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Are All Types of Addictions Treated Equally?

There are many variables when it comes to not just treating addiction, but also how it is viewed. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are more men than women currently in treatment centers around the country. With that said, women are more likely to seek treatment for dependence on sedatives such as anti-anxiety and sleep medications. The same research shows that men are more likely to seek treatment for heroin use, though the rate of women for this has increased dramatically in recent decades. The differences between sexes in how they react to drug abuse makes it much more difficult to treat.

The difference in drug choice between the sexes shows a clear-cut difference, but does this mean addictions are treated equally? In our society, we don’t treat addiction equally. We all know someone or another who has a drinking problem, but because they function at a high level, their alcohol use is often disregarded as they like to drink. On that same note, we view someone who has a prescription pill problem as someone who needs to get help. Why as a society is one addiction regarded differently from another?

The reason for this is how the United States has accepted a drug like alcohol as a part of its culture. Alcohol can be just as deadly as illicit drugs like heroin, but every day, many people drink a glass of wine after work or go to the bar for a cold beer, and all of these are considered part of everyday life. Heroin has been often associated with homelessness and part of a subculture that we look at as the underbelly of society. This stigma, however, is what makes those who use the drug have a difficult time getting help.

The opioid epidemic has grown dramatically during the past two decades, but along with that, so has the stigma that is attached. It’s a fact that most of us disapprove of heroin use and can stigmatize the use of it, but disapproval of other drugs such as MDMA “Molly” is much lower than other drugs. 

Another example is marijuana; since it is growing in popularity and becoming legal around the country, the disapproval toward it is declining as well. There is more research necessary to determine if marijuana use reduces disapproval toward the use of harder more potentially dangerous drugs. There is a clear indication that not all drug addictions are treated equally, so does that mean the types of treatment required should be different as well?

How Are Different Drug Addictions Treated?

Addiction treatment is a unique process that requires a customized approach. Treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach as there is a multitude of factors influencing the outcome. Some of these include:

  • Gender
  • Type of drugs used
  • Severity of addiction
  • Length of use
  • History of trauma
  • Mental status
  • Polydrug use

This is to name a few of the many factors that can influence how addiction treatment will go. In short, no, not all drug addictions are treated equally, and neither are the treatments they require. We will discuss a bit of what kind of treatment is beneficial for these drug types.

Opioids

With 2.5 million Americans struggling with opioid use disorder, there is a specific format to be followed for effective treatment. Opioid use can lead to the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis, and someone with a pressing medical condition like this requires specialized care to not just treat the addiction but their medical problems as well.

Effective medications can aid opioid recovery. Buprenorphine and methadone were classified as essential medicines, according to the World Health Organization. These medications, however, must be paired with behavioral counseling as a whole patient approach. This is known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Medication-assisted treatment has been proven to decrease opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission. MAT also can increase social function and retention in treatment, which means they are more likely to stay in therapy compared to those who did not receive medications. This is a revolutionary but scrutinized approach to treatment, but it has been highly successful.

Stimulants

Stimulants fall into a class of psychoactive drugs characterized by their ability to produce short-term improvements in physical functions, mental functions, or both. These addictions are fueled by long-term mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. Stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or prescription drugs like Adderall can be dangerous when abused. They can cause long-term damage that can eventually lead to death or an impaired life. Treating this type of addiction is of paramount importance.

During a stimulant treatment program, the client will begin their recovery with medical detoxification, which allows them to transition into sobriety under the supervision of medical professionals. The client could be given medications on a case-by-case basis. Stimulant withdrawal is not deadly but can be extremely uncomfortable. The next stage will have the client placed into residential treatment or an outpatient treatment program depending on the severity of addiction.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that can be deadly when detoxing it from your system. Treatment for alcohol should never be done by yourself, and addiction specialists urge that you seek treatment to quit if you consume large amounts of alcohol. Treatment for alcohol will begin with medical detoxification, and the client will require medication to counteract some of the adverse effects associated. Medication is a positive part of the winning combination for alcohol use disorders and will help the user gain traction as they move through the continuum of care.

Benzodiazepines

There are 35 derivatives of benzodiazepines today. The most commonly used and popular benzo is Xanax. Benzodiazepine addiction is different due to how powerful the drugs are. Benzos are depressants, and when used in conjunction with other drugs like opioids, it can be an instant death sentence.

The common practice for benzo treatment is to start in the most intensive level of care, which is detox. The addiction team will provide medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms while mitigating any risk that can occur such as seizures. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is dangerous and requires supervised and strict supervision to ensure nothing out of the ordinary happens.

How Drug Addiction Can Ruin Your Life

Drug addiction can ruin your life. Whether it’s an addiction to stimulants, opioids, or alcohol, they all have the potential to steal the best moments of your life.

Some of the ways addiction can ruin your life:

  • Addiction steals your money. It costs a lot of money to be addicted to drugs, and this can require you to drain bank accounts, sell your valuables, or steal from your family members.
  • Addiction can ruin your health. Those caught in the cycle of addiction often don’t care for themselves and practice bad habits. The drugs consumed can deteriorate your health over time.
  • Addiction can change who you are. Drug and alcohol addiction can change you from the inside out. While some can maintain their appearance while struggling, they will experience a demise of their morals, values, and perceptions of reality as a whole.
  • Addiction can put you in jail. Drugs are illegal, and getting caught using them can land you in jail. If not for drugs, those who steal to maintain their habit can also land themselves behind bars. Drugs can push people into drug dealing, prostitution, and gangs to fuel their habits.
  • Addiction can kill you. All it takes is one bad dose to kill you. Drugs are unregulated substances that can be laced with substances that can fatally harm you, even with a small dose. 

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction

Palamar, J. J. (2013, October 09). Predictors of Disapproval toward "Hard Drug" Use among High School Seniors in the US. from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11121-013-0436-0#page-1

Palamar, J. (2018, September 19). The stigma against people who use heroin makes it harder for them to get help. from https://theconversation.com/the-stigma-against-people-who-use-heroin-makes-it-harder-for-them-to-get-help-46906

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use Disorder Treatment. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use-disorder-treatment

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids

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