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“When someone you love is addicted to drugs, it can be extremely difficult to know what to do.”

— Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual

— Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

— Sudden weight loss or weight gain

— Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits

— Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing

— Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

— Having intense urges for the drug

— Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug

Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

How is drug addiction treated?

Successful treatment has several steps:

  • detoxification (the process by which the body rids itself of a drug)
  • behavioral counseling
  • medication (for opioid, tobacco, or alcohol addiction)
  • evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • long-term follow-up to prevent relapse

A range of care with a tailored treatment program and follow-up options can be crucial to success. Treatment should include both medical and mental health services as needed. Follow-up care may include community- or family-based recovery support systems.

Understanding Drug Addiction Treatment:

An unfortunate fact about the treatment of drug addiction is that it remains largely underutilized by most sufferers. Facts about the use of drug treatment include that less than 10% of people with a milder substance-use disorder and less than 40% of those with a more entrenched substance-use disorder seek professional help. Those statistics do not seem to be associated with socioeconomic or other demographic traits but do seem to be associated with the presence of other mental-health problems (co-morbidity).

The primary goals of drug-use disorder treatment (also called recovery) are abstinence, relapse prevention, and rehabilitation. During the initial stage of abstinence, an individual who suffers from chemical dependency may need help avoiding or decreasing the effects of withdrawal. That process is called detoxification or “detox.” That part of treatment is primarily performed in a hospital or other inpatient setting, where medications used to lessen withdrawal symptoms and close medical monitoring can be performed.

  • Persisting dementia
  • Persisting amnestic disorder
  • sexual dysfunction
  • sleep disorder
  • Psychotic disorder
  • Mood disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder

Useful Info on Drug Addiction

Recognizing drug abuse in family members

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish normal teenage moodiness or angst from signs of drug use. Possible indications that your teenager or other family member is using drugs include:

  • Problems at school or work — frequently missing school or work, a sudden disinterest in school activities or work, or a drop in grades or work performance
  • Physical health issues — lack of energy and motivation
  • Neglected appearance — lack of interest in clothing, grooming or looks
  • Changes in behavior — exaggerated efforts to bar family members from entering his or her room or being secretive about where he or she goes with friends; or drastic changes in behavior and in relationships with family and friends
  • Spending money — sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation; or your discovery that money is missing or has been stolen or that items have disappeared from your home, indicating maybe they’re being sold to support drug use

Recognizing signs of drug use or intoxication

Signs and symptoms of drug use or intoxication may vary, depending on the type of drug. Below you’ll find several examples.

Marijuana, hashish and other cannabis-containing substances

People use cannabis by smoking, eating, or inhaling a vaporized form of the drug. Cannabis often precedes or is used along with other substances, such as alcohol or other illegal drugs, and is often the first drug tried.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • A sense of euphoria or feeling “high”
  • A heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Paranoid thinking

Long-term (chronic) use is often associated with:

  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Poor performance at school or at work
  • Reduced number of friends and interests

Substance Induced Disorders

Substance-induced disorders are distinct from independent co-occurring mental disorders in that all or most of the psychiatric symptoms are the direct result of substance use. This is not to state that substance-induced disorders preclude co-occurring mental disorders, only that the specific symptom cluster at a specific point in time is more likely the result of substance use, abuse, intoxication, or withdrawal than of underlying mental illness. A client might even have both independent and substance-induced mental disorders. For example, a client may present with well-established independent and controlled bipolar disorder and alcohol dependence in remission, but the same client could be experiencing amphetamine-induced auditory hallucinations and paranoia from an amphetamine abuse relapse over the last 3 weeks.

Symptoms of substance-induced disorders run the gamut from mild anxiety and depression (these are the most common across all substances) to full-blown manic and other psychotic reactions (much less common). The “teeter-totter principle”—i.e., what goes up must come down—is useful to predict what kind of syndrome or symptoms might be caused by what substances. For example, acute withdrawal symptoms from physiological depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines are hyperactivity, elevated blood pressure, agitation, and anxiety (i.e., the shakes). On the other hand, those who “crash” from stimulants are tired, withdrawn, and depressed. Virtually any substance taken in very large quantities over a long enough period can lead to a psychotic state.

Because clients vary greatly in how they respond to both intoxication and withdrawal given the same exposure to the same substance, and also because different substances may be taken at the same time, prediction of any particular substance-related syndrome has its limits. What is most important is to continue to evaluate psychiatric symptoms and their relationship to abstinence or ongoing substance abuse over time. Most substance-induced symptoms begin to improve within hours or days after substance use has stopped. Notable exceptions to this are psychotic symptoms caused by heavy and long-term amphetamine abuse and the dementia (problems with memory, concentration, and problem solving) caused by using substances directly toxic to the brain, which most commonly include alcohol, inhalants like gasoline, and again amphetamines. Following is an overview of the most common classes of substances of abuse and the accompanying psychiatric symptoms seen in intoxication, withdrawal, or chronic use.

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