven effective when treating drug addictions. These medications increase the amount of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin balances your moods and controls your behavior so that you do not become overwhelmed with drug cravings. It is important to note that these medications do not cure drug addictions rather they provide the emotional stability that is needed during the recovery proves.
These medications are most effective when paired with psychotherapy. If warranted, your physician or psychiatrist will prescribe anti-depressants as part of your treatment plan. Do not attempt to self-medicate. Taking too much or taking these types of medications when you are hypersensitive or allergic to it can cause serious side-effects and even death, in some cases. The most common anti-depressants prescribed during drug treatment are Paxil and Prozac.
Medications used to treat epilepsy are sometimes used to treat drug addictions. These medications are used to reduce drug cravings, improve brain function and balance brain activity. Epilepsy drugs have shown some success in treating cocaine addictions. There are some side-effects associated with epilepsy medication such as: loss of bodily sensation, inattention and skin irritations (rashes and pigmentation). It is important that you take these medications as prescribed. The most common epilepsy medication used to treat drug addiction is Tiagabine.
One of the most effective forms of treatment for drug addiction is outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment normally consists of medication, education, and psychotherapy (individual, family, couples/marriage, group and drug counseling).
Psychotherapy approaches commonly used during drug treatment:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you identify and avoid drug-related triggers and it also helps you manage challenging situations that can overwhelm you and lead you back to drugs.
Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy
Multi-dimensional family therapy helps you and your loved ones understand how your drug addiction is not one dimensional; rather it originates within, encompasses and affects the entire family. This therapy approach also reminds your family how important it is for you to have support from the people who care about you.
The purpose of multi-dimensional family therapy is to improve your family dynamic so that your loved ones can help you gain and maintain sobriety. This approach has shown tremendous success with adolescent drug abusers and their families.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy
Motivational enhancement therapy helps you change your thought patterns and behaviors. The main goal of this therapy approach is to encourage you to abstain from drug use. It helps you focus on the positive aspects of your life and praises you for every step you take towards sobriety. The key element in motivational enhancement therapy is positive reinforcement.
Research suggests that drug addicts who enter residential therapy receive the most benefits from treatment. Residential treatment programs have proven especially beneficial if you abuse multiple drugs or hardcore drugs (heroin, cocaine, etc.). Most residential treatment programs consist of a structured, therapeutic environment.
If you decide that a residential program is best for you, you can expect to stay in a therapeutic treatment facility for 14-days to 1-year, depending on your drug addiction and insurance. The main goals of a residential treatment program are: to help you change your drug-focused viewpoints, beliefs and behaviors.
In addition, if you are entering into a residential treatment program, you more than likely have a history of drug usage, abuse or addiction. In addition, you may also have a long history of involvement with the law. Furthermore, you may have low self-esteem and/or poor social skills. Once you complete the residential treatment program, you will not only be drug-free, you will have also acquired social skills and a healthier self-perception of yourself.
Beck, A. T., Wright, F. D., Newman, C. F. & Liese, B. S. (2001). Cognitive therapy of substance abuse. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Jensen, T. S. (2012). Understanding drugs and drug addiction: treatment to recovery and real accounts of ex-addicts, 1. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Rasmussen, S. (2000). Addiction treatment: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.