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Prescription Drug Detox

By Ken Bachrach, Ph.D., Clinical Director

The misuse of prescription medications has increased dramatically in recent years.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2006 there were 2.2 million persons aged 12 or older who initiated the use of pain relievers for nonmedical purposes in the past year, which is slightly more than new users of marijuana.  The same survey revealed that more than half a million adolescents aged 12-17 used stimulants non-medically in the past year.  These findings point out that with such an increase in use of prescription medications, more and more individuals will become addicted to them and need treatment, including detoxification.

There are three primary classes of these drugs of abuse. The first is opiates, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin, that are used to relieve pain.  The second is Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants that are used to relieve anxiety and assist with sleep.  They are also referred to as major and minor tranquilizers or sedative-hypnotic drugs, with the primary categories being barbiturates and benzodiazepines.  Barbiturates, such as Seconal, are rarely used these days; rather benzodiazepines, such as Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin are usually prescribed.  The third class is stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall, which are usually prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).   

The determination as to whether a person needs detoxification should be made by a medical professional.  Most people will know when they are addicted, because they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using these medications.  It is very important that detoxification be done under medical supervision, since many people incorrectly assume they should simply stop taking the medication.  Stopping suddenly can result in severe withdrawal symptoms.  Withdrawal symptoms for opiates include a variety of flu-like symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems and body aches.  For CNS depressants, a major medical concern is seizures when one is stopping their use.  For stimulants, there are fewer medical concerns, although the psychological withdrawal effects may be pronounced.

Detoxification is achieved by substituting the drug of abuse with a similar medication and slowly tapering the amount of medication over a few days.  For opiates, methadone and buprenorphine are most commonly used, although Clonodine, a blood pressure medication, may also be used.  For CNS depressants (i.e., sedative-hypnotic drugs), the barbiturate phenobarbital is frequently used.  At Tarzana Treatment Centers, we have over 35 years of experience detoxing individuals off these medications in a safe and comfortable setting.  

Medical detoxification is only the first step of the treatment continuum.  Once a person has stopped using a prescription drug, they must learn how to live their life without it.  How difficult this will be varies from person to person.  Many will need at least outpatient treatment to learn effective ways to cope with the symptoms that either caused them to start using the medication or to address the ongoing cravings to go back and misuse these medications.  Tarzana Treatment Centers specializes in meeting the needs of each person.  During drug detox treatment, staff will determine the most appropriate next level of care.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides prescription drug detox as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one needs help with prescription drug abuse, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.



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