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Recovery from Substance Abuse Is Possible with the Right Treatment

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

April 2, 2019

Whether the substance is legal or doctor prescribed, addiction can be effectively treated. But to be effective, treatment must include the necessary elements: detox, counseling, and medications, and it must provide for multiple or repeated courses of treatment. In addition, a successful treatment plan will take into account the type of drug and the needs of the individual patient.

Recovery from Substance Abuse—Taking the Right View

Buying a packet of heroin from a seedy character on the corner in the bad part of town is obviously not a wise thing to do. But when a doctor prescribes drugs, it’s perfectly safe to take them—maybe even a little more and a little longer. Right?

Therein lies the intractable problem of prescription drug addiction. We often take longer to admit the addiction and seek treatment because these drugs are perfectly legal; they have been prescribed by a doctor and are often necessary. But an addiction is still an addiction, no matter the source or legality of the substance.

Chronic Pain and Prescription Drugs—Recovery from Substance Abuse

Consider the case of using prescription drugs to alleviate chronic pain. This condition can be debilitating, making normal functioning in life sometimes impossible. In this country alone, there are roughly 116,000,000 people suffering from chronic pain.

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The best way to treat chronic-pain sufferers has long puzzled health care providers because of the risks associated with long-term treatment. An increased drug tolerance in long-term prescription drug users (meaning gradually higher doses are necessary to alleviate pain) and hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain) often result in addiction to prescription drugs. The highest estimate for addiction among chronic-pain sufferers is around 40%, though estimates vary widely, owing to several study variables.

When the Drug Dictates the Treatment in Recovery from Substance Abuse

Most treatment plans for substance abuse include the same general pharmacological and behavioral components. But when it comes to prescription drugs, the drug itself determines, in large part, the exact path treatment will take.

Treating addiction to prescription opioids, for example, relies heavily on the pharmacological component. Medications like naltrexone are used to treat both addiction and overdose by preventing the respective brain’s receptors from being activated. Methadone, a synthetic opioid, is often used to palliate withdrawal symptoms and ease cravings.

Treatment for addiction to central nervous system depressants (barbiturates and benzodiazepines) incorporates both components. In this case, withdrawal symptoms can be a life-threatening issue. That’s why a patient must go through a medically supervised detoxification process, which involves a gradual tapering off and reduction of the drug dosage, coupled with counseling. Another important aspect of the behavioral component is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This kind of therapy works to alter a patient’s thinking, expectations, and the attendant behaviors, while at the same imparting coping skills to help the patient deal with stressors.

Addiction to prescription drugs can be a tougher nut to crack than addiction to illegal drugs. Contact us today for free information, and find out how we can help you kick your prescription drug habit.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Misuse of Prescription Drugs

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