This is the final of three articles in the Examiner on addiction. Ask in Whelehans for a longer version of this article including extra information on the likes of diagnosis.
Complications of Addiction
Complications can include Coma, unconsciousness or death (from the likes of overdose); some diseases (eg. injecting drugs especially if sharing needles increases risk of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS), Accidental injuries/death (due to risk of accidents and injuries etc); Suicide; Relationship problems; Child neglect/abuse and Unemployment, poverty and homelessness.
Treatment options for Addiction
The first step to treatment is for the person to acknowledge and realise they have an addiction. There is little (or no) chance of a person giving up unless they want to give up. Treatment can include community and hospital based options including counseling (psychotherapy), self-help groups, and medication. The HSE Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS) offers help and have centres in all parts of the country (see below)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET) have been shown to be very effective in treating addiction problems. In Ireland, these services are not as readily accessible as in the UK. MET is a counselling technique that can help tackle ambivalence (mixed feelings) a person may have about giving up the substance and about taking part in a treatment programme.
Treatment options consist of withdrawal from the substance and then continued support to help stay off the substance. Treatment varies depending on the substance the person is addicted to:
Addiction to depressants – depressants includes barbiturates or benzodiazepines (eg) diazepam (Valium®). Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, restlessness and sweating. Less common withdrawal symptoms include hallucinations, tremors, seizures, fast heart rate, high blood pressure and fever. In rare cases there can be delirium (severe confused state), which can be life-threatening. Benzodiazepines are only meant for short term treatment of anxiety like disorders in severe cases only. However they are often abused by people suffering from substance abuse problems (eg) to prevent the comedown from drugs like heroin.
Addiction to stimulants (eg) cocaine, amphetamines (“speed” being a street name). Withdrawal symptoms include tiredness, moodiness and depression, anxiety, low enthusiasm, sleep disturbance, and poor concentration. Treatment includes counselling and if the depression is severe, then anti-depressive medication may be prescribed.
Addiction to opioids – Opioids are a drug class that are often prescribed as painkillers. Examples include morphine, codeine, methadone and oxycodone. Heroin (medically called diamorphone) is also an opioid and is the most addictive of all opioids. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and can include sweating, anxiety, insomnia, stuffy nose, high blood pressure and diarrhoea. For milder opioid addictions, the person may be able to go through withdrawal by “cold turkey” without the need for prescription medication once they get sufficient support (eg. counselling, CBT, family support, etc). For more severe opioid addiction the person may need to be prescribed methadone, or buprenorphine to ease cravings.
Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS)
The HSE Community Alcohol and Drug Service offer counselling and treatment services for adults suffering from addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling. CADS have centres in Mullingar, Athlone and Longford. CADS provides counselling and treatment to help people get over their addiction. You can contact them at 04493 41630.
This article is shortened to fit within Newspaper space limits. More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans