Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Can alcohol withdrawal be fatal?
Yes, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal in severe cases, which is why it should always be managed under the supervision of healthcare professionals. This is especially true for individuals who have been drinking heavily for a long period of time or who have a history of severe withdrawal symptoms.
The most serious form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens (DTs), which occurs in approximately 5% of patients undergoing withdrawal. It typically starts 48 to 72 hours after the last drink, and symptoms can include severe confusion, hallucinations, high blood pressure, fever, heavy sweating, and rapid heartbeat. In addition to these, seizures can occur, which add to the risk.
Delirium tremens is a medical emergency and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Mortality rates without treatment are estimated to be as high as 35%, but with appropriate treatment, this rate drops to 5-15%.
Even less severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous because they can lead to dehydration, severe vomiting, or other complications. Furthermore, withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult for an individual to maintain abstinence from alcohol, increasing the risk of a potentially dangerous relapse.
Will insurance companies pay for substance abuse treatment?
Yes, many insurance companies do provide coverage for substance abuse treatment, but the extent and specifics of the coverage can vary widely depending on the individual insurance policy and the provider.
This coverage is largely due to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 in the United States, which requires health insurers and group health plans to provide the same level of benefits for mental and/or substance use treatment and services that they do for medical/surgical care.
Here's a closer look at some key aspects:
Types of Treatment Covered: Many insurance policies cover a range of substance abuse treatments, including detoxification, inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, medication-assisted treatment, and ongoing counseling or therapy. However, the specific treatments covered will depend on your particular insurance policy.
Co-Pays and Deductibles: Even if an insurance policy covers substance abuse treatment, you may still be responsible for co-pays, deductibles, or coinsurance. These costs can vary depending on the specifics of your insurance plan.
Network Restrictions: Some insurance plans may only cover treatment provided by certain providers or facilities within their network. It's important to check with your insurance company to determine which providers are covered under your plan.
Preauthorization: Some insurance plans require preauthorization for certain types of substance abuse treatment. This means that the treatment must be approved by the insurance company before they will cover the cost.
Duration of Coverage: The duration of coverage for substance abuse treatment can vary. Some insurance plans may only cover a certain number of days of inpatient treatment or a certain number of therapy sessions, for example.
Affordable Care Act (ACA): Under the ACA, all health insurance plans sold on Health Insurance Exchanges must cover substance use disorder services.
What are the effects of drug addiction on the brain?
Drug addiction significantly impacts the brain's structure and function. Here are the key effects:
- Alteration of Neurotransmitters: Drugs can excessively stimulate the brain's reward system by flooding it with dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This abnormal stimulation produces euphoria and motivates repeated drug use.
- Brain Reward System Disruption: Over time, continued use of drugs leads to changes in other brain circuits and systems. The overstimulation of the reward circuit causes the intensely pleasurable 'high' that leads people to take a drug again and again.
- Cognitive Functioning and Decision Making: Extended drug use can alter the brain's prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for decision-making, impulse control, judgment, and problem-solving, leading to poor decision-making and impulsivity.
- Memory and Learning: The hippocampus, vital for learning and memory, can also be affected, making it harder to learn and remember information.
- Stress Regulation: Chronic drug use can affect the brain's amygdala, leading to increased stress levels and difficulty in managing anxiety and stress, which can potentially contribute to the cycle of addiction.
- Physical Dependence and Withdrawal: Over time, the brain adapts to the drug, diminishing its sensitivity and making it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. When the drug is withdrawn, it leads to discomfort and withdrawal symptoms, as the brain readjusts to the absence of the drug.
- Neurotoxicity: Some drugs can cause neurons to die due to overactivation or neurotoxicity, causing lasting damage to brain regions.