Drug addiction is crippling pockets of America. Some states are besieged by heroin while others are in the grips of meth addiction. Fentanyl is posing a massive danger to heroin users in particular due to its toxicity and dealers are increasingly mixing it with heroin to make it go further.
It doesn't matter what part of America is focused on; there is no doubt that there will be drug addiction issues wherever the compass lands. As addiction spirals out of control, so does crime and prostitution. Incarceration for non-violent drug offenses serve no purpose other than deepening the addiction problem; offenders will often leave prison with even worse drug dependency problems than they entered with. Furthermore, their psychological addiction issues are not tended to, so it is clear that drug treatment is the only place that these people should be.
Drug treatment is necessary for those who are in need of addiction help.
Why is America in the Grips of Drug Abuse?
There are many reasons why drug addiction is crippling the country. More and more people are falling foul of unemployment, poverty and other socio-economic problems. There is a correlation between poverty and high incidences of drug addiction, so the country's economic state definitely has a part to play.
That is not to say that middle-class Americans can't fall foul to drug addiction problems; the prescription drug abuse epidemic is claiming victims from all corners of society.
In the 1990s, doctors prescribed opiates, powerful pain relievers, quite readily. Little was known back then about the potential harm that these drugs could cause, so lots of people began to take them without really requiring them.
By 2002, the addictive qualities of the drug were brazenly evident; 5000 people in the year before had died of an opiate overdose. Today, that figure has risen to over 70,000 people per year. While doctors are not so freely prescribing these days, the opiate problem has laid strong roots across the country and caused havoc to otherwise happy, functioning families. Furthermore, some opiate addicts who have not been able to access prescriptions anymore have now gone underground to chase illegal substitutes such as heroin.
There is a severe opiate addiction problem in the military according to Providers Clinical Support System (PCSS). Studies conducted by PCSS indicate that the year on year growth of opiate abuse amongst military personnel is higher than that of civilians. A substantial amount of the military personnel taking opiates is doing so for chronic pain relief. With easier access to medications in the army, it is no surprise that the numbers of opiate abusers are spiraling out of control.
Dual diagnosis is quite common in the military with many personnel suffering from opiate addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As opiate withdrawal looks a lot like PTSD symptoms, it can be tough to diagnose. Sadly, this means that lots of military personnel suffer in silence and never get the drug treatment they so desperately need.
What are the Symptoms of Opiate Addiction?
Frequently a person may not even know they are addicted to opiates until they attempt to withdraw. A good example is an average housewife taking OxyContin for chronic back pain. She may run out of her medication or try to stop taking it altogether, and before she knows it, she will experience symptoms of withdrawal.
Opiates attach themselves to the nerve cells in the body and tell them to release more pleasure chemicals or neurotransmitters to counteract the pain. What happens is that the body and brain are flooded with euphoric sensations, and a person will become addicted to those sensations. The problem is though that over time these pleasurable effects begin to diminish and a user needs to consume higher volumes of opiates to get the same high. By excessively consuming these dangerous drugs, a person puts themselves at a higher risk of overdosing.
Signs of Opiate Addiction Include:
* Taking opiates or seeking opiates when not medically required
* Slowed movements and drowsiness
* Constricted pupils and shortened breath
* Slurred speech and drunken like stupor
* Loss of interest in responsibilities and hobbies
* Impaired memory and difficulty concentrating
* Emotional distress or mental illness
* Insomnia and loss of appetite
An opiate addicted person needs to avail of drug treatment at the earliest possible time. Opioids are so addictive that doctors usually only provide first timers with a maximum 7-day prescription. Addiction can lay its roots that quickly, and this is why long-term opiate users are at high risk of overdose as they will need increasingly higher amounts of the drug over time.
Withdrawing from opiates is a painful, uncomfortable and downright unpleasant experience. Moreover, opiate detoxification can actually bring about some dangerous side effects, so engaging in medically supervised drug treatments is highly advisable.
Signs of Meth Addiction
Another commonly abused is Methamphetamine, commonly known as Crystal Meth. It gets this nickname from its crystal-like appearance. Meth addicts display quite worrying side effects including:
* Very high energy
* An Elevated sense of self-esteem
* Rotting teeth and body sores
* Aggression and twitchiness
* Rapid weight loss
Meth addiction is very dangerous and can result in death. A meth addicted person needs to seek help immediately in a drug treatment center.
What are the Side Effects of Meth Withdrawal?
A person in withdrawal will undergo different stages of this process, with symptoms increasing in intensity as time passes. In the first 24 hours from the last intake of the drug, an addict will be very irritable as they battle to abstain. They may experience very low mood and even depression.
After the first day, the addict may start to hallucinate and become increasingly anxious. They may display some very worrying behaviors including irrational paranoia and aggression. Insomnia is a prevalent symptom of methamphetamine withdrawal, and this sleep disorder only heightens all the other side effects. It might take a full month before the patient begins to feel better.
Meth addicted patients require medical assistance while they are undergoing withdrawal. They will be best supported within a specialist drug treatment facility.
What is the Best Drug Treatment for Opiate addicts?
Firstly, it is vital that a patient undergoes a medically assisted detox to wean off the drug. Most reputable drug treatment programs will offer a detox component, and usually, this requires a person to reside in the rehabilitation center. Round the clock medical care is provided while a patient is weaned off opiates. Often, they will take a substitute drug to ease the pain of their withdrawal symptoms. Substitute drugs commonly used include Methadone and Suboxone.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the FDA has approved a new medication for opiate withdrawal called Lofexidine. This drug works by inhibiting norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates adrenergic receptors.
Effective Drug Treatment
Once a person has undergone a successful detox, they will need to engage in a suite of drug treatments to address their psychological addiction. Understanding a patients underlying issues, past traumas and external factors that predispose them to addiction are highly critical to their healing process.
Behavioral therapies including CBT and Motivational Interviewing are helpful in the recovery process. A drug dependent person is suffering from the recognized illness that is an addiction, but they do hold power to heal; unlike cancer patients, addiction sufferers have control of their health outcomes and get better.
A recovered addict will likely struggle with cravings for the rest of their lives, but they can regain their health. Treatments such as CBT and Motivational Interviewing help an addict to understand why they take chemical substances. In many drug treatment programs, an addict can engage in a wide range of therapies that provide a holistic approach to wellness. Drug treatment is progressing and relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, and pilates have found their place in the drug treatment handbook.
Furthermore, a drug addict needs to focus their efforts on relapse prevention strategies once they leave drug treatment. They are at high risk of relapsing, so sobriety is something that is delicate and needs to be guarded.
Inpatient Drug Treatment
For those in the grips of very severe addiction, an inpatient drug treatment program is usually the best course of action. In an inpatient rehabilitation program, an addict will not only engage in a range of therapies, but they may also learn life skills to help them when they re-enter society.
Once a person emerges from an inpatient drug treatment program, they will usually continue to engage with services on an outpatient basis. Continuous engagement in drug treatment programs is imperative as it helps a recovered person to protect and maintain their sobriety.
There are lots of initiatives and drug treatment programs hoping to tackle the problem, but there are lots more steps that the country needs to take. On a community level, it is necessary for residents to support drug treatment programs in the area. It is not uncommon to hear of protests against new rehab centers opening up, but this is unhelpful. Rather than exile drug users, we need to help and support them.
There needs to be a focus on prescribers and increased education provision to equip them with the knowledge they need on opiate abuse, signs of addiction and alternative pharmaceuticals for pain management.
If you are suffering from opiate addiction, or you know someone who is, reach out to a drug treatment provider today. There is excellent support available; you might just need to find the courage to ask for it.
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