Prescription drug addiction has become an epidemic in the United States. According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, deaths resulting from the abuse of prescription drugs are greater than those caused by heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine combined. But that doesn’t mean that all prescription drug addicts are doomed. There are many treatment options available to help addicts get the help they need to return to the path of sobriety.
Drug addiction treatments are typically divided into two categories: pharmacological and behavioral (National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Treating prescription drug addiction”). Pharmacological treatments use medication to counter a drug’s effects on the brain and relieve withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for the addict to stop using the drug. Behavioral treatments teach recovering addicts strategies for living without the drug and making positive choices to stay in recovery. Depending on the type of drug being treated, both of these treatments are available and tailored to the needs of the recovering addict.
Treatments for opioid addiction
There are a number of available medications to combat the effects of painkillers in the body. Methadone has been used to treat heroin addiction for more than 40 years, but it is equally effective at treating opioid addiction. The medication acts on the same brain targets as prescription opioids to relieve cravings and remove withdrawal symptoms. The FDA has also recently approved Vivitrol as another treatment option. Because the medication stays in the system for several weeks, the treatment is particularly useful for recovering addicts who do not have the funds or opportunity to visit a clinic regularly.
While these pharmacological treatments are effective, they work best when combined with behavioral counseling such as singular or group therapy, contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapies to ensure that the recovering addict has the skills to remain sober.
Treatments for CNS depressants
Prescription anxiety medication such as Xanax and Valium can be especially difficult to treat because the withdrawal effects can be life-threatening. Recovering addicts are not taken off the drug “cold turkey.” Instead, health professionals will slowly taper the drug off so that the patient can avoid the worst symptoms and become sober safely. At the same time, patients will undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to learn new life skills on coping with stress so that they will not need to rely on medication in the future.
Treatments for stimulants
Unfortunately, there are currently no medications with FDA approval to treat addiction to prescription stimulants such as Adderall and Concerta. Addicts in recovery will be detoxified slowly to limit the effects of withdrawal. Instead of medication, health professionals will use behavioral treatments such as contingency therapy, which rewards the recovering addict for successful drug screenings. Cognitive behavioral therapy and support group therapy are additional options to ensure that the patient maintains a healthy lifestyle.
There are many treatment opportunities for prescription drug addiction. If you or someone you know has been abusing prescription medication, you can find the most effective treatments available by calling the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline at any time.