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Drug Dependence & Abuse (cont.)

Self-Care at Home for Drug Dependence

If a drug has been ingested inappropriately, contact a local chapter of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Visiting an emergency department is usually appropriate to obtain proper treatment.

  • Home care is not appropriate if the drug of abuse cannot be identified. People who have ingested unknown drugs should be taken to the emergency department immediately.
  • People with severe symptoms should not be treated at home. They should be taken directly to the emergency department.

Treatment for Drug Dependence & Abuse

Patient Comments

The key to treatment, also called recovery, is stopping the abuse of the drugs or substances.

  • Agitated or violent people need physical restraint and may need sedating medications in the emergency department until the effects of the drugs wear off. This can be disturbing for the person to experience and for family members to witness. Medical professionals go to great lengths to use as little force and as few medications as possible. It is important to remember that whatever the medical staff does, it is to protect the person.
  • Very few antidotes are available for drug intoxications. In most cases, the only way to eliminate a drug is for the body to metabolize it -- in other words, let it run its course. In some acute intoxications, the doctor may administer certain agents to help prevent absorption in the stomach or to help speed metabolism of the drug.
  • The dose of some agents (for example, benzodiazepines and barbiturates) must be reduced slowly to prevent withdrawal. Withdrawal from some drugs can cause significant problems, and stopping these drugs should only be done under the supervision of an appropriate health care professional. Withdrawal from other agents, such as narcotics, can be very uncomfortable but generally not harmful, and unpleasant effects can be lessened with prescription medications. These prescriptions must be combined with a specific plan for stopping drug abuse. The use of the prescription medication combined with continued drug abuse may cause life-threatening complications.
  • People who are acutely intoxicated may need inpatient treatment, hospitalization, for detoxification. Some cities have detoxification (detox) centers for those sobering from drug and alcohol intoxication.
  • Counseling programs may be suggested. Programs similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, such as those listed through the Web of Addictions, are helpful for some people.
Last Reviewed 11/17/2017

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