What Happens After Prescription Drug Detox?
According to the NIDA, “Medical detoxification safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use,” but it is also “only the first step of addiction treatment.” For someone who has been abusing drugs in the long-term and continues to compulsively do so even though they realize the drugs are harming them, prescription drug detox will not fully solve the issue and must be followed by addiction treatment.
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Why Isn’t Prescription Drug Detox Enough?
Detox only treats the symptoms of dependence, helping a person who has been abusing prescription drugs for a long time to slowly withdraw from these substances and experience as few symptoms as possible. The detox process often takes a week, but it is not enough to fully treat addiction.
When a person stops being dependent on a drug, it does not mean that they are also free of addiction. Many of the other symptoms of addiction that linger after detox include:
- Cravings– an intense need for the drug
- Triggers– people, places, and objects that will suddenly cause the individual to feel strong cravings for the substance
- Drug-seeking behavior– a compulsive need to find more drugs by whatever means necessary, no matter how dangerous that behavior is
In addition, any co-occurring mental disorders that the individual may have (which are extremely common in cases of drug abuse) will not be treated with detox. The patient will need to continue treatment if they have been abusing prescription drugs, as merely weaning the body off the substance is not enough.
After Detox: Addiction Treatment
As stated by the NIDA, “The two main categories of drug addiction treatment are behavioral and pharmacological.” Patients are often given medication, as they were during their detox period, which helps them avoid abusing prescription drugs, diminishes cravings, and allows them to receive the pharmacological treatment they may need without the danger of becoming intoxicated. The latter is especially common for those who have become addicted to prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, and Dilaudid and still need to receive some kind of medication for pain.
The most widely used treatment for addiction, however, is counseling. Behavioral treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, motivational enhancement, and group therapy can be extremely beneficial in helping patients learn better ways to cope with their stresses and other reasons for which they may have turned to drugs. They will also learn ways to fight cravings, avoid triggers, change their perspective about their prescription drug abuse, and become more open to recovery.
After addiction treatment, which can often last 30-90 days or sometimes even longer, patients can be given assistance in finding an aftercare program like a sober living facility, a halfway house, or even a support group, depending on the level of care needed.
After prescription drug detox, those who are struggling with addiction are transitioned into treatment. Without this second step, addicts wouldn’t be able to fully change their harmful behavior and would likely relapse after leaving detox. According to SAMHSA, “Now that you have been through detox, you need to ‘unlearn’ substance use and ‘relearn’ how to live sober.” The next step, addiction treatment, will help you with this.
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