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Illegal Drug Addiction Treatment

Illegal Drug Addiction Treatment

Illegal drug addiction in Rhode Island continues to be an increasing public health concern. The number of drug overdose deaths recorded in the state, has doubled in the years from 2009 to 2014. This is partially due to users who make the transition from abusing prescription medications, over to cheaper street drugs such as heroin.

In an effort to reduce the overdose death rate as a result of illegal drug addiction in Rhode Island, the Department of Health has begun publishing data regularly to highlight the severity of the problem.

What is Illegal Drug Abuse?

Taking any street drug for recreational purposes or for the purpose of getting high or stoned, is considered drug abuse.

Statistics for Illegal Drug Abuse and Addiction in Rhode Island

The Chief medical examiner for Rhode Island released figures that showed a total of 232 overdose deaths in 2014. Of those, 208 people died as a result of overdosing on opiate-related drugs.

Of that number, almost 40% were the result of overdosing on fentanyl-laced heroin (1). Dealers within the state were combining heroin with fentanyl, which is significantly more potent than morphine.

The State of Rhode Island Department of Health released figures showing a sharp increase in the number of drug-related overdose deaths in the four years leading up to January 2015 (2). Emergency medical technicians have administered more than 100 doses of Naloxone every month throughout 2014 to prevent fatal opiate overdose.

In the first six days of January 2015 alone, there were 140 drug-related deaths recorded in Rhode Island, compared to 117 for the same six day period in 2014 (3).

Commonly Abused Illegal Drugs

Cocaine:  Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug most commonly used for recreational purposes. The powdered form of cocaine is commonly snorted through the nose. Cocaine can be processed further with other substances to create a crystalline form that can be smoked. The crystalline version of cocaine is commonly known on the streets as crack cocaine.

Using cocaine triggers the brain to release a surge of dopamine into the system that causes the user to feel a rush of euphoria, followed by a false sense of temporary confidence and improved energy.

Cocaine alters the brain’s chemistry substantially, leaving the user feeling a deep sense of dysphoria and an inability to feel any pleasure when the drug’s effects wear off.

Heroin:  Heroin is an opioid drug synthesized from the morphine molecule. Users experience a rush of euphoria after taking the drug, followed by an intense feeling of calmness.

Heroin binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, causing a flood of dopamine and serotonin to surge through the system. The artificial stimulation of the brain’s reward pathways causes significant changes to the brain chemistry.

Over time, the brain is fooled into thinking it is unable to produce dopamine naturally, unless it has the artificial stimulation of more heroin. The person is considered heroin dependent at this point.

Crystal Meth: Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a powerfully addictive psychoactive stimulant drug. Use of the drug causes a general sense of well-being, along with increased alertness and activity. This is caused by the drug triggering a surge of dopamine into the system. Following the initial rush, users often experience a state of high agitation, accompanied by increased body temperature. In some people this state can lead to aggressive or violent behavior.

Tolerance to crystal meth develops extremely quickly. The enjoyable effects of the drug can wear off even before the drug’s concentration within the blood has dropped, leading many users to try and preserve the high. This leads to a binge-crash pattern of abuse that can last for days.

Treatment Options

Cocaine Treatment: Treating cocaine addiction begins with the detox process. At this time there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine addiction, therefore the detox process begins by simply stopping usage.

While there are no obvious physical withdrawal symptoms of detoxing from cocaine, there are some severe psychological symptoms that need to be professionally treated. Symptoms include fatigue, restlessness, anxiety, agitation, irritability, insomnia, vivid unpleasant dreams and nightmares, profound depression, and suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

It is important that the detox process is conducted under medical supervision to ensure the person’s safety. Medical staff can also administer prescription medication to reduce the severity of some symptoms.  As the depression caused by cocaine abuse can last for several months after the last usage, the person may require antidepressant medications to treat symptoms.

Intensive counseling, group support therapy, and behavioral therapy are used in cocaine treatment to address the psychological triggers and to correct dysfunctional attitudes behind addictive drug use.

Heroin Treatment: Treating heroin addiction starts with a medially-assisted detoxification using replacement medications, such as methadone or Suboxone. Under controlled medical supervision, the dosage of treatment medication is tapered down slowly over a period of time until the person is free from both drugs.

Without assistance from treatment medications, a heroin addict will experience excruciatingly painful withdrawal symptoms. These can include nausea, vomiting, extreme abdominal cramps, diarrhea, muscle and bone aches, fever, runny nose, and flu-like symptoms. Psychological symptoms include anxiety, irritation, agitation, and deep depression.

Individual counseling, therapeutic group support sessions, and cognitive behavioral therapy are used to correct self-destructive attitudes and behaviors behind addictive drug use. Those dysfunctional attitudes are replaced with healthy habits and positive coping skills for living life without the need for drugs.

Crystal Meth Treatment: Treating an addiction to crystal meth is extremely challenging, due to the complex psychological dependency that the drug causes.

The most effective treatments for crystal meth addiction, are cognitive behavioral interventions.

Detox begins within a few hours of the last usage and can produce severe withdrawal symptoms in heavy users. These include anxiety, confusion, insomnia, aggression, paranoid delusions, hallucinations, violent behavior, and psychosis.

Withdrawal also causes profound depression to the point that many people will relapse back to addictive drug use in order to make the terrible feelings stop. The paranoia is often intense enough to result in homicidal, as well as suicidal, thoughts in some people.

It is strongly advised that detoxing from crystal meth is conducted under medical supervision in a safe environment for the person’s safety. Behavioral therapy is initiated as part of rehab treatments, to correct dysfunctional attitudes behind addictive drug use.

Breaking the cycle of addiction takes more than just willpower to stop using. Rather, treating addiction requires professional treatment from addiction specialists in a licensed rehab facility. Each person is assessed for the type of drug being used, the severity of the addiction, and any other mental illnesses that may need to be treated. Specialists can then tailor the right combination of treatments and therapies to suit each person’s individual needs.

It is possible to overcome the grip of addiction to illegal drugs. The first step to recovery is to reach out to qualified rehabilitation centers in Rhode Island to learn more about the available treatment options.