WITHDRAWAL MEDICATIONS: GOOD OR BAD?
Withdrawal symptoms from abusing drugs can range from flu-like symptoms that last 48 hours to anxiety and seizures that last months. These ill effects occur in individuals who stop using an illegal drug once the individual’s brain and body have become dependent on the drug. For some drugs, it does not take long for this dependency to exist. Dependency occurs because drugs directly affect the neurotransmitters, dopamine, and serotonin, in the brain that create sensations of pleasure.
Taking away the drug that stimulates these neurotransmitters feels, to the brain, like taking away any other normal brain function. The brain reacts as if the person is sick from some deadly disease and brings about a number of symptoms, some of which are life-threatening. Over the years, as numbers of drugs users have increased to 25 million in 2011, scientists have managed to utilize medications that can relieve withdrawal symptoms for a certain period of time. For example, Antabuse, Campral, and ReVia are medications used to treat alcoholism.
However, these medications alone have not been proven to be enough to help the addict fully recover. Treatments like counseling, group therapy, recovery skills, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are combined with withdrawal medications to help individuals overcome their addiction. Not all of the medications treat drug addiction in the same manner and often they create the opposite psychological effects from each other. Antabuse, or Disulfiram, treats alcoholism and drug addiction by inducing feelings of nausea, sometimes vomiting, when the individual decides to use alcohol or other drugs.
In behavioral psychology, this is referred to as aversion therapy, the process of conditioning an individual to dislike a stimulus by pairing that stimulus with an unpleasant stimulus. In the case of Antabuse, the individual drinks alcohol (the normal stimulus for them) and suddenly their stomach becomes upset and they start feeling nauseous (the unpleasant stimulus). By repeatedly pairing these two stimuli of drug use and nausea together, the individual learns that drug use leads to unpleasant effects rather than the pleasant effects they felt before taking Antabuse.
The individual consciously knows the Antabuse medication, not the alcohol, is causing these aversive effects, but the subconscious mind does not. The subconscious mind is what controls our impulsive actions, therefore if you convince the subconscious mind that drugs create aversive effects, then impulsivity to take drugs should theoretically decrease.
Campral, or Acamprosate, works by helping the brain of the alcoholic function normally again and is taken after the individual has ceased alcohol use. This medication does not create aversive effects like Antabuse does and does not relieve withdrawal symptoms. ReVia, or Naltrexone, works opposite of Antabuse by directly blocking the effects of alcohol and other drugs on the brain. While Naltrexone can cause side effects of nausea and headaches, this drug works blocks parts of the brain associated with pleasure so that when the user takes the drug, the normal effects they would originally feel from that drug are no longer experienced. Over time, the user should lose interest in the drug because the drug no longer produces pleasure.
Overall, these medications have been shown to reduce cravings and decrease chances of relapse, but without other therapies and counseling, the individual is less likely to fully recover from drug or alcohol abuse. Asana Recovery offers medically supervised detox and several other types of therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Art Therapy. Call 949-438-4504 to learn more about our treatment services.