The Role of Medication in Treating a Dual Diagnosis

Drug addiction comes in many forms, including addiction to alcohol – a central nervous system depressant. Some teens may develop an addiction to stimulants, such as methamphetamine or cocaine. Others may become addicted to “hard” opioid drugs, like heroin, while others abuse opioid prescription drugs, such as Vicodin or Lortab. Benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Xanax, are also prescription drugs that have a high potential for abuse. If your child suffers from a dual diagnosis disorder and has been abusing prescription medication, it may be of concern as to whether he can receive effective treatment in the form of medications.

An individual who suffers from anxiety, for instance, may – under normal circumstances – receive a prescription for Xanax. What about the case of a young man who has abused, or even become addicted to, Xanax and also suffers from anxiety? Is he suddenly left out in the cold when it comes to a seemingly reasonable treatment option? Information provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information indicates that treatment with the use of prescription medication is still available for individuals suffering from addiction, however, care should be taken to develop safe habits, and treatment facilities should monitor the use of the drugs carefully. If your son is abusing the very drugs that should be used to treat his condition, with the aid of careful observation and control, he may be able to learn to use these beneficial medications appropriately. It is also possible that another drug, with less potential for abuse, can be substituted for the more dangerous one.

Drugs Used to Fight Drug Abuse in Dual Diagnoses Patients

Detoxification is the process through which each person who suffers from addiction must travel. Depending upon the drugs that have been abused, detox can be a simple matter of letting one’s body metabolize the drugs already consumed without significant mental or physical problems. Other drugs, such a heroin and other opiates, can have more severe, although not life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Insomnia
  • Cramping
  • Anxiety

In the case of opioid withdrawal during detox, medications such as methadone can be helpful to alleviate not only the symptoms, but to increase the chances that your son will successfully complete the detoxification process without continuing to abuse drugs simply to “get well.”

While most instances of withdrawal and detox will not put your child’s life in danger, there is a class of drugs for which medically assisted detoxification is highly encouraged. According to an article in Psychology Today, withdrawal from significant doses of benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, can be fatal in some circumstances. Rather than insisting that your child stop taking the drugs immediately, seek immediate medical care and discuss the issue with your doctor. You can also contact us here at Muir Wood for more information on detoxing from alcohol or drugs and information regarding long-term treatment for addiction to benzodiazepines.

Non-Medical Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

A concept that runs strongly throughout the treatment process for addiction is learning how to handle one’s life in a healthy and effective manner. In certain cases, medications may be necessary; however, it is possible to manage anxiety and stress in such a way that medication may be reduced or eliminated. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one such technique, as are alternative and complementary treatments available, such as equine-assisted therapy or Muir Wood’s Adventure Therapy Program. This program is designed to help your teenaged son reduce emotional issues, increase levels of confidence and responsibility, and build his self-concept. Call us today for more information.

Return to Co-Occurring Disorders…