Addiction is defined as a dependency that causes persistent behaviors that bring forth negative consequences for the user. Nationwide, around 23.9 million people used an illicit substance or psychotherapeutic drug within the month prior to being surveyed, per 2012 data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

If you suspect substance abuse or addiction in yourself or a loved one, look for the following signs:

  • Nausea
  • Financial problems due to overspending on a drug or alcohol supply
  • Resorting to unusually poor behavior to obtain a supply, like stealing
  • Sweating
  • Appetite and/or sleep changes
  • Mood swings
  • Suspicious behaviors
  • Shakiness or trembling
  • Seizures

Medications may be available to certain patients that will alleviate some, if not all, of these symptoms. Treatment protocols for addiction vary greatly from one patient to the next. Everything from a patient’s medical history and mental state to which drugs they’re abusing and how often they’re using must be taken into account prior to deciding on a treatment approach.

In the Beginning

Initially, addiction patients must undergo a period of detox, which usually lasts no longer than 10 days. They can expect to begin feeling withdrawal symptoms within the first six to 12 hours of being in detox. Generally, medications can be administered to some patients before the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Pain relief is always more efficient whenever the medication can start working ahead of schedule.

The experience is not the same across the board; different substances do present different symptoms. For example, patients withdrawing from alcohol dependence can expect symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disturbances, nausea and, for a rare few, delirium tremens, seizures and hallucinations. Those coming off a dependence on alcohol are likely to experience a very depressed mood, whereas patients addicted to stimulants may also have symptoms of euphoria that come and go as dopamine tries to regulate itself in the user’s body. Hallucinations and seizures occur in roughly 15 to 20 percent of alcohol-dependent individuals experiencing moderate withdrawal symptoms.

The Downsides of Detox

There are various medications available now to treat the symptoms of withdrawal for the majority of addictions. Withdrawal medications are helpful in decreasing, if not altogether dismissing, the symptoms patients feel during detox. For many, this is the only way they feel they are able to get through detox and begin treating their substance abuse problem.

It is advisable that the majority of detox patients continue with follow-up treatment after withdrawal. Some popular withdrawal medications and their uses are as follows:

  • Benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome and addictions to certain narcotics.
  • Methadone and buprenorphine are used in the detox and prolonged treatment of heroin and other opiate-based drug addicts.
  • Most opiate overdoses occur soon following withdrawal when a user relapses; naltrexone is commonly used to reverse those overdoses.
  • Antidepressants, typically SSRIs, are used in the treatment of withdrawal from stimulants like cocaine.
  • Phenobarbital is also used in the treatment of withdrawal from alcohol and pharmaceutical benzos in the United States, despite being touted as unsafe in some other nations.
  • Typical antipsychotics like haloperidol can be used to lessen the detox effects of PCP and other psychedelics.
  • Antabuse is another popular treatment method for alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

There is a risk of dependency on treatment drugs, primarily with benzodiazepines — which are highly addictive — and methadone. PBS reports benzos as being a contributor to 30 percent of prescription pain reliever-related drug overdose fatalities, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boasts an alarming figure of 5,000 deaths being attributed to methadone-related overdoses every year. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that as many as 90 percent of methadone users also use benzos on a regular basis.

In addition, patients who utilize treatment drugs for a long period of time may experience some withdrawal coming off them but symptoms are usually mild, such as sleep disturbances. Whether or not you utilize the medications available to you during detox is a highly personal decision that only you can make. Nonetheless, patients are strongly urged to listen to the guidance provided by the physician overseeing their treatment.

The Irony of Drug Therapy

It might seem like an odd concept that anyone would treat a drug addiction with another drug, but there is little concern over dependency on the medications used in detox treatment in most cases. Nonetheless, there are risks involved with any medication.

When you enter the detox period, be honest about any pre-existing health care needs, including your mental health. If you are aware of a disorder you’ve previously been diagnosed with, it is vital that you tell detox center staff members, especially if you’ve been going untreated, so that your mental health can be assessed and appropriate medication can be provided. Half of all serious mental illness sufferers are also troubled by substance abuse, per the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

At Orlando Recovery Center, we can help; there’s no judgment here. We will evaluate your needs and set you up with the one of the best withdrawal programs in the nation, where you will have continued access to world-class professionals who oversee your care. After detox, we will assist you in preparing for life post-detox and gladly refer you to quality aftercare services that will help you to maintain the sobriety and abstinence you find here.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.