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Advice About Drug Dependency

Updated on September 2, 2013
Image: Carlos Porto /
Image: Carlos Porto /

Overcoming a drug dependency

How does dependency occur?

Many people will find themselves dependent on a drug, or a substance such as alcohol, at some point in their lives. Often, this happens through no fault of their own and can occur from something as simple as taking painkillers to treat the symptoms of an injury. Sometimes people drink alcohol or take drugs such as tranquillizers to help them forget about problems in their personal lives. Both of these situations can lead to dependency if you are taking the substance over a period of time. If you find that you have become dependent on a drug or substance, you should not feel ashamed or be afraid to ask for help. It has happened to many people before you and will happen to many more in the future. Thankfully, as you will see later on in the article, many different options are available to help you.

Warning signs of a dependency

People may not realize that they have developed dependencies until they try to stop taking their medications and experience unpleasant symptoms. These are called withdrawal symptoms and tend to differ depending on the substance that an individual has recently stopped taking. Examples of withdrawal symptoms include shaking, sweating, anxiety, muscle cramps, stomach upset and nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms when you stop taking your medication, you should talk to a physician in the first instance. Another warning sign of dependency is where you need to increase the dose you have been taking to achieve the same effect. You may also find yourself craving the drug you have been taking and be preoccupied with thinking about your next dose.

I think I have developed a drug dependency. What should I do now?

If you are worried that you or your loved one may have developed a dependency on a drug, there are several different avenues of support open to you. The first option is to voice your concerns to a physician. If your physician feels that you have become dependent on a drug, he or she will discuss your withdrawal options with you. The physician may create a withdrawal plan where your dose of the medication is gradually tapered. This method can be a good way of withdrawing without experiencing unpleasant symptoms. Physicians may also prescribe a substitute drug and taper the dose of that, depending on what you have been taking.

Another option open to you is a detoxification program. These are run by hospitals and dedicated clinics supervised by doctors and psychiatrists and can be on an outpatient or inpatient basis. You can look for programs local to you by using the Internet, phone books or advice helplines. The staff at the clinic or hospital will talk to you at length about the circumstances of your dependency and try to find a solution that would best suit you. As it is intended that programs are personalized to your needs, it is important you are completely honest when answering questions.

There are benefits and disadvantages to both inpatient and outpatient detoxification programs. Outpatient programs allow you to go about your daily life, including attending work and social commitments. Although this can be of great benefit, it also means that your program can take longer because you are not under strict supervision and may succumb to temptation. Inpatient programs are usually shorter as the treatment is intensive, and it is very difficult to gain access to the substance you depend on. Most inpatient programs use a range of techniques to help you, from individual counseling sessions and 12-step programs, to alternative therapies such as acupuncture and reflexology. You will share your experience with people undergoing similar programs, and it can be helpful to compare stories and support each other. It is also good to know that you are not the only one it has happened to.

Can I afford to overcome my dependency?

Withdrawal programs may seem out of your price range, but many centers offer flexible financial programs to help you afford treatment. These can include low payments over a longer period of time. If you have health insurance, it is also worth talking to your provider, as some withdrawal treatments, such as your stay in a detox center, may be included in your plan. If your stay will be funded by your insurer, you need to check if any treatments you may receive when inside will be covered.

Detoxification programs may be expensive, but think of the money you will save on funding your habit and in avoiding future health care costs that may result from side effects of your dependency. The feeling of getting your life back on track can be priceless.


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