Over the Counter Drug Rehab
In March of 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began looking for ways to move yet more drugs from prescription-only to over-the-counter (OTC) status. The FDA reports that about 20 percent of people who have prescriptions for medications never fill those orders, and if more drugs were available over the counter, perhaps more people would get the help they need to overcome the medical problems they’re facing.
It’s an idea that likely makes addiction counselors a bit nervous. As these experts know, OTC medications are far from benign, and people who use them could develop serious addictions to the drugs they take.
Overcoming an OTC addiction isn’t easy, as temptation is as close as the pharmacy counter of the nearby drugstore, but counseling programs and continuing community support can help people to overcome their issues and move forward with their lives.
Addressing Physical Pain
OTC painkillers contain ingredients that can cause euphoria, when they’re taken in very high doses. These drugs are also quite effective in blocking pain, however, and many people develop addictions to these drugs when they’re looking for ways to keep their physical discomfort under control. Addictions and chronic pain often go hand in hand, as people look for solutions to the problems they face, and develop entirely new problems as a result. For example, a study in the journal Pain Medicine found that 29.1 percent of people who entered an addiction treatment program had chronic pain, but only 13 percent were receiving any kind of pain control treatment. Instead, these people turned to drugs in order to find relief.
Leaving a pain problem unchecked could lead to a relapse to drug use, as the person’s pain might be stronger than the person’s will to get sober. While rehab programs are unlikely to provide drugs to people in chronic pain, as they’re trying to help people stop using drugs, there are other methods that can be used in the treatment of pain, including:
Methods For Treating Pain
- Physical therapy
- Custom orthotics
- Tai chi
All of these methods don’t use any sort of medication at all, but they all can help people to feel relief from pain. If people enter rehab programs for OTC abuse, and they have chronic pain issues, these therapies could be extremely helpful.
Addressing Emotional Pain
People might also turn to drugs as they attempt to heal from emotional pain. They may have been abused by people they trusted, or they may have lost someone they loved deeply. Some even turn to drugs in order to help them forget about abuse they have endured at the hands of strangers, or those close to them. Traumatic experiences like this can seem easier to bear when the person is living in a haze of drug use, and some OTC drugs like cold medications seem to wrap people in a protective bubble that makes the pain seem to lessen. Rehab programs may utilize therapy techniques that allow people to determine why they are using drugs, and what past experiences they might need to overcome before they can move forward in a healthy way. The idea is not to dwell on the past, but to help the person focus on developing healthy habits for the future.
Underlying mental health conditions can sometimes be caused by genetic factors, as well as environmental conditions, and these issues can also lead to OTC drug abuse. For example, a study in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience found that high levels of OTC painkillers were associated with mental illnesses such as depression. Therapy techniques can be helpful as people learn to manage their mental illnesses without leaning on drugs. Therapists might help their clients to understand what the mental illness is, and what the symptoms of a mental illness relapse might look like. With this education, the person might be able to spot an impending problem long before the temptation to use drugs becomes overwhelming. Lessons like this could stay with the person for the rest of life, and help that person avoid a recurrence of an addiction issue.
Rehab programs may provide help and education that allows the person to process things that have happened in the past, but the programs also strive to help people build a better future. These lessons often take the form of cognitive behavioral therapy. These sessions are designed to help people build up the skills they’ll need to avoid a relapse in the coming months and years.
People who abuse OTC drugs may report that they don’t have consistent cravings to take drugs, but that the urge to do so seems to come out of nowhere and take them by surprise. One moment, the person doesn’t want drugs, and the next moment, the person is taking drugs. Cognitive behavioral therapy attempts to help people identify high-risk situations, thoughts or emotions that could lead to later drug use. Breaking down the cause and effect in this way could help people avoid a sneaking urge to use drugs that seems to appear on a random, almost haphazard basis.
Cognitive behavioral sessions might be provided privately, allowing the person to work with the therapist in an intensive, one-on-one manner. However, some programs allow addicted people to attain these lessons in groups. Here, everyone in the group learns from the therapist, and then puts those lessons to work in practice sessions. By working together, and practicing what they have learned, people might be able to make greater strides than they’d be able to make on their own.
Addiction treatment programs often last for just a few weeks, but the healing process might take much longer to complete. Aftercare might be especially important for people in recovery from an OTC drug addiction because, as mentioned, the drugs are remarkably easy to find almost everywhere. Rehab programs often stress to clients that care will be ongoing and never quite complete, but programs might back up this claim by asking clients to participate in support group meetings.
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Narcotics Anonymous and Pills Anonymous meetings use the 12-step approach made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, in which people are asked to admit that they have a problem, and that they will need to progress through a series of steps in order to keep that problem under control. Rehab programs might ask people to attend meetings while they are in treatment, and then programs might build upon these lessons by asking people to attend meetings in the community when their formal treatment programs have ended. Meetings are often free, and they’re held at varying times of day, so people can attend a meeting every time the temptation to use seems to strike. These meetings also allow people to meet other people in recovery, and people often form tight-knit communities of support in which all members work together to support sobriety over the long term.
Support groups might sound emotional and touchy-feely, but there are hard statistics that support participation in these meetings. For example, a study in the journal BMC Psychiatry found that 81 percent of those who had participated in support group meetings within the previous six months were still abstinent, compared to only 26 percent of those who did not attend meetings. Going to meetings really can be a key to success, for some people.
Addiction treatment programs might use novel approaches to help people understand their addictions. For example, some programs utilize art therapy. Here, people who are addicted to OTC drugs are asked to engage in some sort of art project while a therapist stays nearby and talks with the person who is working. The art project works as a sort of translator between the therapist and the addicted person, allowing the person to express hidden emotions and feelings without discussing them openly in a face-to-face confrontation that can seem threatening and overwhelming. By using art as a buffer, the session can seem much more relaxed, and perhaps the person will be encouraged to share even more information.
Some addiction programs utilize dance therapy. According to an article in the Health Service Journal, this therapy allows clients to get back in touch with their bodies and tap into their hidden strength. Addictions can dampen this mind/body connection, allowing people to feel cut off from their own feelings and the sensations of their own bodies. Dance therapy might allow them to pull back some of that sensation.
Approaches that might be used as part of an OTC rehab program:
- Pet therapy
- Poetry or prose writing
- Journal writing
The ultimate goal is to provide people with a new communication method, but these approaches can also serve an additional purpose. Addictions can be time-consuming, and people who are addicted to OTC drugs may be accustomed to spending almost all day, every day, either buying or taking drugs. These therapy approaches can provide clients with new activities they can perform to fill their time, and make life seem more full and worth living, even without OTC drug abuse.
Why Help Is Important
Addiction rehab programs can provide remarkable help, yet the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that about 1 percent of people who had an addiction in 2010 got help for that addiction issue. It’s hard to know why some people don’t get the help they need in order to leave an addiction behind, but it’s possible that people feel that their addictions are private matters that are simply too embarrassing to discuss. The idea of discussing the addiction, or admitting that an addiction discussion should take place, might just be too embarrassing for these addicted people to consider. It’s tragic, as addictions really do respond to appropriate help from licensed professionals.
Families can help by holding informal conversations with the ones they love. Family members likely know that the addiction is an issue, and they may even know of concrete examples in which the person’s addiction had an impact on the rest of the family. By discussing these issues, openly and honestly, families may be able to break through the denial that’s so common with addiction, and they may be able to encourage the person to enroll in a treatment program that can provide help.
At The Orchid, we’re happy to work with families planning to address an OTC drug addiction issue. We can work with you to fill out enrollment paperwork, so the woman you love can enter our treatment program right away, as soon as she agrees to do so. We’re also happy to discuss our treatment programs in detail, answering any questions you may have about how treatment works and how much it might cost. Please call us today to find out more.