In an article about prescription drug addiction, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, an 18-year-old individual describes his use of Vicodin in this way: “As long as prescription pills are taken right, they’re much safer than street drugs.” In a way, this user is right. If prescription drugs are taken as intended, they can be quite safe. However, in order to take the drugs as intended, the person must see a physician, obtain a prescription for the drug and then take the drug as directed. People who are addicted to prescription drugs skip at least one of these steps, and their habits are far from safe. In order to recover from addictions like this, people must enroll in formal treatment programs for addiction. Here, they can get the help they’ll need to leave their destructive habits behind.
A Complete Assessment
A comprehensive treatment program for prescription drug addiction often begins with an assessment phase. Here, experts attempt to determine just what drugs the person has been taking, and how long that use has lasted. This isn’t the time for modesty or lies, as the information the addicted person provides can be vital as experts help to draw up a comprehensive recovery program. The addicted person will need to be completely, brutally honest in order to ensure that the recovery process goes smoothly.
Once experts are aware of the drugs the person has been taking, the detoxification process can begin. Here, the person slowly weans away from drugs, and the body adjusts to functioning at a normal level without access to any sort of drug. This process will vary dramatically, depending on the drugs the person has taken. These are common detox approaches for prescription drugs of abuse:
Common Detox Approaches
- Painkillers: Replacement medications are used to soothe discomfort and allow the person to focus on healing.
- Stimulants: The person is asked to slowly taper off the medication, a little at a time, while staff uses over-the-counter medications and alternative treatments to improve comfort.
- Anxiety medications: Tapering and alternative medications are used here as well, but replacement medications might help to ease some anxiety symptoms.
- Barbiturates: An extremely slow taper is often required for these drugs, and medical staff watches closely to ensure that no negative side effects take place. Some people develop seizures during sudden withdrawal, so supervision is vital to safety.
Once an assessment is complete and the person no longer has active drugs in his/her system, a formal rehab program can begin. Here, the person will begin to learn vital lessons that can ensure sobriety in the coming years.
Individual and Group Learning
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that painkiller addictions can be successfully treated, in part, with medications that are commonly used to treat heroin addictions. Prescription painkillers and heroin share many of the same chemical signals and structures, and prescription medications can help to soothe cravings for drugs and help people to feel calmer and more at ease. Some people use replacement medications only during the detox stages, but others continue to take replacement medications as the rehab process moves forward.
Other drugs of addiction don’t have replacement medication counterparts, meaning that people with these addictions often must use their minds to control their cravings for drugs. Both groups of people, whether they’re taking medications or not, can benefit from therapy programs. Here, they can learn more about the nature of addiction and how it can be controlled.
Addiction rehab therapy tends to focus on skills, allowing people to pick up techniques they can use in the fight against addiction. By learning more about what a craving feels like, and how a craving can be batted away, people can pick up significant skills they can use to keep from relapsing to drug use. Sometimes, these skills are taught in one-on-one sessions with a counselor and a patient, and the two make an effective team joined together in the fight. Other times, the skills are taught in group therapy sessions in which all participants learn the same lesson, and then practice their skills together.
For people with addictions, these meetings can be an important way to keep learning about addiction, as they may continue to go for meetings for years after their inpatient programs have been completed.
Group learning can also take place in other settings, such as support group meetings. In group learning, people can learn from others who have their own addiction issues, and they can share their stories about their pasts, and ask for support during times that seem particularly challenging. People typically choose a meeting based on the prescription they have been taking, allowing those with similar addictions to come together to share their stories.
Mental Health Issues
People with mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety are often advised to talk to their doctors about their symptoms, and at the end of these discussions, patients leave with a tiny slip of paper authorizing them to fill prescriptions for the drugs they’ll need in order to keep their conditions under control. When an addiction develops, due to these prescriptions, the underlying mental illness may still be in place, just waiting to arise again. When a person has both an addiction and a mental illness, it’s referred to as a “comorbidity,” and it’s a serious issue when it comes to prescription drugs.
While comorbidity can occur in response to almost any drug of abuse, they’re quite common in people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Going through a stressful event can lead people to relive the moment, over and over again, and they may turn to prescription drug abuse in order to make those memories stop. According to a study in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, people who have PTSD often don’t receive care for their mental illnesses. In fact, the authors write, “Among PTSD patients, use of PTSD treatment was low.”
Dual Diagnosis or comorbid addiction programs attempt to change this by providing people with care for both their mental health issue and their addiction issue. With this help, people really may be able to overcome the addictions they face.
Comorbid addiction treatment programs utilize many of the same techniques used in standard addiction treatment programs, but they’re tweaked just a bit to account for the special needs people in this group might have. Instead of learning only about addiction, they’ll learn about addiction and mental illness. Instead of learning how to keep an addiction under control, they’ll also learn how to keep their mental illnesses under control, allowing the addiction to cease working as an ad-hoc treatment program for the mental health issue. It’s a comprehensive approach that could be revolutionary to people who have these competing problems taking place at the same time.
Prescription painkillers can provide amazing relief to people with chronic pain, and according to a study in the Clinical Journal of Pain, the number of people who develop addictions due to painkillers they take is quite low, ranging from 3.2 to 18.9 percent. However, once an addiction develops, it’s imperative that people with chronic pain do not use prescription painkillers on a habitual basis, since they simply might be unable to do so without developing a rebound addiction.
Addiction and pain control programs, such as the program we provide at The Oaks at La Paloma, attempt to provide people with other options they can use to keep pain under control.
As the person learns to work with the body, developing effective strategies to deal with the underlying causes of the pain, the use of painkillers becomes less and less necessary. This could keep the person from relapsing to drug use, since the original painful condition has finally been handled in an effective manner.
Techniques often used include:
- Physical therapy
- Tai chi
If you’d like to know more about the pain management program we provide at La Paloma, or you have a Dual Diagnosis issue involving prescription drugs and you’re not sure where to turn for help, please contact us.
Our treatment programs are designed to help people just like you, and we’re ready and willing to help you overcome your reliance on prescription drugs.
Please call our toll-free line for more information.