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Prescription Drug Withdrawal Treatment

Prescription drugs are helpful medications doctors prescribe to patients for any number of reasons. A prescription might be used to battle infection, treat chronic pain, as well as help the individual deal with anxiety. These medications are safe and effective when used as directed by a physician. But some of the medications are highly addictive and can lead to prescription drug abuse.

The ‘prescription only’ classification is to protect consumers from the adverse side effects of prescription drugs that may result from unsupervised use. Take the example of opioids. These are restricted to prescription use because they are highly addictive and potentially deadly. Therefore, using opioids without a prescription is unwise. People who do use them should only do so under the direct supervision of a physician.

In the United States, prescription drug abuse is a serious and growing problem. When a person takes a prescription drug recreationally, it can quickly lead to addiction and the need for drug treatment. In fact, 25 percent of people who misused prescription drugs by age 13 ended up with an addiction at some point in their life.

The 2016 National Study on Drug Use and Health reported that an estimated 28.6 million Americans aged 12 and over used illicit drugs. If we break down that statistic, it means roughly 1 in 10 people struggle with some level of substance use, including a prescription addiction.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a 2016 report which details that drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans. About two-thirds of these deaths (66%) involved a prescription or illicit opioid. Overdose deaths increased in all categories of drugs examined for men and women, people ages 15 and older, all races and ethnicities, and across all levels of urbanization.

CDC’s analysis confirms that recent increases in drug overdose deaths are driven by continued sharp increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).

Treatment options for prescription drug abuse vary, depending on the type of drug used and a person’s needs. However, counselling, or sometimes psychotherapy, is typically a key part of treatment. Treatment may also require withdrawal (detoxification), addiction medication and recovery support.

If prescription drug addiction is rapidly becoming a problem, seek help from professional therapy centers. Licensed and qualified counsellors or other addiction specialists can provide individual, group or family counselling. They will help you to determine:

  • The factors that led to the prescription drug abuse, such as an underlying mental health problem or relationship problems.
  • Acquire the self-help skills needed to resist cravings, avoid abuse of drugs and help prevent recurrence of prescription drug problems.
  • Strategies for developing positive relationships.
  • Identify ways to become involved in healthy activities that are not related to drugs.
  • What to do if a relapse happens.

Prescription Drug Withdrawal Treatment

An individual may need to detox first as part of the treatment. This depends on the prescription drug and usage. Withdrawal can be dangerous and should be done under supervised care.

Opioid withdrawal. To withdraw from opioids, the process would involve gradually using less and less of the dose of medication until it is no longer used. Other medications — such as clonidine (Catapres), a drug mainly used for high blood pressure — can be used to help manage opioid withdrawal symptoms during this process. Under specific, legally regulated and monitored conditions, doctors may use buprenorphine, buprenorphine with naloxone (Suboxone) or methadone to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal from opioid painkillers.

Another drug, Vivitrol (a version of the drug naltrexone), may help individuals stay off opioids early in their recovery. A physician or treatment specialist will give this injection once a month.

Withdrawal from sedatives or anti-anxiety medication

An individual may need to take some time to withdraw from this group of prescription drugs. This is because the individual’s body is used to the medication and drastically reducing its use can cause harm to the individual. It is best to wean the body off the medication gradually and under supervised care.

Other types of medication may be needed to stabilize a person’s moods and to manage the final phases of tapering. In this instance, it would helpful to seek professional treatment.

Stimulant withdrawal. To withdraw from stimulants, treatments typically focus on gradually going off the medication and relieving withdrawal symptoms — such as sleep, appetite and mood disturbances.

Care and support

Prescription drug withdrawal treatments can be challenging and stressful, often requiring the support of family, friends or organizations. It may help to reach out to:

  • Trusted family members or friends
  • Self-help groups, such as a 12-step program
  • A church or faith group
  • Counsellor or nurse
  • Support group or a sponsor who can help in the withdrawal process
  • Employee assistance program, which may offer counselling services for substance abuse problems
  • Professional treatment centers

Sometimes, a person may be embarrassed to ask for help or afraid that family members or close friends will be angry or judgemental. Although the withdrawal process can be frightening, a major part of the withdrawal process starts when you admit that you have a prescription drug problem. At the end of the day, people who truly care and who are committed to helping will respect honesty and the courage it took to ask for help.

Helping a loved one

It can be difficult to approach family members about prescription drug abuse. Denial and anger are common reactions. Sometimes, an individual may be concerned about creating conflict or damaging the relationship with that person.

To be able to help someone through the withdrawal process, one must be understanding and patient. Show support and care. Encourage honesty about drug use and offer help if needed. A person is more likely to respond to feedback from someone he or she trusts. If the problem continues, further intervention may be necessary.

Intervention

It is not easy to help a loved one struggling with drug problems or other destructive behavior. People who struggle with addictive behavior are often in denial or may be unwilling to seek treatment. Sometimes, they may not recognize the negative effects their behavior has on themselves and others. An intervention can motivate someone to seek help for addictive behaviors.

Sometimes, family, friends and others who care about any individual may plan an invention. To be effective, it is best to consult an intervention professional (interventionist), an addiction treatment center, psychologist or mental health counsellor to help organize an effective intervention.

Grab this opportunity to confront the person about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment. Reaching out to that individual this way may provide him or her with an opportunity to make changes before the situation deteriorates.

Preparing for your appointment

To prepare for withdrawal, a physician may refer you to an addiction specialist or to a treatment facility that specializes in helping people withdraw from prescription drugs.

What you can do

To prepare for your appointment, make a list of:

  • Each of the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs and supplements, as well as the dose and frequency.
  • Make a note of any symptoms you're experiencing
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes. This could include the loss of a loved one or a family member
  • Questions to ask your doctor which may include:
  • What are my treatment options?
  • How long does it take for treatment to work?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • How can we manage my other health conditions during treatment?
  • Do you have any brochures or other printed material I can find out more information about the withdrawal process?
  • What websites do you recommend?

What to expect from your doctor or treatment specialist

  • What prescription medications do you take? How much and how often do you take them?
  • How long have you had this problem?
  • What, if anything, prompted it?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Do you have a past history of drug abuse or addiction?
  • Do you use recreational drugs? Do you smoke? Do you drink?
  • Does any family member have history of drug abuse or addiction?

Over time, prescription drugs affect how the brain processes emotions and regulates mood. Many of these changes create a flood of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which create an artificial feeling of pleasure, or a “high.”

Using drugs or alcohol interferes with the motivation and reward chemistry and circuitry, resulting in an intense craving for the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms will appear when the substance is removed. Different drugs and substances will have different withdrawal symptoms and timelines, depending on how they interact with the brain and bodily functions. Drugs are absorbed and remain active in the body for differing amounts of time. This is often referred to as the drug’s “half-life,” which relates to the different withdrawal timelines for each substance.

The severity and duration of withdrawal is influenced by the level of dependency on the substance and a few other factors, including:

  • Length of time abusing the substance
  • Type of substance abused
  • Method of abuse (e.g., snorting, smoking, injecting, or swallowing)
  • How much of the drug was taken each time
  • Family history and genetic makeup
  • Medical and mental health factors

Prescription drugs (such as Vicodin, OxyContin, methadone, and morphine): Withdrawal starts in 8-12 hours for most prescription drugs, peaks in 12-48 hours, and usually lasts 5-10 days. Methadone withdrawal begins within 24-48 hours, peaks in the first few days, and lasts 2-4 weeks.

Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan): Withdrawal usually begins within 1-4 days, peaking in the first two weeks. In some cases, protracted withdrawal can last months or even years without treatment.

Each person will experience withdrawal differently. The main goal of treatment programs is to stop the body’s dependence on the drug, called a detox process. Treatment also will also involve helping you to avoid a relapse in the future.

Under a doctor’s or treatment center’s supervision, certain medicines can be prescribed to help relieve withdrawal symptoms when you stop using opioids. These will help control your cravings. These medicines include methadone (often used to treat heroin addiction), buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

After detox, behavioral treatments can help manage depression. These treatments also help you avoid opioids, deal with cravings, and heal damaged relationships. Some behavioral treatments include individual counseling, group or family counseling, and cognitive therapy.

  1. Commit to quitting. Take control of your behavior and commit to fighting your addictions.
  2. Get help from your doctor. He or she can be your biggest ally, even if you’re trying to quit a drug he or she prescribed. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medicine that will help ease your cravings for the addictive drug. Talking with your doctor or a counsellor about your problems and your drug use can be helpful, too.
  3. Get support. Certain organizations are dedicated to helping people who have addictions. Get all the tools and support you need to quit and move on with your life. Ask your family and friends for support, too.

Questions You Need To Ask

  • How can I prevent getting addicted to opioids?
  • Is the medicine I’m taking addictive?
  • How do I know if I’m addicted to an opioid?
  • What should I do if I think I’m addicted to an opioid?
  • How can i recognize the signs and symptoms when a loved one or related is addicted to prescription drugs?
  • Prescription drugs that are addictive require a treatment program that involves a combination of detox, rehabilitative therapy, and ongoing support via aftercare. Detox is the shortest of the three components, with completion possible within 7 to 10 days. The duration of rehabilitative therapy and aftercare varies by individual and drug type.
  • Prescription medications that do not create physical dependence generally do not require detox. Patients go directly into rehabilitative therapies designed to address the emotional and psychological issues relating to drug abuse. Aftercare is also provided once rehabilitative therapy is complete.
  • Professional treatment centers work with patients and their families to overcome the harm caused by drug abuse and addiction. Support groups help participants cope with future relapses The combination of both has proven vital for many prescription drug addicts who have successfully overcome their issues.

Living With Prescription Drug Addiction

If you think you are addicted to prescription drugs, know that there is help for you. The first step in breaking addiction is realizing that you control your own behavior. When you have been provided with the necessary tools to live drug-free, the recovery phase can begin in earnest. It is during this part of recovery, that you will re-learn how to live a normal life. However, the support that you require is long-term and on-going. Peaks Recovery can provide you with guidance and support every step of the way.