Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Drug addiction treatments include organized inpatient or outpatient treatment programs, counseling, and self-help groups to help you resist using the addictive drug again. Depending on your level of addiction, you may need steps to help you withdraw from using the drug (detoxification).

Therapies such as counseling, addiction treatment programs and self-help group meetings can help you overcome an addiction and stay sober.

  • Treatment programs. Treatment programs generally include educational and therapy sessions focused on getting sober and preventing relapse. This may be accomplished in individual, group or family sessions. These programs are available in various settings from outpatient to residential and inpatient programs.
  • Counseling. Individual or family counseling with a psychologist, psychiatrist or addiction counselor may help you resist the temptation to resume using addicting drugs. Behavior therapies can help you develop ways to cope with your drug cravings, suggest strategies to avoid drugs and prevent relapse, and offer suggestions on how to deal with a relapse if it occurs. Counseling can also involve talking about your job, legal problems, and relationships with family and friends. Counseling with family members can help them develop better communication skills and be more supportive.
  • Self-help groups. Many, though not all, of these groups tend to use the 12-step model first developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. Self-help groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, exist for people addicted to drugs, such as cocaine, sedatives and narcotics. The message is that addiction is a chronic disorder with a danger of relapse and that ongoing maintenance treatment — which may include medications, counseling and self-help group meetings — is necessary to prevent a relapse. Your doctor or counselor can help you locate a self-help group. You also can find listings for self-help groups in the phone book, at the library and on the Internet.

Withdrawal therapy

The goal of withdrawal therapy (detoxification) is for you to stop taking the addicting drug as quickly and safely as possible. Detoxification may involve gradually reducing the dose of the drug or temporarily substituting other substances, such as methadone, that have less severe side effects. For some people, it may be safe to undergo withdrawal therapy on an outpatient basis; others may require admission to a hospital or a residential treatment center.

Withdrawal from different categories of drugs produces different side effects and requires different approaches.

  • Depressants (includes barbiturates, benzodiazepines and others). Minor side effects of withdrawal may include restlessness, anxiety, sleep problems and sweating. More-serious signs and symptoms also could include hallucinations, whole-body tremors, seizures, and increased blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. Withdrawal therapy may involve gradually scaling back the amount of the drug, adding another medication to help stabilize the nerve cells during detoxification or both.
  • Stimulants (includes amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, Ritalin and others). Side effects of withdrawal typically include depression, fatigue, anxiety and intense cravings. In some cases, signs and symptoms may include suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, paranoia, and decreased contact with reality (acute psychosis). Treatment during withdrawal is usually limited to emotional support from your family, friends and doctor. Your doctor may recommend medications to treat paranoid psychosis or depression.
  • Opioids (includes heroin, morphine, codeine, OxyContin and others). Withdrawal side effects of opioids can range from relatively minor to severe. On the minor end, they may include runny nose, sweating, yawning, anxiety and drug cravings. Severe reactions can include sleeplessness, depression, dilated pupils, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, high blood pressure, abdominal cramps, tremors, bone and muscle pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctors may substitute an artificial opiate, such as methadone or buprenorphine (Subutex, others), to reduce the craving for heroin during recovery.
Oct. 01, 2011