Drug dependence is a medical disorder, and though there is no cure, there are a number of viable options when it comes to treatment. Each patient is different in both experience and need so not every treatment opportunity is equally appropriate in every case; however, there is a unique combination of medication and/or therapeutic intervention that will help each person to overcome physical and psychological dependence upon drugs and alcohol.
For some, maintenance medication is one possible solution – for example, using Suboxone or methadone to treat opiate addiction – but is using medications for the long-term simply transferring dependence from an illicit drug to a prescription drug? At the end of the day, isn’t addiction an addiction no matter how you frame it?
Myth or Fact?
Drug addiction is defined as both a physical dependence AND a psychological dependence upon a specific drug. This psychological dependence defined by cravings for the substance is key in this discussion because a physical dependence alone is not a debilitating issue. A number of people become physically dependent upon numerous types of non-addictive drugs (e.g., developing a tolerance and requiring ever-increasing doses in order to achieve the original effects is an indicator) for the treatment of chronic ailments – but they are not impaired in their ability to maintain positive relationships, fare well at work, or achieve their goals as is the case with the addiction.
Choosing long-term maintenance medication may not be the quickest way to total freedom from a past with addiction, but it does provide patients with a unique opportunity to immediately break free from the destructive patterns of an addictive lifestyle and start learning how to live completely drug-free.
Benefits of a ‘New Addiction’
Whether or not a patient opts for long-term maintenance medications, they still have the opportunity to find something amazing to fill up the time they once spent chasing the next high. One thing that many people new to recovery discover quickly is that the day can seem long when you no longer have to worry about getting more drugs, or lose hours to being under the influence or recovering from a binge. At first, this may feel overwhelming, but very quickly most patients begin to come up with ideas about how to fill up their new schedule. Sometimes they focus heavily on one thing and, figuratively speaking, become addicted to the new behavior.
Some positive “new addictions” that may help patients in early recovery include:
- A return to school to complete a degree or new skills certification
- A new job or business
- A new hobby (e.g., cooking, taking pictures, journaling, painting, playing a sport, etc.)
- Exercise and eating well
Technically speaking, these are not addictions in the same way that using drugs was an addictive behavior, but when a new habit is positive and becomes a focus during recovery, as long as it doesn’t trigger relapse for any reason, it can be an excellent tool for long-term sobriety.
Determining What Your Loved One Needs from Treatment
Long-term maintenance medications aren’t for everyone, and not everyone will find some new pastime in recovery that becomes an obsession – and that’s a good thing. Everyone is different, and what each person needs to thrive in recovery will be a unique combination of services, new friends, and opportunities that are a good fit for the individual and his or her circumstances.
What does your loved one need to overcome drug and alcohol dependence? Contact us at the phone number listed above today and begin the process of answering that question now.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.