Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Can I go cold turkey to stop abusing opioids?
While going "cold turkey," or suddenly stopping the use of opioids, might seem like a fast way to begin recovery, it's generally not recommended due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms and potential health risks.
Opioid withdrawal can be intensely uncomfortable and, in some cases, hazardous. Symptoms can include severe cravings, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements. In severe cases, withdrawal can lead to serious dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.
Furthermore, abruptly stopping opioid use can significantly increase the risk of relapse. The discomfort of withdrawal symptoms may make it more difficult to stay abstinent, and an individual may be tempted to use again just to relieve these symptoms. If a person relapses and takes the same dose they were previously accustomed to, the risk of overdose is high because the body's tolerance to the substance has decreased.
For these reasons, opioid withdrawal should ideally be managed under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which includes medications like methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), and naltrexone, can be used to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These medications work by acting on the same brain receptors targeted by opioids, but they do so in a safer manner that helps to manage withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.
In addition to MAT, counseling and behavioral therapies are typically part of a comprehensive treatment program for opioid use disorder. These approaches can help individuals develop the skills and strategies needed to maintain recovery in the long term.
How can a homeless person get help for substance abuse?
For homeless individuals struggling with substance abuse, accessing help can be particularly challenging due to factors such as limited resources, absence of stable housing, and potential co-occurring mental health disorders. However, there are a number of avenues that a homeless person can explore to get help:
Government Programs: Many cities have government-funded programs that provide services for homeless individuals, including substance abuse treatment. These may include detoxification, outpatient counseling, residential treatment, and medication-assisted treatment. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are two significant sources of such assistance.
Community Health Clinics: Community health clinics often offer a range of services, including substance abuse treatment, on a sliding scale based on income. These clinics also frequently provide referrals to other necessary services.
Nonprofit Organizations: Many nonprofit organizations offer resources and support for homeless individuals struggling with substance abuse. These may include recovery support groups, transitional housing, job training programs, and other services.
Outreach Programs: Outreach programs are designed to connect with individuals who may not seek help on their own. Outreach workers may go to places where homeless individuals congregate to provide resources and assistance.
Housing First Programs: These programs, which prioritize providing individuals with stable housing without requiring sobriety or participation in treatment first, have been shown to be effective in helping people maintain recovery and improve their quality of life.
Emergency Departments and Hospitals: In a crisis, emergency medical personnel can provide immediate assistance and connect individuals with longer-term substance abuse treatment resources.
Veterans Services: If the individual is a veteran, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many services, including substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and housing assistance.
If my mom and dad were substance abusers am I destined for the same?
While a family history of substance abuse can increase your risk of developing a similar issue due to both genetic and environmental factors, it does not mean you are destined to become a substance abuser. Genetics can make up about 40-60% of the risk for addiction, but the remaining percentage is influenced by environmental and personal factors.
Environmental influences can include your upbringing, your parents' behaviors, your exposure to drugs or alcohol, your social circle, and your experiences with stress and trauma. Personal factors involve your individual personality traits, your mental health, and your coping mechanisms. All these can significantly contribute to whether or not you develop a substance use disorder.
Importantly, risk is not destiny. Just because you are at a higher risk doesn't mean you will inevitably develop a substance abuse problem. Prevention strategies can be highly effective. These might include:
Education: Understanding the risks and consequences of substance abuse can deter initiation of drug use.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Developing healthy ways to cope with stress, such as through exercise, meditation, hobbies, or therapy, can reduce the need to turn to substances for relief.
Strong Support Networks: Having supportive and understanding friends, family, or mentors can provide a safety net when facing potential pitfalls.
Mental Health Care: Ensuring good mental health through therapy or counseling can reduce the risk, as mental health disorders can increase the likelihood of substance abuse.
Delaying Substance Use: The later in life a person first uses drugs, the less likely they are to develop a problem.
Remember, even if substance abuse does become an issue, it is not a life sentence. Effective treatments are available that can help individuals overcome addiction and lead healthy, productive lives. If you're worried about your risk, it might be helpful to discuss your concerns with a healthcare provider, a counselor, or a trusted person in your life.