Effective Ways to Deal with an Addiction
The Addict has Options
Drug and Alcohol addiction has become a serious problem among many people. Trying to abstain from the use of mind-altering substance once addicted to them may seem almost impossible. Many have the desire to stop using but are unaware of effective ways to deal with their addiction. The recovering addict does have options. Among these options are the “cold turkey” method, detoxification centers, treatment facilities, self-help groups, medical assistance, private or family therapy and eclectic treatment and understanding what each option entails can only assist drug and/or alcohol and/or their family’s make beneficial chooses. Being informed may make the difference between success and failure probability in the therapeutic setting.
Drug addiction, it seems to be a hot topic these days. When one turns on the television they are almost certain to be able to find a show all about or at least referencing drugs, alcohol and/or addiction. For example, in 2008, ”Celebrity Rehab” premiered on television, with a cast of celebrities from the porn industry to the big screen. The show was and still is at the top of the charts (Norris, 2010). If one was oblivious of the topic being presented on television then they should just talk to friends and family members about the topic of drug and alcohol dependence and/or abuse they would be certain to find someone who has struggled with substance dependence or at least is or has been close to someone who has. Millions of Americans and their families are challenged by substance abuse and/or addiction. The problem has reached epidemic proportions and has become woven into the social fabric of the lives of so many people. The problem does not only lie among the homeless or the economically misfortunate, rather it rises through the classes of society as a buoy rises with the tide. If it were possible to cure the masses of this problem, this disease, it would have been done already. There is no magical cure or scientific answer, no perfect pill or plan to eliminate this overwhelming dilemma from the depths of society but, each individual who suffers from drug and/or alcohol dependence does have options. What works for some will not work for all, but options are there for every person who desires to wage war against their addiction. With a desire to stop using drugs and/or alcohol paired with such options such as the “cold turkey” method, detoxification centers, treatment facilities, self-help groups, medical assistance, private or family therapy, living in a therapeutic community and eclectic treatment the individual who is struggling with substance dependence has several effective ways to deal with their addiction.
The desire to stop using drugs and alcohol does not always come easy but it is essential to the pursuit of recovery. In fact the desire to stop usually is paired with some cost to the individual who has come to this understanding. Narcotics Anonymous, a non-profit recovery program, run by recovering drug addicts defines an addict as anyone whose abuse of drugs, including alcohol or other mood altering-altering substances, has led to problems in any area of their life (Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc, 2008, 3). Most of these problems that they are referring too are not simple things like someone loosing their keys or leaving the stove on, rather they are problems, usually, of a much greater nature such as divorce, auto accidents, abuse of family members, near death experiences or incarceration. These types of experiences are often referred to as the addict’s “rock bottom”. A moment in which that person’s life has reached, what they feel is its lowest possible scenario, any lower and they would consider themselves in fatal circumstance. It is usually at these moments that an addict considers change, a moment also referred to, among professionals, as the contemplation stage. “ Among substance abusers, contemplators are seriously pondering quitting or reducing their substance use. Frequently their thoughts about change emanate from awareness (internally or externally generated) of the disadvantages of continued alcohol or drug use”(Connors, Donovan, & DiClemente, 2004, 18). Quite simply the desire to stop using is caused by emotional and/or environmental states that make the addict aware of the fact that they can no longer keep functioning under such conditions without a loss of self and/or their basic needs (food, water, shelter, belonging…) but no-matter how the person has come to this point, they must before they can begin reviewing their options toward recovery. Once they have established a true desire to change their ways it is then that they may begin to take action.
An age-old method towards recovery is the “cold turkey” method. This is when an individual who is addicted to a substance, whether physically or mentally, decides to stop using drugs and goes at it without any assistance other than their own desire to stop using. The reason why this method is referred to as “cold turkey” is because of a common occurrence that occurs during withdrawal, piloerection. Piloerection is defined as “a temporary roughness of the skin caused by contraction of the piloerector muscles, which raise the hairs, and elicited by cold, fear, or sexual or excitation. Also called goose bump: goose flesh: goose pimples: goose skin”(VandenBos, 2009, 703). On a basic note the addict who goes at it “cold turkey” often appears the same way that a recently plucked bird appears, cold and with bumpy skin. This method has been effective to many recovering addicts but it should be used with caution. Getting off of substances like marijuana or cigarettes maybe all right while using this method but sometimes spontaneous withdrawal can be just as dangerous or even more dangerous than using the drug at all. “ Specifically, going ‘cold turkey’ off alcohol, benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Librium, and related medications), barbiturates, and sometime opioids can cause dangerous or life-threatening events”(Prentiss, 2008, 203). This is why many medical professionals recommend “detox” before beginning with any other method towards recovery.
“Detoxification (detox) is the process of removing harmful substances that have been stored in your body as a result of substance abuse as well as removing toxic products that have been built up in your body from neglect, the environment, and foods that contain harmful ingredients such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers”(Prentiss, 2008, 202). There are actual detox centers that assist clients with this process. Unlike the ‘cold turkey” method, which is an abrupt discontinuation of harmful substances in the body; the process of detoxification slowly but surely weans the body of dangerous chemicals. By doing so, the process of detoxification raises the possibility of a successful, non-threatening physical withdrawal. By admitting their self into a detoxification center the drug addict insures that they are provided with addiction severity assessment and medically monitored services. This is not the most comfortable experience that a person could ever go through but it, along with the desire to stop using drugs, is essential to a healthy and effective recovery process.
Now that the substance abuser has the desire to stop using paired with a body that if free of drugs and alcohol they are faced with an array of choices concerning what they will do next in their attempt to recover. Just because a person has freed themselves of the physical binds of mind-altering substances it does not mean that they are necessarily cured of their addiction. By living a life that has been paired with substance abuse the addict has conformed to social, behavioral, and cognitive styles of action that comes along with the processes of an active addiction. The addict has learned to adapt to the world around them by using drugs and/or alcohol and now they must learn to exist without the use of these mood-changing substances. The addict must now choose among several effective strategies to deal with there addictive behaviors and mind set, strategies such as attendingtreatment facilities, self-help groups, private or family therapy, therapeutic communities or take part in eclectic variation treatment. Also an addict may choose to pair those options with medically assisted maintenance such as prescription drugs like Methadone, Suboxone, and/or Naltrexone.It is important to remember that what is effective towards one addict’s recovery may not be effective to another’s. This is why the recovering addict must carefully explore their available options.
Let’s begin with treatment facilities, in which a plethora of services are found provided within. “The following are some of the modalities that most alcohol/drug programs now include in treatment:
- Treatment for co-occurring disorders
- Specialized treatment for trauma
- Adjunct tracks for eating disorders
- Specialized treatment for sexual addictions and sexual disorders
- Cognitive-behavioral therapies
- EMDR and other techniques for trauma
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) for borderline personality disorder
- More emphasis on family members and family systems (eg., family week at the residential program)
- Medications to reduce cravings and for affective disorders
- Outpatient treatment as an alternative to inpatient/residential treatment when appropriate
- Specialized tracks for gambling addiction”(Fields 2010, 332).
Within treatment facilities one will find two different approaches to therapy.
Many treatment centers offer both inpatient/residential and outpatient therapeutic services. “ Hospitalization and inpatient care are preferred options for people who need more intensive treatment than can be provided by on an outpatient basis”(Butcher, Mineka, & Hooley, 2007, 14). Inpatient facilities house addicts, on average, for 30-90 days while providing them with the above-mentioned services. They are perfect for the newly recovering addict. The facility provides the recovering substance abuser with a safe and controlled environment to receive therapy and other services. Addicts in an inpatient facility will find themselves in a structured environment with bed time hours, wake up times, a medication schedule (if needed), consistent meal times, and therapy hours. By being part of such a structured setting the client has a safe environment to reflect on the past, live in the present and build on their future. They have a place to learn about dealing with life without the using elicit substances.
Once a person is finished with inpatient treatment they are often referred to outpatient treatment services. Outpatient services are available for clients with a lower severity index of substance abuse problems. An out patient is a “patient who can be treated without overnight admission to a hospital, clinic, or other facility, for instance a physician’s or group practice’s office…” (VandenBos, 2009, 661). A substance abuse client in such a setting will find their self in a position to make appointments to receive therapeutic services and are far more able to live outside of a treatment center. Some addicts never need to be admitted to an inpatient treatment center and are ready for outpatient services without inpatient intervention.
Both in and outpatient services offer individual and group therapy. It is in these settings that the substance abuser learns to overcome denial, work towards a structured recovery, seek nonchemical altered states of consciousness, work through negative emotional states and control destructive impulses, make active decisions, resist social and peer pressures, deal with stress, take responsibility and many other coping skills necessary for a healthy and continuous recovery(Fields, 2010, 365). By attending individual counseling sessions a client is able to build a relationship with a therapist in a private setting and work through the many issues that come along with substance abuse and/or addiction. This type of therapy is very valuable to those who have not yet become comfortable in a group setting. This may be the first time that a client has opened up in the company of another person.
Group therapy also targets the same issues that individual therapy does but it does it by utilizing the group process. “ Group process pertains to dynamics such as norms that govern a group, the level of cohesion in the group, how trust is generated, how resistance is manifested, how conflict emerges and is dealt with, the forces that bring about healing, intermember reactions and the various stages in a group’s development”(Corey & Corey, 2006, 5). Group therapy allows clients to hear from and work with others who are in similar circumstances that they are. It allows clients to be aware of the fact that they are not the only person who is experiencing the troubling emotions that attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation. They learn to work with others by voicing their own and respecting others opinions on the subject of recovery.
Inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities often also offer family therapy and this is because addiction does not only negatively impact the person who is using drugs and/or alcohol but also those who are in that persons family. For example, a father who abuses crack cocaine may drain the family’s collective saving account to afford his habit or he may steal from other family members to do the same. The addict may lie, cheat, and steal his way through the family system in order to keep using, negatively impacting family relations along the way. The primary goal of family therapy “is to increase the coping ability and overall functioning of the family by working directly with the concerned significant other(Connors, Donovan, & DiClemente, 2004, 157). It is often said that addiction is a family disease, each family member has learned how to cope with the substance abusers addiction and now they must learn to recover just as the addict must. Family therapy also helps the members of the family communicate about their concerns about the past, present, and future of the addict’s recovery. They must learn to heal as a group.
An addict may also consider becoming a part of a therapeutic community. Members of these communities often refer to each other as family members. Everyone is part of a residential community that is primarily operated by recovering substance abusers. In this setting addicts teach each other how to live properly without the use of drugs and alcohol by using rewards (privileges) and punishments (loss of privileges). By following this system it teaches each member about not only being accountable for their own behaviors but also to account for the behaviors of others in the community. By abiding by this type structure it allows addicts to experience first hand the value of living sober and behaving properly.
Another strategy that the addict and their family may take to cope with addiction is to attend self-help groups. A self-help group, like a therapeutic community, is “a group composed of individuals who meet on a regular basis to help one another cope with a common life problem. Unlike therapy groups, self help groups are not led by professionals, do not charge a fee for service, and do not place a limit on the number of members. They provide many benefits that professionals cannot provide, including friendship, emotional support, experiential knowledge, identity, meaningful roles and a sense of belonging…”(VandenBos, 2009, 830). Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are the most common self-help groups for alcoholics and narcotic drug users and Alanon and Alateen are the most common self-help groups for the family members of drug and alcohol addicts. Those who attend these groups regularly are often eager to testify on the effectiveness of these organizations towards the pursuit of recovery.
Another option that addicts seeking recovery have, an option that groups like AA and NA do not support because they believe in complete abstinence, is to be medically assisted through prescription medications such as Methadone, Suboxone, and Naltrexone. Some of the most predominantly used and abused addictive substances fall into a class of drugs known as opiates. Opiates, other than heroin, come in the form of prescription medications used to treat moderate too severe pain and this, along with their euphoric effects on the psyche, may be why they have gained so much popularity. Once a person has abused these substances to the point of dependence they become one of the most addictive drugs to stop using. Although it is possible for someone to stop using these substances without assistance, quitting becomes much easier with the assistance of one of three medications known as Methadone, Suboxone, and Naltrexone.
Methadone hydrochloride eptadone is a medication used as an agonist in the treatment of opiate dependence. Methadone works by binding to and depressing opiate receptors in the spinal cord and the Central Nervous System (CNS) (Schull, 2010, 725). Suboxone is another medication that is highly effective when used to deter the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Like Methadone it too is an opiate agonist but it is only a partial agonist, being that it also contains properties of an opiate antagonist. The main ingredient of Suboxone is a substance known as buprenophine hydrochloride. How buprenophine works exactly is unclear but it “ may bind to opiate receptors in the CNS, altering perception of and response to painful stimuli while causing generalized CNS depression (Schull, 2010, 161). Naltrexone is unlike Methadone and Suboxone in that it is a non-addictive medication that can also be taken by mouth to treat addiction to opioid drugs. It works by simply blocking the effects of opioids. So if a person on this medication tried to get high using opiates and even alcohol they would not be able to because the drug would not allow it (Kampman, 2009). These medications are used to assist clients with the effects of withdrawal and the temptation to abuse and/or seek illegal drugs or other prescription medicine.
Finally it may just be most beneficial for a person seeking recovery to take an eclectic approach to treatment. This means that they may want to utilize all of the above- mentioned services. It is never a bad idea to do everything you can to get off of dangerous and addictive substances. Many may want to start with a detoxification facility and then move into a 30-90 day residential program. After their stay they may desire the services provided by outpatient facilities and attend self-help groups for added support and structure. Along the way it may be decided that the client could use the support of approved medications to help curb their appetite for drugs and/or alcohol. They may also, and most likely, be in need of family, individual and/or group counseling. By taking an eclectic approach to recovery the addict will find what services work best for them.
Drug and/or alcohol addiction is a terrible situation to be apart off. The guilt, shame, and loss of relationships are enough to bring sober individuals to there knees. Such feelings and circumstances paired with an intolerable thirst for drugs and/or alcohol make it extremely difficult to recover without the help of others such as family members, friends, medical professionals, support groups and so on. No matter how severe a person’s addiction is there is hope, there are options. The addict seeking recovery has at their disposal many effective strategies to deal with there addiction. After a strong desire to stop using has been established the only productive option left is to take action.
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