Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health disorders have been increasing at an alarming rate. But since social distance and quarantining measures were put in place, the circumstance has caused tremendous challenges for individuals, families, and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults with depressive or anxiety disorder symptoms increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from August 2020 to February 2021. Whereas unmet healthcare needs significantly increased from 9.2% to 11.7% around the same period. 

A mental health disorder, also known as a psychiatric disorder, affects a person’s thinking, behavior, mood, and emotion. It causes significant distress and impacts the ability to relate to others and cope with work, relationships, and other demands of daily life. Mental disorders are generally treatable with medication and counseling, and the vast majority of people continue to function normally in their lives with treatment. 

What Causes Mental Disorders?

A variety of factors causes mental illness. And research has revealed that any number of factors can play a role in developing mental illness. Some of such risk factors include:

  • Biological factors such as chemical imbalances or defects in the brain.
  • Environmental factors such as dysfunctional family life or a lack of social life.
  • Genes or a family history of mental illness.
  • Childhood abuse or neglect.
  • Stressful life situations, such as the loss of a loved one or financial issues.
  • A traumatic brain injury due to a violent blow to the head.
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs.
  • A previous mental illness. 
  • Exposure to environmental stressors, toxins, or alcohol, or drugs while in the womb.

It’s important to note that mental disorders are not a result of character flaws, nor do they have anything to do with being weak or lazy. It is vital to break the stigma connected with mental health disorders to treat them appropriately.

Mental Health Disorders and Genetics 

Although there has long been evidence to suggest this link, recent studies have found that mental illnesses tend to run in families, making some individuals more vulnerable than others. This susceptibility is passed on through genes and is most common with conditions such as:

  • Autism 
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD) 
  • Schizophrenia 

However, experts also believe that mental illnesses are associated with abnormalities in many genes rather than one. And a few are caused by the interaction of genetic factors with other factors, such as stress, abuse, or traumatic events. Hence, the reasoning why some people who inherit susceptibility don’t necessarily develop the illness. 

Common Mental Health Conditions 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. And almost 300 different mental disorders are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The most common ones include:

  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

Mental diseases encompass a wide range of conditions with varying degrees of severity, ranging from mild to severe. Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI) are two broad categories used to define these illnesses (SMI). All recognized mental diseases are included in AMI. And SMI is a subtype of AMI that is smaller and more severe.

What Is Depression? 

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common mood disorder affecting thousands of people in the U.S. and worldwide. Depression is one of the main causes of disability that negatively affects how a person thinks, feels, acts, and handles daily tasks. Depression is characterized by extreme bouts of sadness and hopelessness that last for two weeks or longer. Depression can be chronic or recurrent and can affect both adolescents and adults alike. If left untreated, depression can lead to various emotional and physical concerns, including suicide or suicidal ideations.

Types of depression include:

  • Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) – Also known as dysthymia, PDD is a form of chronic depression where symptoms can linger for a long period, often two years or longer. 
  • Postpartum depression – This form of depression occurs during or after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is much more serious than “baby blues” and may make it difficult for mothers to tend to themselves or their babies.  
  • Psychotic depression – This form of depression occurs when an individual has severe depression with some form of psychosis, such as hallucinations, delusions, or other breaks with reality. 
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – This form of depression is related to seasonal changes. It appears at the same time each year, usually during winter when there is less natural sunlight, and improves with the change of the season.  

Signs and Symptoms of Depression 

Signs and symptoms of depression can vary from one person to another, depending on the type of depression and its stage. However, they generally include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability or angry outbursts over trivial matters
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyed
  • Finding it difficult to sleep or oversleeping 
  • Decreased energy or fatigue 
  • Moving or talking slowly 
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still 
  • Difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions 
  • Changes to weight or appetite
  • Aches or pains, cramps, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause 
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts 

Not everyone with depression experiences all of the above symptoms. Some people experience only a few, while others may experience many. Regardless, if any symptoms last for more than two weeks, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. 

Treatment for Depression 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapies, or a combination of both. Medications may involve antidepressants such as fluoxetine, citalopram, or sertraline to help improve the way certain brain chemicals control mood or stress. Treatment providers usually try several different antidepressants on a person before finding the right one for their condition. Certain times, a medication that has helped the person or a close family member in the past will also be considered. 

Psychotherapies, either with medications or as a single component, can also be used to control troubling symptoms of depression and improve overall physical and emotional well-being. Examples of evidence-based treatment approaches for depression include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy. 

If medications and psychotherapies do not reduce symptoms of depression, treatment providers may also explore electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies. ECT is understood to provide relief for people with severe depression who do not respond to other treatments. ECT can also be employed as a first-line intervention when a quick response is required, or no other medications are safe to use.

Mental Health Disorders and Treatment - Turning Point

What Is Bipolar Disorder? 

Formerly known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by severe mood swings and unusual changes in energy, concentration, and the ability to function. It typically consists of episodes of mania (overly happy, energized, or irritated mood) and depression, separated by periods of normal mood. However, manic attacks without depressive episodes are also classified as a bipolar affective disorder. Bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed during late adolescence or early adulthood, but it may occasionally appear in children. 

There are three types of bipolar disorder: 

  • Bipolar I disorder – This condition is characterized by manic episodes that last for at least seven days or episodes that require immediate hospital care. Although depressive episodes are not criteria for diagnosing bipolar I, they can occur and last for at least two weeks in people with this condition.
  • Bipolar II disorder – Both depressive and manic episodes characterize this condition. However, the manic episodes associated with this condition are not as severe as bipolar I disorder (hypomania).
  • Cyclothymic disorder (also known as Cyclothymia) – This condition is defined by periods of both hypomanic and depressive symptoms that linger for at least two years in adults and one year in children and adolescents. However, the manic and depressive symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criteria for a hypomanic or depressive episode. 

Symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not relate to any of the above three categories are referred to as “other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders.” A bipolar affective disorder is a serious mental health condition that can wreak havoc in a person’s life or even lead to suicide if not addressed promptly. 

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The pattern, frequency, and severity of bipolar disorder symptoms can vary from one person to another based on factors such as the category and its stage. However, during a depressive episode, most people experience symptoms common to major depression, including sadness, emptiness, and worthlessness. Whereas during a manic episode, most people experience symptoms such as:

  • Increased activity, energy, or agitation
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Racing thoughts 
  • Irritability or aggressiveness 
  • Impaired judgment and impulsiveness 
  • Unusual talkativeness 
  • An exaggerated sense of well-being and confidence 
  • Reckless behaviors 

Although the symptoms of bipolar disorder may vary over time, lifelong treatment is crucial to manage the disorder and improve quality of life. 

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder 

Similar to depression, an effective treatment approach for bipolar disorder includes a combination of medications and psychotherapies. Medical professionals usually prescribe mood stabilizers and second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics that target anxiety to improve bipolar disorder. However, antidepressants are also often used to manage this behavioral health disorder, in combination with a mood stabilizer to prevent manic symptoms. Most patients may have to try several different medications and work with their treatment provider before they find the right medication for them. 

In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychoeducation, psychotherapies for bipolar disorder may also include advanced therapies, such as interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) and family-focused therapy, developed specifically for treating bipolar disorder. Treatment may also include brain stimulation techniques such as electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) if medications and psychotherapies do not show the desired results. 

What Are Anxiety Disorders? 

Anxiety disorders are a common mental health condition that affects nearly 30% of people at some point in their lives. They differ from the normal feelings of nervousness and anxiety and are characterized by excessive anxiety or fear that worsens over time. These disorders tend to alter how a person processes emotions and significantly interfere with many aspects of life, including work and school. Anxiety disorders can start during childhood or adolescence and progress into adulthood. 

Examples of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – This condition is characterized by persistent and excessive anxiety, worry, or apprehension regarding various things, including personal health, work, and everyday life experiences. Individuals with this condition can experience anxiety for at least six months. 
  • Panic disorder – This condition is associated with sudden episodes of anxiety and fear that appear quickly and peak within minutes (panic attacks). These attacks may repeatedly strike without warning or be brought on by triggers.
  • Phobia-related disorders – A phobia is an extreme fear or aversion to an object or situation that is considered out of proportion. Phobias can be deeply personal and dominate and hinder the day-to-day living of most people. Common phobia-related disorders include specific phobia, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), agoraphobia, and separation anxiety disorder. 

Signs and Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Restlessness 
  • Irritability 
  • Fatigue 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Difficulty falling asleep 

Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder  

Panic attacks generally last for 10-20 minutes. But they can also last for more than an hour in extreme cases. Symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Heart palpitations, or a fast heart rate
  • Sweating 
  • Trembling or shaking 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness 
  • Feelings of impending doom 

Signs and Symptoms of Phobia-Related Disorders 

Although the symptoms of phobia-related disorders can vary from one disorder to another, some common symptoms include:

  • Irrational or excessive dread of coming across the feared object or situation. 
  • Inability to function as normal when exposed to the feared object or situation.
  • Taking active steps to avoid the feared object or situation. 
  • Experiencing immediate anxiety upon encountering the feared object or situation. 

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders 

There are many approaches to treating anxiety disorders, and patients are encouraged to work with their doctor to determine the most suitable approach for them. Usually, anxiety disorders are treated with anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Although these medications do not cure anxiety disorders, they can help reduce their symptoms. These medications are generally prescribed through a psychiatrist or primary care provider. 

In addition to medications, patients are also encouraged to participate in psychotherapies tailored to their anxiety disorder. Evidence-based behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you develop new, healthier ways of thinking, acting, and responding to anxiety triggers. CBT can also aid in acquiring and using social skills, which are critical in treating social anxiety disorder.

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are behavioral health disorders characterized by severe and persistent disturbances in eating behaviors and related thought processes and emotions. They are associated with the constant preoccupation with food, body image, and weight. Eating disorders can have a detrimental impact on a person and cause various health complications or even death if left untreated. They are also considered to have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. These disorders typically occur during adolescence or early adulthood and affect people across all demographics, especially women. 

Some of the common eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia nervosa – Patients with this condition tend to consider themselves overweight, even when severely underweight. Patients with anorexia tend to constantly weigh themselves, severely restrict food intake, exercise excessively, and even force themselves to vomit or use laxatives to reduce weight. 
  • Bulimia Nervosa – Patients with this condition frequently consume large amounts of food until they become ill. These binge-eating episodes are followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives and diuretics, fasting, or a combination of these to compensate for the overeating. 
  • Binge-eating disorder – Patients with this condition have frequent binge-eating episodes, but unlike bulimia nervosa, these episodes are not followed by forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with a binge-eating disorder tend to be overweight or obese.  

Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa  

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), individuals with anorexia nervosa tend to be extremely thin (emaciated), with a body mass index under 18.5. Other symptoms of this eating disorder include:

  • Extremely restricted eating 
  • Unwillingness to gain or maintain a normal or healthy body weight 
  • Intense fear of gaining weight 
  • Denial of low body weight 

In addition to the above, people with anorexia nervosa may also develop certain other symptoms over time, including:

  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
  • Muscle wasting or weakness 
  • Brittle hair and nails 
  • Dry and yellowish skin 
  • Severe constipation 
  • Brain damage 
  • Multiorgan failure 
  • Infertility 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Feeling sluggish or tired most of the time 

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa 

Individuals struggling with bulimia nervosa may be slightly underweight, overweight, or even normal weight. 

The symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Chronically inflamed, and sore throat 
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems 
  • Severe dehydration 
  • Swollen salivary glands in the jaw and neck area
  • Increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth, due to exposure to stomach acid 
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too high or too low levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals), potentially leading to stroke or heart attack 

Signs and Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder 

Patients struggling with binge-eating disorders tend to display many of the following symptoms weekly for at least three months:

  • Continuing to eat despite being full 
  • Eating fast during the binge-eating episodes 
  • Eating alone or in secret to avoid being called out
  • Feeling ashamed, guilty, or distressed about their eating habit 
  • Frequently dieting, possibly with no result 

Treatment Options for Eating Disorders 

Patients are advised to seek treatment as early as possible to mitigate the physical and mental health complications caused by eating disorders. Treatment for eating disorders is generally tailored to fit individual treatment needs but may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Individual, group, or family psychotherapy
  • Medical care and monitoring 
  • Nutritional counseling 
  • Medications 

Psychotherapies may include the Maudsley approach (also known as family-based treatment), where parents of adolescents diagnosed with anorexia nervosa assume responsibility for feeding their children. This therapy has shown promising results in helping people gain weight and improve healthy eating habits. CBT is another approach used to help people identify and change distorted or maladaptive thinking patterns and beliefs and improve healthy eating. 

Medications may include antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers to treat eating disorders and other co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, major depression, or alcohol or drug addiction. 

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a behavioral health disorder that occurs in people who have endured or witnessed traumatic life events, such as a natural disaster, war/combat, sexual assault, or a serious accident. PTSD is characterized by intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the incident long after it has ended. 

Although nearly everyone goes through a range of emotions and reactions after trauma, people with PTSD find it difficult to recover from their trauma and life experiences. They may find themselves re-living the incident and stay detached or estranged from family and friends. And in most cases, they may require medical intervention to overcome their trauma and continue daily living. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), PTSD affects approximately 3.5% of the U.S. population every year, and about one in 11 people get diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. 

Signs and Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 

Symptoms of PTSD usually last more than a month and are severe enough to interfere with relationships and work. Some people recover from the condition within six months, while others may have symptoms for much longer as it can turn into a chronic illness. 

Signs and symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts about the incident 
  • Avoidance of places, situations, or objects that reminds them of the traumatic event 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Angry outbursts
  • Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic incident 
  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world in general 
  • Distorted feelings such as blame or guilt 
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Feeling tense or on-edge

PTSD is often accompanied by substance abuse, major depression, or one or more anxiety disorders. 

Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  

Treatment for PTSD may differ based on individual treatment needs and conditions but generally include antidepressants to control symptoms such as anger, sadness, and feelings of numbness. Other medications that treat specific PTSD symptoms, such as sleep problems and nightmares, may also be included as part of the treatment plan. 

Psychotherapy is also increasingly utilized to treat PTSD. And this form of therapy mainly includes CBT to help people control feelings of fear as they gradually overcome their traumatic experiences. PTSD treatment can also include other therapies that target social, family or job-related issues. Psychotherapies for PTSD usually last six to 12 weeks or longer. 

Coping With Mental Health Conditions 

While medications and psychotherapies are incredibly helpful in treating various mental illnesses, individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges are also advised to engage in certain self-care practices to better cope with the stresses of life, increase resilience and improve overall mental health status. 

These self-care practices may include:

  • Exercising regularly 
  • Having a balanced diet, inclusive of fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Having quality sleep
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • Engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation 
  • Staying connected to family and friends 
  • Exploring healthy activities, such as journaling or gardening 
  • Establishing a balance between life activities, including work and personal life 

Mental health is a crucial component of overall health that plays a major role in your quality of life. Hence, people should prioritize their mental well-being and seek help when things look awry. 

Many mental health resources are now available, including community behavioral health centers, online mental health resources, telemental health services, and federal resources such as Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment locators to provide you with the treatment and help you need to improve your mental wellbeing and quality of life.

In case of immediate help, please contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line, Veterans Crisis Line, or Disaster Distress Helpline. And if you are concerned about a friend’s recent behavior or social media updates, dial 911 in an emergency.

Addiction is a chronic and complex disease that requires long-term, intensive treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 14.5 million Americans ages 12 and over were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, and 8.3 million Americans were diagnosed with some form of substance use disorder (SUD) in 2019. Regardless of the severity of an individual’s condition, comprehensive addiction treatment can effectively manage substance use disorders.

The goal of addiction treatment is to reverse the negative impact of persisting substance use disorders. For this reason, a combination of behavioral and medicinal science is used in a variety of settings for varied periods. In addition to quitting harmful drug use, addiction treatment also aims to return individuals to productive functioning in their families, workplaces, and communities.

What Is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a chronic, relapsing disease that affects an individual physically and psychologically. Drug addiction can develop from the use of either illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, or legal substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, or prescription opioid pain medications.

The voluntary act of taking drugs is the first step towards addiction. But the ability to cease using, on the other hand, deteriorates over time. This lack of control is primarily due to the long-term effects of drug use on brain function. Addiction influences parts of the brain associated with reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior. For this reason, the sooner you seek treatment for drug addiction, the more likely you are to prevent or minimize some of the serious repercussions of this disease.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

There is a wide range of treatment options available for drug addiction. Studies indicate that addiction treatment is most effective when treatment is designed to address specific emotional, medical, psychosocial, and other aspects of each individual’s needs. For this reason, drug addiction treatment usually involves a combination of services.

As such, successful addiction treatment programs consist of several components, including:

  • Medication 
  • Behavioral therapy 
  • Medical applications for treating withdrawal symptoms.
  • Evaluation and treatment of co-occurring mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Other services to address a patient’s various occupational, legal, familial, and social issues.
  • Long-term follow-up care to reduce the risk of relapse.

The chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction necessitates that patients require lifelong treatment. For many individuals, addiction treatment is an ongoing process involving various interventions and continuous monitoring.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is characterized by a strong desire to consume alcohol and the inability to stop drinking even when it causes significant personal or social harm. Alcohol addiction is one of the most prevalent forms of substance abuse in the world.

Alcohol is frequently abused in conjunction with other substances. But as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, alcohol poses a serious risk when combined with other medications of the same class, such as benzodiazepines and certain painkillers. Irresponsible alcohol use on its own can be dangerous, but it can quickly become lethal when combined with other substances.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction 

Treatment for alcohol addiction is determined by the severity of a patient’s condition and personal recovery goal. Treatment can vary based on whether the patient desires to cut down on drinking or achieve abstinence. Individuals who wish to overcome their AUD effectively will require assistance and guidance from an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation center that provide services such as:

  • Detoxification – Detoxification is a series of interventions to assist patients safely and comfortably withdraw from alcohol, allowing them to transition into a formal and often longer-term treatment program. However, if you are pregnant or have an underlying health condition like cardiovascular disease, consult your doctor before attempting to detox.
  • Medications for alcohol use disorder (MAUD) – Certain medications can help patients quit drinking, treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and reduce the risk of relapse. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for treating AUD, including naltrexone, acamprosate (Campral), and disulfiram (Antabuse).
  • Counseling and therapy – Counseling and therapy help patients better understand their addiction and facilitate recovery from the psychological aspects of alcohol addiction.

What Is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder (OUD), is a chronic disease characterized by psychological and physical opioid dependence, withdrawal, a high risk of relapse, and fatality. Opioid addiction includes the illegal use of heroin and other opium derivatives and the long-term abuse of prescription opioid pain relievers, including codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Although opioids are an effective medication when used as prescribed, they also carry the risk of addiction due to their powerful effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that nearly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse their medications. And between eight and 12 percent of patients using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder.

Addiction Treatment

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Medication-assisted treatment programs (MAT) are effective treatment options for individuals suffering from opioid addiction. MAT involves the use of medication along with counseling and behavioral therapies.

Medications provided through MAT programs include:

  • Opioid agonist therapies (OAT) – Opioid agonist medications such as methadone or buprenorphine help manage withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and the risk of relapse.
  • Opioid antagonist medications – Opioid antagonist medications such as naltrexone and naloxone are better suited for individuals who cannot be on OAT due to medical reasons.

As with any SUD treatments, effective opioid addiction treatment should also incorporate counseling, behavioral therapies, and support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA). 

Principles of Effective Treatment 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the following 13 principles should form the basis of any effective addiction treatment program.

  1. Addiction is a complicated but treatable disease that impairs brain function and behavior. 
  2. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment method for everyone.
  3. People require immediate access to treatment.
  4. Effective treatment considers all of the patient’s requirements, not just their substance use.
  5. It is vital to stay in treatment for a sufficient amount of time.
  6. The most widely used forms of treatment are counseling and other behavioral therapy.
  7. Medications, especially when paired with behavioral therapy, are often a crucial aspect of treatment.
  8. Treatment plans must be evaluated and adjusted regularly to meet the changing demands of the patient.
  9. Treatment should address other possible mental illnesses. 
  10. Medically-assisted detoxification is only the initial stage of treatment.
  11. Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
  12. Drug use during treatment needs to be closely monitored at all times.
  13. Patients should be tested for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and other infectious diseases and be educated to lower their risk of contracting these illnesses.

The most effective programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet an individual’s needs.

Types of Addiction Treatment Programs 

Addiction treatment includes a wide range of treatment modalities. And familiarizing oneself with the different types of treatment programs can help individuals find the right treatment.

Addiction treatment programs often fall into one of two categories; inpatient or outpatient rehab. While equally focused on rehabilitation, each type has unique attributes and benefits to offer. As such, addiction treatment centers offer different levels of outpatient and inpatient care, including:

  • Inpatient Treatment Programs – Inpatient treatment is the most intensive level of treatment, offering 24-hour care with medical and emotional support.
  • Residential Treatment Programs – Individuals with more long-term requirements who do not require the intensity of a 24/7 medically monitored inpatient program should consider residential rehab programs.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – IOPs are for individuals with substance use disorders or co-occurring mental health disorders who don’t need medical detox or 24-hour supervision. Outpatient rehabs are part-time programs, allowing the recovering individual to keep attending work or school during the day.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – PHP is more intensive than an IOP program but less than a full inpatient or residential rehab. PHP necessitates more visits and sessions per week than IOP. A PHP patient is not required to stay at the facility for the duration of their treatment, and they are free to live anywhere they like.
  • Addiction Therapy – Addiction therapy can teach patients how to recognize, avoid, or respond to high-risk relapse situations and develop coping strategies in the face of drug cravings. Addiction Therapy consists of individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.

The length and duration of treatment are most often determined based on the patient’s progress. However, regardless of the treatment program chosen, each person must receive an individualized treatment plan based on the severity of their addiction, the presence of any co-occurring mental health disorders, and other unique needs.

How Are Medications Used in Addiction Treatment? 

Medications are used in addiction treatment to reduce addictive behaviors. The most effective medications are those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These medications can assist with breaking the chains of physical dependence, helping to ease difficult withdrawal symptoms, reducing the risk of relapse, and managing any other medical or mental health issues that may have been left untreated or undiagnosed along the way. 

Most medications for substance use disorders fit into three general categories: 

  • Full agonist medications – Full agonists directly stimulate receptor sites in the brain. For example, full agonist medications like methadone bind to the opioid receptor in the brain similar to heroin. These medications are generally prescribed as replacement therapy. Agonist medications are taken daily to decrease cravings or withdrawal that can lead to a relapse.
  • Partial agonist medications – Partial agonists act like agonists but do not stimulate the opioid receptor to the same degree. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist developed for detoxification and used as a maintenance medication for patients at risk of relapse.
  • Antagonist medications – These medications bind to the opioid receptor without stimulating it and prevent drugs from binding to the receptor. Naltrexone is an example of an antagonist medication used in the treatment of opioid addiction. 

Medication is not a standalone treatment for substance use disorders. It should accompany other addiction management techniques such as behavioral treatments, counseling, and aftercare support groups. Combining all these treatment elements works in synergy to mitigate substance abuse and reduce the probability of relapse. 

How Are Behavioral Therapies Used in Addiction Treatment? 

Behavioral therapy is a treatment technique that aids in the alteration of self-destructive behaviors. It helps people stay motivated during their treatment, provides coping strategies for cravings, and helps manage the risk of relapse. Behavioral therapies can also help people improve relationships, parenting skills, and family dynamics. As such, individuals can participate in a range of outpatient behavioral treatment programs, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This type of therapy is used to adjust how a person feels by modifying attitudes and behaviors concerning substance abuse. CBT can also be used to treat co-occurring disorders like bipolar disorder.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – During DBT, severe mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder are treated in conjunction with a substance use disorder. This therapy aims to encourage people in recovery to remove triggers from their life.
  • Contingency Management Therapies – Contingency management uses positive reinforcement to change detrimental behaviors. 
  • Motivational Interviewing – Motivational interviewing is a technique for enhancing an individual’s internal motivation for change. It’s developed based on motivational psychology principles.
  • Family Behavioral Therapy – Family behavioral therapy works well for addressing family dysfunction caused by substance abuse or comorbid disorders.
  • 12-Step Programs – These programs focus on building community support through attending regular meetings. The 12-step principle is used in a variety of programs, including:
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – for those recovering from alcohol abuse and addiction.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – for people recovering from drug abuse and addiction.

What to Expect at an Addiction Treatment Program?

Although the exact schedules may differ from center to center, individuals can anticipate going through the following steps after enrolling in a rehabilitation program:

  • Intake – The intake process often involves gathering basic information about the patient and their background.
  • Assessment – Psychological and medical assessment.
  • Orientation – The patient will be introduced to basic treatment concepts and goals.
  • Addiction treatment – Inpatient or outpatient care.
  • Aftercare planning – Aftercare planning is the final step in addiction treatment. 

The duration and pace of treatment will be determined by the patient’s unique circumstances and recovery milestones.

How to Choose the Right Addiction Treatment Center?

Once you have decided to seek treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, choosing a treatment program that addresses your unique needs and circumstances is important. Selecting the right treatment center will increase your chances of completing the program successfully and maintaining your sobriety in the future. As such, it would be beneficial to consider the following before making your choice. 

  • Determine your treatment goals – Before selecting a treatment program, seek advice from a qualified clinician specialized in addiction to clarify your treatment goals and requirements. 
  • Accreditation, licensing, and certifications – When a treatment center is accredited, it is held to a higher standard that is stringent and unbiased. Choose a facility that has both the necessary state license and accreditation from a reputable accreditation firm. 
  • Use of evidence-based practices – The most effective treatment programs use evidence-based approaches that have been established through science-based research. Examples of evidence-based programs include cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step facilitation, and medication-assisted treatment.
  • Availability of mental health services – The most promising rehab centers incorporate treatments for both addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders at the same time.
  • Availability of specialized programs – It’s important to choose rehab programs that provide individualized and tailored care.
  • Length of program – Your progress is determined by the length of time spent in treatment. Look for programs that offer different levels of rehabilitation so that you can advance to a less intensive level of care as you progress through recovery. 
  • Cost – Substance abuse treatment can be costly, so look for in-network addiction centers with your insurance provider. The “in-network” also signifies that the program has met the insurance provider’s quality standards.
  • Post-treatment recovery support – Quality treatment centers provide post-treatment support services and assistance to help patients maintain recovery after rehab.

Benefits of Addiction Treatment

There are many benefits to seeking professional addiction treatment. The most significant benefit of any treatment program is getting the individual off drugs or alcohol and guiding them to live a healthier life. The following are some of the other benefits of receiving addiction treatment:

  • A safe and supportive environment – Patients will be surrounded by others who understand their situation within a safe and supportive environment. Peer support is an important component of treatment and is required for long-term sobriety.
  • Multiple therapies and treatments – Rehab programs include a wide range of therapy options, which is important because no single treatment is right for everyone.
  • Setting goals and building new habits – Addiction treatment can help teach people how to set short and long-term goals concerning their recovery and accomplish those goals.
  • Ongoing support – Ongoing support is generally provided in the form of support group meetings and counseling to ensure that patients receive the continued help they need when they return home.

Individuals who struggle with substance use disorders often wish to quit but find it difficult to do so on their own. Seeking help from addiction specialists can help improve your chances of long-term sobriety and achieve successful recovery. Addiction treatment programs can help individuals find their path to recovery by connecting them to the most appropriate level of care that best fits their needs.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) cost the U.S. millions of dollars per year. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the harmful use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medicines cost the U.S. more than $420 billion per year, with more than $120 billion in healthcare costs. However, the consequences of SUDs are not just limited to the financial burden it incurs. SUDs also cripple the nation’s health, education, and social systems and cause disabilities and untimely deaths due to drug-related violence and overdoses. It also opens the door to various personal and professional consequences for individuals with addiction and those around them. 

While people have realized the seriousness and the cost of substance abuse, science has initiated and implemented a range of effective interventions, treatment medications, behavioral therapies, and recovery support services to help people with SUDs make a full recovery. Since overcoming addiction requires more than a detox, rehabilitation is recommended as the more viable solution to maintaining long-term recovery. Addiction rehab helps people overcome substance abuse through medically supervised detox, comprehensive therapies, counseling, and aftercare programs. 

Addiction rehab is available in two main forms, namely, inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient rehab requires patients to reside at the treatment facility to receive treatment, while outpatient rehab allows patients the flexibility to receive treatment on a part-time basis. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a more intensive level of outpatient care available for patients who wish for a more comprehensive treatment without compromising on the flexibility of maintaining routine life. 

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Intensive outpatient programs are treatment programs that help patients overcome substance use disorders while also maintaining their everyday life. IOPs typically schedule treatment sessions for a few hours, several days a week, to help patients address the root causes of addiction, learn relapse prevention techniques, change maladaptive behaviors, and participate in support groups. Such programs also assist patients in addressing psychosocial issues such as housing, employment, and meeting probation requirements. IOPs are more rigorous and time-intensive than most standard outpatient treatments. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most IOPs require nine to 20 hours of participation per week. 

IOPs generally last anywhere between 6-12 months, with most programs meeting 3-5 days a week. The sessions per week decrease gradually over time when patients meet milestones and show significant progress. 

Group therapy is the key component in most IOPs. However, the programs also include:

  • Individual counseling 
  • Medication management 
  • Case management 
  • Introduction to support groups 
  • Vocational training 
  • Psychiatric screening

How Do IOPs Work?

Most IOPs start with an assessment to ensure the eligibility of a patient. The assessment will also consider the patient’s condition, and their treatment needs to help customize a treatment plan that achieves the desired recovery goals. Once the patient is deemed eligible to undergo IOP treatment, the patient will work with a therapist to decide on a schedule that conveniently fits their everyday routine.

Most programs meet in the morning or evening during weekdays for three hours each day. The sessions mainly revolve around group counseling as it helps participants improve communication, socialize without alcohol or drugs, and experience discipline and structure. However, IOPs also include individual therapy sessions to provide patients with a more private environment to address and discuss issues of sensitive nature. Groups in IOPs are usually small, with around 8-15 members. Private IOPs may have even smaller groups to provide a more individual focus. 

Individuals gather in groups to participate in:

  • Relapse prevention 
  • Skills development 
  • Codependency support  
  • Family therapy 
  • 12-step programs
  • Addiction education 

Drug testing is also a significant component of an IOP. IOPs conduct regular drug testing to ensure that the patients adhere to the program rules and safeguard other group members from patients that use drugs. 

After completing an IOP treatment, the patient and the therapist will decide on the next course of action. If the patient has met all set goals, the therapist will recommend a less intensive level of care to continue with treatment. Some of such less intensive care options are weekly individual meetings with the therapist, alumni meetings, and participation in 12-step programs. 

Is IOP Right for Me - Turning Point

Benefits of IOP 

One of the most apparent benefits of intensive outpatient treatment is its flexibility. As IOPs don’t require patients to reside at the facility, they provide patients with the flexibility to tend to their personal needs and family life without compromising the structure and intensity of addiction treatment. The flexibility also allows patients to strengthen relationships with family and friends and to implement the skills learned through therapy in real-time. IOPs are also less expensive than residential treatment and provide patients with a greater level of privacy to continue addiction treatment. 

Another cited benefit of IOP is greater patient responsibility. Since IOPs do not remove patients from their familiar environment like residential treatment, maintaining recovery falls solely on the patient. This responsibility provides patients with a deeper sense of achievement. IOPs also provide patients the opportunity to build a strong community of peers in recovery. 

Is IOP Right for Me?

IOP treatment may not be ideal for everyone battling an addiction to alcohol or illicit drugs. However, since the program doesn’t detach patients from the outside world during treatment, it may only suit individuals with:

  • A mild to moderate SUD that doesn’t require medically supervised detox or round-the-clock care and supervision.
  • No major mental health disorders or physical health complications.
  • Strong support base at home.
  • Positive, trigger-free home environment. 
  • Strong commitment and discipline to maintain recovery. 

IOPs are also ideal for individuals looking for a step-down program after an inpatient program and for those who have unavoidable work or family obligations to fulfill. While IOPs may seem like a more flexible treatment option, it would be best to opt for a higher level of care such as PHP if you need more support in overcoming your addiction. Patients are highly advised to consult their physician or addiction specialist to help them decide on the best course of treatment.


Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are intensive outpatient rehabs that provide patients with the flexibility to receive treatment while maintaining their routine life. However, the main difference between IOP and PHP is their time commitment. PHPs are more time-intensive than IOPs and require patients to dedicate a considerable portion of their week to treatment. PHPs usually take place Monday through Friday every week, for six to seven hours each day. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recommends that PHPs provide 20 hours of treatment per week.

The other major distinction between IOP and PHP is their treatment services. Unlike IOP, partial hospitalization programs are highly structured and designed to provide treatment services similar to inpatient rehabs. PHPs may also offer limited medical detox services under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner, depending on the needs of the patients. PHPs are also more restrictive than IOPs.

How to Find an IOP Near Me?

It may take a significant amount of time, research, and determination to find an intensive outpatient program that best meets your unique needs and requirements. Since there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all IOP for substance abuse, it’s always advisable to consult an addiction specialist to assist you in your search. Assuming you want to join an IOP after you’ve completed a residential treatment program. In that case, you can ask your treatment center for referrals to IOPs in your area. Next, double-check that your health insurance covers the treatment program you’ve chosen. 

If you don’t have health insurance, ask behavioral health and substance abuse treatment centers if they offer IOP or can recommend you to one. If money is a concern, see if the IOP provides financial aid, such as scholarships or a sliding scale based on income. If your income is low and you cannot work, you may be eligible for Medicaid, a state-based program that provides medical help to low-income families.

Participating in an IOP can be a crucial step toward resolving alcohol or illicit drug addiction. However, to get the most out of IOP, you must first decide if it’s right for you. 

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a rehabilitation program that requires patients to visit a treatment center several times per week for a few hours per day to receive treatment. It’s an important continuum of care that combines the components of inpatient treatment with the flexibility for patients to return home at the end of the day. Intensive outpatient services typically operate in the morning or evening on weekdays, with most services lasting for about 90 days. IOPs are more rigorous than standard outpatient rehab programs and offer comprehensive treatment and care to people who do not need around-the-clock supervision.

IOPs treat various mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder, as well as substance use disorders, such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid use disorders (OUDs). 

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), AUD is a brain disease characterized by an inability to control alcohol use despite the various occupational, social, and health consequences. It encompasses the conditions widely known as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. AUD occurs as a result of the brain changes caused due to chronic alcohol use. It ranges from mild to severe and is believed to be influenced by certain biological, psychological, and social factors, such as genetics, exposure to trauma or stress during childhood, and drinking at an early age. 

Some of the symptoms of an AUD are: 

  • Consuming alcohol more frequently or in more quantities than intended.
  • Finding it difficult to quit or cut back on alcohol use despite many attempts.
  • Having strong cravings for alcohol.
  • Failing to fulfill important commitments at school, home, or work due to alcohol use. 
  • Continuing to consume alcohol despite the recurring physical or psychological problems related to its use.
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol (the need to consume more quantities of alcohol to achieve the desired effects).
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or reduce alcohol use. 

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), opioid use disorder is a chronic, lifelong disorder capable of causing potential consequences such as disabilities, relapses, and death. It refers to the problematic use of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and prescription painkillers, characterized by a strong, compulsive urge to continue the drug use despite adverse consequences. Even though OUDs are similar to other substance use disorders (SUDs) in many aspects, the highly addictive nature of opioids can lead to physical dependence in as little as 4-8 weeks compared to other SUDs, even if the opioids are taken as prescribed. 

Some of the symptoms of an OUD are: 

  • Taking larger doses of the drug over a longer period than intended.
  • Spending a considerable amount of time in obtaining, using, and recovering from the drug. 
  • Having strong cravings for the drug.
  • Finding it difficult to quit or control opioid use.
  • Giving up on activities that were of interest before due to drug use.
  • Developing a tolerance for opioids.
  • Experiencing withdrawals when trying to quit or reduce drug use. 

IOP Treatment Services Provided for SUDs

IOP treatment for substance abuse can vary from facility to facility. However, it typically includes 10-12 hours of group and individual therapy a week and engagement in 12-step programs. 

Some of the therapies provided by IOPs are: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency management 
  • The matrix model 
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)

Intensive outpatient treatment also includes withdrawal management, relapse prevention training, and educational workshops. In addition, group outings, meditation, exercise classes, career and life training, and other activities can also be provided by certain IOPs as supplemental activities. The treatment sessions are often held on-site at a therapeutic or medical facility. However, certain alternatives, such as online services, are being introduced to help people living in remote areas or towns without access to rehab treatment. This move is especially important during Covid-19 lockdowns as more and more individuals find themselves in need of such services.

Intensive Outpatient Program - Substance Use Disorder - Turning Point

How Does IOP Help SUD Patients?

An addiction to alcohol or opioid refers to more than just the physical need to continue using the substance. It also refers to the underlying psychological components that keep a person engaged in substance abuse, such as stress or childhood trauma. This factor is why most IOPs require patients to engage in various group meetings and individual counseling sessions to address the psychological aspects of addiction. Individual and group therapies facilitate various discussion topics to provide the relevant skills and guidance needed to cope with these core issues. They also create a supportive environment to help patients actively practice implementing the acquired skills and build a strong community of peers in recovery.  

The educational workshops provided by IOPs help patients learn about addiction and the science behind why people get addicted to certain substances. The workshops also teach patients about the mental health issues triggered by substance abuse (co-occurring disorders) to help patients better understand their condition and effectively manage them. Most IOPs also provide the necessary services to identify and treat co-occurring mental health disorders for long-term recovery. 

Other services provided by IOPs, such as withdrawal management, skills development, and relapse prevention, equip patients with the necessary tools to cope with withdrawal and cravings and positively address triggers. Most IOPs also offer family therapy to help patients re-strengthen familial relationships that have been estranged due to substance abuse. Family involvement during treatment remains vital to keep patients motivated and dedicated to establishing long-term sobriety. 

Why Choose an Intensive Outpatient Program? 

Residential treatment programs inarguably provide the highest level of care for substance abuse treatment as it separates patients from their familiar environment to focus solely on rehabilitation. However, committing to such a time-demanding treatment program can be inconvenient for patients with important work, school, or family obligations. Residential treatment may also not be ideal for patients with a mild or moderate SUD that does not require around-the-clock supervision or detoxification. During such instances, IOPs help bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient programs. IOPs allow patients to receive treatment on a part-time basis without compromising the intensive care of inpatient programs. It also provides patients with a greater sense of responsibility and privacy throughout treatment. 

Since IOPs allow patients to go back to their routine life after treatment, it provides them with the opportunity to practice the skills learned through therapies right away. It also cuts down on the cost associated with accommodation, making it an inexpensive approach to recovery compared to inpatient treatment services. 

The intensive and flexible nature of IOPs makes it a great treatment approach for substance use disorders. However, patients are advised to consult an addiction specialist or a physician before engaging in an IOP treatment to ensure that it’s the right treatment plan for them.

Millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide suffer from various mental health disorders, such as mood disorders and personality disorders. In addition, mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety have increased at alarming levels in recent years, especially since the emergence of Covid-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of anxiety and depression have increased significantly in the United States from April to June 2020, compared to 2019. 

The prevalence of psychiatric conditions and increased understanding and acceptance of the disease have paved the way for developing efficient treatment programs. One such treatment approach that has shown significant success is the intensive outpatient program (IOP). 

An IOP is a treatment program that helps address mental health disorders and substance use disorders that do not need detoxification and round-the-clock supervision. Instead, it provides treatment on a part-time basis to allow patients the flexibility to continue their regular life with minimal interruptions. 

Intensive outpatient programs for mental health disorders combine the rigorous structure of residential treatment and the flexibility of standard outpatient programs to help patients improve social functioning. 

Mental Health Disorders Treated by IOPs

Intensive outpatient programs help treat a variety of mental health disorders, such as: 

  • Eating disorders – This refers to a set of complex mental health disorders that can severely impair health and social functioning. Eating disorders are formally classified as “feeding and eating disorders” and are characterized by abnormal eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Some of the common types of eating disorders are binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa (BN), and anorexia nervosa (AN).
  • Depression – This is a medical condition that negatively affects how a person thinks, acts, and feels. Depression causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to various physical and emotional problems and greatly interfere with daily functioning. 
  • Bipolar disorder – This mental condition causes unusual changes in mood, energy, concentration, activity levels, and the ability to perform day-to-day activities. Bipolar disorder was previously referred to as manic-depressive illness or manic depression and is classified into three types, namely bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder. 
  • Anxiety disorders – This refers to a set of mental health diagnoses that cause excessive feelings of nervousness, worry, fear, and apprehension. Anxiety disorders can significantly change how a person behaves and processes thoughts that manifest into certain physical symptoms. Some common types of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobia. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – This psychiatric disorder occurs in people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. PTSD is characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and disturbing thoughts about the event. This psychiatric condition can have a crippling effect on an individual’s life if left untreated.
  • Personality disorders – This refers to a mental illness characterized by long patterns of unhealthy and inflexible thought processes, behaviors, and feelings. These internal emotions and behaviors often deviate from cultural expectations and cause serious troubles in relationships and work. Some common personality disorders are paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. 
  • Co-occurring disorders – Also known as dual diagnosis or comorbidity disorder, are conditions in which a person simultaneously has a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. 

IOP Treatments for Mental Health Disorders 

IOP treatment mainly revolves around individual and group counseling to help patients resolve immediate problem areas and develop skills to sustain long-term recovery. Some of the other treatment services provided by IOPs are: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Group processing 
  • Skill-building exercises
  • Family therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication management 

IOP treatments require a great deal of commitment and a willingness to participate in treatment services. Hence it may not be an ideal approach for individuals with a severe mental health disorder requiring constant supervision and support.

What to Expect During Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

Most IOPs require patients to undergo an initial assessment, including a physical and psychological background evaluation, to determine the severity of their mental health conditions. The evaluation will also determine a person’s eligibility for treatment and where they are in the recovery process. Once the assessment is complete and the person is deemed eligible for treatment, clinical professionals will work closely with the patient and their loved ones to plan and develop a viable treatment plan. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), IOP requires a minimum of nine to 20 hours of participation each week. And most programs usually meet between nine to 15 hours per week in three-hour sessions. Patients spend the agreed number of hours engaging in various group and individual therapies and educational workshops centered around their mental health disorders. They may also be encouraged to participate in 12-step programs to ensure long-term recovery. The overall goals of IOPs are to help patients:

  • Manage mental health disorders effectively 
  • Develop positive-coping skills and problem-solving skills
  • Improve self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Regulate emotions and control impulses 

How Long Do IOPs Last?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the length of time a person stays in an IOP treatment may vary depending on the individual requirements of each patient. The length of IOP treatment may be determined by factors such as the severity of a patient’s condition, their support system at home, and their treatment progress. Most IOPs last anywhere from one to six months. During this time, the majority of patients complete 30 to 60 treatment sessions. However,  IOPs can also potentially linger up to a year in some cases.

Intensive Outpatient Program – Mental Health Disorder - Turning Point

Who Benefits from Intensive Outpatient Programs? 

Although IOPs offer a flexible treatment option, they may not be the best solution for everyone suffering from a mental illness. Patients who benefit the most from IOPs are those who:

  • Do not require round-the-clock supervision or care but still need access to intensive therapeutic modalities. 
  • Have unavoidable daily commitments that preclude them from enrolling in full-time treatment. 
  • Need a “step down” program to transition from a residential program or a partial hospitalization program (PHP).
  • Have a history of frequent hospitalizations due to mental health issues and suicidal behaviors.
  • Require specialized support for stabilization, symptom reduction, and relapse prevention. 

Before engaging the services of an IOP, patients should seek advice from a physician who specializes in mental health disorders. The doctor will assess each patient’s situation to determine if IOP is the best option for them.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are treatment programs designed to treat addictions, depression, eating disorders, and other dependencies that don’t require around-the-clock supervision or medical detoxification. An intensive outpatient program is usually the next level of care patients transition to after completing an inpatient care or partial hospitalization program. IOPs are an important aspect of the continuum of care for alcohol use disorders (AUD) because they are designed to help individuals build support networks, relapse prevention, and learn coping skills.

In comparison to standard outpatient programs, IOP provides a higher degree of treatment and care. However, the most effective therapy (whether it be a residential program or outpatient rehab program) is determined by the severity of the alcohol use disorder and whether or not the individual is also dealing with physical or mental health issues. IOP provides patients with the flexibility to receive treatment while also maintaining their personal and professional lives. The duration and intensity of IOP treatment are determined by a patient’s commitment to stay abstinent and the progress made with their recovery process.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), IOP services were offered by 6,089 addiction treatment centers in the United States in 2011 (44% out of 13,720 programs), and IOPs treated 141,964 patients or 12% of the 1.2 million patients in care.

How Do Intensive Outpatient Programs Work?

An intensive outpatient program is conducted in an outpatient setting. This program helps people reconstruct their lives, focus on long-term recovery and coping skills while remaining at home and carrying out their responsibilities to their loved ones.

The goals of intensive outpatient programs include:

  • Maintaining abstinence.
  • Achieving behavioral change.
  • Participating in support groups such as a 12-step program.
  • Addressing psychosocial issues such as housing, employment, and meeting probation requirements.
  • Developing a support system.
  • Improving problem-solving skills.

The majority of intensive outpatient programs last 90 days. However, the duration and the level of care can vary from one patient to another depending on the individual’s needs and requirements. 

Services Provided by Intensive Outpatient Programs

An intensive outpatient program’s treatment varies from facility to facility and provider to provider. However, it usually includes 10-12 hours of group and individual therapy each week and motivation to participate in a 12-step program. These sessions are normally held on-site at a medical or psychiatric facility. However, some opportunities for individuals to engage in online programs are being established. This move is notably important during Covid-19 lockdowns and those who reside in isolated areas or towns where proper treatment resources aren’t readily available.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), primary IOP services include:

  • Group counseling and therapy – The key component of an IOP treatment is group therapy. The purpose of group-based therapy is to encourage healthy socialization and help individuals improve their communication skills. This treatment element provides structure and discipline into the often chaotic lives of patients.
  • Individual counseling – Individual counseling is a valuable, supportive addition to group sessions, but it’s not the primary therapy option. Individual counseling focuses on the immediate issues patients face due to their alcoholism and their ongoing efforts to attain and maintain abstinence. A counselor can gain a deeper knowledge of the patient through individual counseling.
  • Community-based support groups – Support groups, such as 12-Step and other mutual-support groups, help individuals transition out of treatment. These programs are vital in providing a sense of community in their long journey to recovery. Support groups serve as an important addition to structured therapy.
  • Medication management – Medication management is an important component of effective substance abuse treatment that should not be overlooked or separated from other therapies. Medication management targets specific aspects of substance use disorder.
  • Routine monitoring – All Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOT) programs include regular testing to monitor an individual’s alcohol intake during the treatment process. Drug and alcohol monitoring assists physicians in determining the need for treatment modifications and assists families in re-establishing trust.
  • Case management – Individuals who abuse alcohol are more prone to suffer from various interconnected issues in addition to alcohol use disorder. And case management is responsible for coordinating all parts of a patient’s treatment. Case managers also advocate and provide support for the patient’s family and friends.

Other forms of enhanced IOP treatment services include:

  • Life skills training
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Access to medical care and mental health services
  • Access to 24-hour care crisis management hotline
  • Complementary therapies such as art therapy and music therapy

Following the completion of IOP treatment, patients will be recommended a less intensive level of treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Program - Alcohol Use Disorder

The Benefits of Choosing an Intensive Outpatient Program

IOPs are designed to provide the benefits of an inpatient program in an outpatient setting. One of the most frequently mentioned advantages of an intensive outpatient treatment program is that patients can instantly apply what they have learned in the outside world. Other benefits of an IOP include:

  • Provides longer and more intense treatment programs than the standard outpatient programs.
  • The flexibility provided by IOP helps patients maintain their personal and professional life.
  • Cost less than residential or inpatient treatment centers.
  • IOPs provide clinical flexibility to address individual needs.
  • Higher retention rates.
  • Provides a greater level of privacy.
  • Increased opportunities to establish community-based support.
  • Participation in local self-help groups from the beginning of treatment.

Choosing the Right Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program

Alcohol use disorder is a very complicated disease. Each case has its own set of causes, motives, and triggers. It also varies a great deal by intensity, so no two cases are the same. For this reason, it’s important to choose a treatment program that is tailored to an individual’s specific needs.

A well-established and innovative intensive outpatient program will offer a wide range of services to assist and guide patients toward evidence-based and holistic rehabilitation techniques. As every IOP offers different services, here are a few things one should look for when choosing an IOP facility:

  • When it comes to choosing an IOP treatment facility, location is one of the most crucial considerations. The IOP treatment center must be in a convenient location. If the clinic is too far away, you are less likely to attend treatment as frequently as is recommended.
  • The certifications earned by a facility indicate that the staff and team members have acquired the necessary training.
  • A variety of therapy choices should be available at an intensive outpatient clinic. These treatment options must also be tailored to each patient’s specific needs.
  • Another key element to consider while choosing an IOP facility is scheduling. If you require therapy while going to school or working, the treatment center you choose should provide therapies and other services at your convenience.

IOP treatment centers help fill the void between residential treatment and outpatient services. And is an important part of the whole addiction treatment process.

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that can lead to serious health, social, and financial complications. Opioids are medications that work on the central nervous system to create pleasurable effects and pain relief. Some opioids are legally prescribed to treat serious and chronic pain. While others, such as methamphetamine, are illicit substances that are abused.

Opioid addiction is identified by an intense, compulsive need to use opioids even though they are no longer medically necessary. Opioids possess a high potential for addiction and dependence even when administered and used as prescribed by a health care professional. Individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) prioritize getting and using the substance over other things in their lives, which can harm their professional and personal relationships. Opioid withdrawal syndrome is a potentially fatal condition caused by opioid dependence.

In the United States, almost 50,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2019. The abuse of opioids is a serious national crisis that negatively impacts public health and social and economic welfare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the United States is estimated to be at $78.5 billion a year, including healthcare expenses, lost income, addiction recovery treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

What Is Opioid Withdrawal? 

When an individual becomes physically dependent on opioid painkillers, he or she may feel compelled to continue taking the medication to function normally. Abrupt cessation or reduction of the medication can result in various unpleasant symptoms known as opioid withdrawals. Withdrawal symptoms are dependent on various factors, including: 

  • The type of opioid exploited 
  • The individual’s drug tolerance 
  • The duration of their abuse 
  • Polydrug abuse 
  • Patient’s medical history
  • Co-occurring disorders or mental health disorders 

Although withdrawal symptoms aren’t usually life-threatening, they may trigger significant physical and psychological discomfort for the individual experiencing them. 

The Effects of Opioid on the Body 

Opioids bind to opioid receptors found in the brain, gastrointestinal tract, and spinal cord. Opioids exert their effects as they bind to these receptors. The brain also produces its own natural opioids, which are essential for pain relief, reduced respiratory rate, and the prevention of anxiety and depression. 

However, the body does not produce opioids in significant quantities to treat the pain associated with a fractured leg. Nor does it produce opioids in large quantities to trigger an overdose. Opioid medications and illicit drugs are synthetic versions of these naturally occurring opioids. 

These drugs may have a variety of effects on the body, including: 

  • Opioids can slow down breathing by affecting the brainstem, which regulates functions such as breathing and heartbeat. 
  • Opioids may produce feelings of pleasure or relaxation by acting on specific brain areas known as the limbic system, which regulates emotions. 
  • Opioids work by affecting the spinal cord, which sends signals from the brain to the rest of the body and vice versa. 

What Causes Opioid Withdrawal? 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription opioids have similar effects to heroin. Therefore, when you take opioid medications for an extended period, the body becomes desensitized to the effects and will require more medication to produce the same effect as before. This formation is known as tolerance.

Long-term usage of these medications alters the function of nerve receptors in the brain, and all these receptors become dependent on the medication to function. If you feel physically ill after discontinuing an opioid medication, this may indicate a physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s physical response to the medication’s absence. 

Many people become dependent on these medications within a short period. In some scenarios, people may be unaware of their dependence since opioid withdrawals closely resemble flu-like symptoms. 

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal 

Depending on the severity of one’s addiction and dependence, the symptoms can vary. In addition, many factors affect how long a person will experience withdrawal symptoms. As a result, everyone’s experience with opioid withdrawal is unique. Nonetheless, there is a general timeline for symptom development. 

Early signs usually appear within the first 24 hours of discontinuing the medication and include symptoms, such as: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Lacrimation (eyes tearing up) 
  • Runny nose 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Restlessness 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Yawning very often 
  • Inability to sleep 

Withdrawal symptoms may peak after the first few days. Symptoms may include: 

  • Goosebumps on the skin 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Abdominal cramping 
  • Dilated pupils and possibly blurry vision 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Rapid heartbeat 

While uncomfortable and painful, symptoms normally subside within 72 hours; some may experience them for a week. 

Babies born to mothers who are addicted to opioids or who have used them while pregnant often develop withdrawal symptoms as well. This may include: 

  • Dehydration 
  • Vomiting 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Poor feeding 
  • Seizures 

It’s crucial to note that different medications stay in the bloodstream for varying periods and may affect the withdrawal process. The duration of your symptoms is determined by the frequency of use and the extent of your addiction, as well as individual considerations such as your general wellbeing. 

For example, heroin is generally eliminated quickly from the bloodstream, and withdrawal signs can appear within 12 hours after the last usage. On the other hand, it may take up to a day and a half for symptoms to appear if you have been taking methadone. 

Opioid Withdrawal - Turning Point

Risks of Opioid Withdrawal 

Although symptoms of withdrawal aren’t life-threatening, withdrawal complications left untreated can turn fatal. For example, dehydration, heart failure, and hypernatremia (an elevated blood sodium level) can occur due to frequent vomiting and diarrhea. If you vomit and then breathe in stomach contents into your lungs, you can experience aspiration, resulting in choking or a lung infection. 

The most serious risk of withdrawal is relapse. Since the detox process decreases the tolerance to the medication, resuming the same dose of opioids you previously took may result in an opioid overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70% of the 70,630 drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved an opioid. 

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment 

The physical dependence on opioids can be diagnosed by your doctor depending on your symptoms and a physical test. Since it can be difficult to quit opioids safely, patients are highly advised to seek the assistance of a physician or addiction specialist. Treatment for opioid withdrawal involves medical detox followed by counseling, family and individual therapy, education, and support groups. 

During detoxification, your doctor may prescribe medications to help alleviate certain withdrawal symptoms. Medications used during the detox process may include:

  • Lofexidine
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Clonidine

Some conditions, such as fever, headaches, or joint discomfort, may be treated with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen. 

While medications can significantly help with the management of opioid withdrawal symptoms, certain day-to-day activities can also help you through your recovery process. These may include simple tasks such as:

  • Moderate exercise, such as walking   
  • Healthy diet
  • Activities that reduce stress and anxiety, such as meditation   
  • Plenty of water or other fluids to prevent dehydration

Regardless of the severity of addiction or dependence, opioid use disorder can be effectively managed and overcome with a comprehensive treatment program. While the process may seem daunting, the befits you reap are life-changing.

Millions of adolescents and adults in the United States suffer from substance abuse and mental health problems, contributing significantly to the nation’s disease burden. The drug crisis in the United States is multifaceted. Although examining the face of addiction is important, the next phase is to determine whether individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) are making their way into recovery. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 20.1 million people aged 12 and above needed care for a substance use disorder in 2016, but only 3.8 million received treatment in specialty centers. Drug abuse also carries a societal stigma, and it’s a disease usually battled in silence. Although the need for treatment is undeniable, many people either struggle to get the help they require or fully comprehend the nature of addiction.

Anyone who has ever received addiction treatment knows that detoxification is the first step in the recovery process. It’s a critical component of recovery as well as the most physically demanding. Detox is based on the concept that someone who is medically impaired will have a hard time dealing with addiction’s underlying mental health issues. As a result, the goal of detox is to treat the physical aspects of addiction. And thus enabling patients to address the psychological aspects thereafter as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. So what is drug detox? And what does the process entail?

What Is a Drug Detox?  

Detoxification is the process of removing any traces of alcohol and drugs from the body, ensuring that an individual is physically stable and ready to begin treatment. 

People’s bodies get used to having these addictive substances in their systems due to alcohol or drug addiction and dependence. When these substances are eventually removed during detox, the brain must adjust to the abrupt decrease in these chemicals. And this usually results in a series of unpleasant symptoms defined as “withdrawal symptoms.” 

The detox procedure is designed to reduce the negative impact of withdrawal symptoms while also making one’s experience as comfortable and safe as possible. Detoxification that is medically assisted and supported by a medical team is the most successful. And this is usually done in a specialized detox center or medical facility under the supervision of physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. Attempting to detox on your own is seldom effective, and people are likely to suffer unnecessary withdrawal symptoms and feel demotivated due to several unsuccessful attempts. 

The Detoxification Process 

Everyone’s detox experience and requirements are different. In most cases, the drug detoxification process consists of the following steps: 

Medical assessment: The first step in a medically supervised detox is to undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation to get an accurate understanding of their individual needs. During this evaluation, the medical staff may gather information about a patient’s medical history and details about their addiction. The information gathered will be used to create a customized detox plan. 

The stabilization process: The purpose of stabilization is to keep the patient safe from harm. Doctors may prescribe addiction treatment medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. 

Preparing for entry into treatment: The next step of detox is to prepare for a substance abuse treatment program. Doctors educate patients about the treatment plan and what to expect. Inpatient rehabs offer the best chances of success after medical detox.  

Research indicates that supportive and compassionate care is almost as critical as medication to enable successful detox and the best possible results for patients. As a result, each patient undergoing detox will be closely monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

How Long Is a Drug Detoxification Program? 

The detox process generally lasts between seven to 10 days on average. Nevertheless, the detox timeline varies from person to person and is determined by many variables, including: 

  • The dose of drugs used 
  • Polydrug use 
  • Types of substances used
  • The half-life of the drug 
  • Length of time using drugs 
  • Pre-existing mental or physical health conditions 
  • A person’s overall health 
  • History of relapses 

Patients will be ready to enter an alcohol or drug rehab program after detox, where they can undergo comprehensive psychological therapy. Alcohol and drug detox is often offered as part of a 28-day addiction treatment regimen. 

Drug Detox Timeline 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 70,000 Americans died from a drug-involved overdose in 2019, suggesting the magnitude of substance abuse in the country. And the most commonly abused substances in the U.S. and their detox timelines are as follows:  

  • Alcohol (approximately one week): Within the first eight hours after the last drink, patients will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as depression, nausea, and sweating. By the time you reach the 24-hour point, you may start experiencing hallucinations that can last for days. Seizures and delirium tremens are the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol, which require medical attention. The whole process lasts around a week, with the more severe withdrawal symptoms peaking around day four.
  • Heroin and Opiates (approximately seven days): Opioid withdrawal symptoms appear six to twelve hours after the last drug dose and peak around day three of detox. Opiate withdrawal typically lasts no more than five or seven days. Medications such as methadone and Buprenorphine are used if necessary during opioid detox and maintenance treatment.
  • Stimulants (approximately seven days): During cocaine and amphetamine detox, patients experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings and insomnia in the days and weeks following drug discontinuation. Patients will experience a wave of depression within the first 72 hours of withdrawal, accompanied by the infamous crash, leaving them feeling exhausted. Cravings for these drugs subside during the first week of detox but return during the first month for many people. 
  • Benzodiazepines (few days to several months): Irritability, anxiety, and nausea with dry heaving are all typical side effects of benzo detox.  Benzo detox can involve the use of barbiturates or other long-acting benzos to help users taper off the medication. Benzodiazepine withdrawals typically subside within a few weeks, but some people experience complications for many months. 
  • Marijuana (around two weeks): Marijuana detox is less complicated than detoxing from other drugs. Restlessness, chills, lack of appetite, headache, and other withdrawal symptoms can occur. While most signs appear one to three days after the last use and disappear within two weeks, some people may experience insomnia and exhaustion for up to a month. 
  • Nicotine (several days to weeks): Depending on how long you’ve been smoking and how many cigarettes you smoked every day, nicotine withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms involve physical, mental, and emotional manifestations. The first week is often more challenging (especially on days three to five). When nicotine completely leaves the system, you may experience headaches, cravings, and insomnia. Most relapses occur during the first two weeks of quitting. 

Side Effects of Detoxification 

Detoxing from drugs can be a painful and dangerous process. And this is why medicinal detox is crucial. Patients should detox under medical care in a safe and supportive setting. The level of supervision varies among inpatient and outpatient detox programs. 

A medically monitored detoxification prevents the potentially debilitating complications of drug and alcohol withdrawal syndromes. Though medical detoxification reduces or alleviates certain withdrawal symptoms, some symptoms are unavoidable. The following are some of the more common side effects during the drug detox period:

  • Nausea 
  • Body discomfort 
  • Nervousness or anxiety 
  • Insomnia 
  • Mood swings 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Poor sleep 
  • Muscle aches

Medications can help manage these common withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of a relapse.

What Is Rapid and Ultra-Rapid Detox? 

Rapid detox was first introduced in the 1980s. And is formally known as anesthesia-assisted opiate detoxification. This form of detox aims to end the withdrawal process as quickly as possible to reduce the overall amount of time spent detoxing from opioids. 

Since older detoxification procedures were painful, rapid detox was introduced to alleviate discomfort, maximize success rate, and minimize the risk of relapse. There are two methods for accelerating the detox process: 

Rapid detox: A patient is provided with medicine to speed up the initiation and process of detox, followed by several other medicines to relieve withdrawal symptoms that arise during detox. Rapid detox can cause: 

  • High body temperature 
  • Runny nose
  • Infection 
  • Nausea 
  • Paranoia 
  • Choking 
  • Vomiting 
  • Aspiration
  • Heart attack 
  • Death

Ultra-rapid detox: The patient is sedated with general anesthesia. Doctors will administer an opioid antagonist once the anesthesia has taken effect. The opioid blocker causes the body to start detoxing. In theory, most of the unpleasant symptoms should have subsided by the time the patient awakens from sedation. 

Usually, the rapid detoxification period lasts six to eight hours. However, as there has been little research on these methods, no one is certain if the advantages exceed the costs. As a result, these detox strategies remain somewhat questionable. 

Drug Detoxification - Turning Point

Is it Safe to Detox at Home? 

This is a common question among those looking for the quickest, simplest route to recovery. Detoxing at home is possible. However, there are many reasons why it’s not always the best option: 

  • Lack of medical attention can lead to fatal complications.
  • Increases the risk of relapse.
  • Certain withdrawal symptoms can make you a risk to yourself and those around you.

When individuals develop a physical dependence on a drug or alcohol, their body alters their natural production of certain chemicals and starts to rely on the chemical effects of drugs and alcohol instead. Painful withdrawal symptoms are the result of an abrupt chemical imbalance created during abrupt cessation or reduction. These withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity from person to person.

Due to the unpredictable nature of withdrawal symptoms during detoxification, patients can have mild symptoms at one moment and suddenly shift to severe symptoms. This unpredictability is the reason why patients are advised against detoxing alone. Individuals detoxing at home must be under the constant care and supervision of a loved one to avoid potentially fatal complications.

If you wish to overcome your addiction or dependence on a certain substance, seek advice from a medical professional. Depending on the severity of your condition, your physician can advise you on the best course of action.

Medications Used During Drug Detox 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a range of care with a customized treatment program and follow-up options can be crucial to long-term success. Thus, detox and treatment should include both medical and mental health services as needed.  

Drug detox programs incorporate medications to alleviate unpleasant withdrawal symptoms while maintaining your safety through medical care and supervision in a dedicated detox unit. An effective detox program is comprehensive and may include psychotherapies to help you start the recovery process.  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain medications to manage withdrawal symptoms during detox and recovery. 

Lofexidine: Sold under the brand name Lucemyra, it’s an oral tablet designed to manage common opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

Methadone: This medication is used to treat opioid addiction. Methadone is highly restricted and is only dispensed through a licensed methadone clinic

Buprenorphine: Available by prescription from physicians licensed to dispense the medication. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist authorized for opioid addiction treatment.

Naltrexone: Naltrexone attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the effects of opioid drugs that would otherwise cause the patient to feel high. Since the medication no longer provides rewarding effects, it discourages people from relapsing. 

Acamprosate: This medication addresses post-acute withdrawal symptoms of drugs and alcohol, such as insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.

Drug Detoxification During Pregnancy  

Detoxing while pregnant is not only possible but also highly recommended. And the less you and your baby are exposed to drugs, the better the result will be for both of you. 

When pregnant, the purpose of detoxing is to get rid of any addictive drugs in your bloodstream. This procedure can take a few days to a week, based on the type of substance you were abusing, how much you were using at a time, and how long you were exploiting it.   

Due to the complications that can arise, drug detox during pregnancy must be carried out under close supervision and monitoring by medical practitioners to maintain the safety of the mother and child.  

The consequences of drug addiction and dependence are far-reaching. But the important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. There are many facilities across the U.S. dedicated to helping you find the treatment you need. Consult an addiction specialist or your physician for support and guidance.

Drug use and misuse remain an issue in every nation, with an estimated 5.4 percent of the global population using drugs in 2018. The United States, in particular, has a long and interesting history with drugs, going so far as to wage a “War on Drugs.” But despite its tough drug policy and harsh regulations, the United States has a high lifetime illicit drug use. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 13 percent of people in the United States aged 12 and older used illegal drugs in 2019. One of the consequences of drug abuse and addiction is the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms.

Drug withdrawal is a series of symptoms that the body goes through when individuals avoid or minimize their daily use of drugs and alcohol. Abrupt cessation of drugs with a high potential for addiction or dramatic reduction of dosage can result in a wide range of withdrawal symptoms that can be physical and psychological. Depending on the type of substance and your biological make-up, the severity and duration of these withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable and, in some situations, harmful. Hence individuals who wish to stop using addictive substances must consult a doctor or addiction specialist before discontinuing or minimizing their drug use.

What Causes Drug Withdrawal? 

The body and brain work together to maintain homeostasis or equilibrium. Drugs and alcohol affect the reward system in the brain, causing chemicals to be released. This induces a chemical imbalance in the body, forcing it to adapt to these changes by altering the natural production of certain neurotransmitters, among other things.

When someone takes a drug regularly for an extended period of time, their body may develop a tolerance and physical dependence on it. Tolerance is characterized by the need for higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effects as before. Physical dependence refers to the body’s need for the substance in order to function and prevent drug withdrawal symptoms.

Abrupt cessation or drastic decrease in substances with a high potential for dependence and addiction can throw the body off balance. This occurrence is more common in people with substance use disorders (SUDs). Symptoms that manifest during this stage can be mental and physical and vary in intensity depending on the type of drug used.  

Drugs that cause withdrawals include:   

  • Cannabis 
  • Alcohol 
  • Antidepressants 
  • Barbiturates 
  • Hallucinogens 
  • Opioids 
  • Stimulants 
  • Inhalants  

Prolong use of these addictive substances can cause physical and psychological dependence that can only be treated through comprehensive addiction treatment programs. Due to the unpredictable nature of drug withdrawal syndrome and its capacity to cause fatal consequences, individuals who abuse drugs are highly advised against quitting on their own.

Drug Withdrawal Timeline 

The length of withdrawal is determined by the drug used and the degree of dependency on the substance. Depending on various factors and individual variations, it can take days, weeks, or even months to resolve and overcome all withdrawal symptoms. 

Here is a general overview of various drugs and their typical duration of withdrawals:  

Alcohol: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms appear several hours after the last drink and peak between 24 and 48 hours. The risk of seizures may remain high from 12 to 48 hours after the last drink. The potential risk of delirium tremens (DTs) remains high for up to three days after the last drink. 

Short-acting opioids: Symptoms from short-acting opioids typically begin eight to 24 hours after the last dose and last for up to four to 10 days on average. 

Long-acting opioids: Symptoms can develop two to four days after the last dose and fade after 10 days. 

Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms begin within four days after the last dose and peak within the first two weeks. In some cases, signs of withdrawal can last for months or years without treatment. 

Antidepressant medications: In most cases, symptoms are mild for the first three days and may worsen on the fourth or fifth day before subsiding. Symptoms may last for up to three weeks. 

Stimulants: Stimulants include prescription medications including Ritalin and Adderall, as well as diet pills, caffeine, and illegal substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Stimulant withdrawal symptoms appear 24 hours after the last dose and can last for two to three weeks.  

Symptoms of Withdrawal 

Not all substances are created equal, and not all people are the same. Different substances have different effects on people. Many variables determine the extent and severity of withdrawal symptoms. These factors include: 

  • The dose of drugs used 
  • Polydrug use 
  • Class of drugs used 
  • Duration of drug use
  • Pre-existing mental or physical health conditions 
  • A person’s overall health 

One of the most crucial factors to consider is the type of drug a person uses. Symptoms of withdrawal greatly depend upon the initial effects of the drug. For example, opioid medications are powerful pain relievers for chronic pain management, but opioid withdrawal symptoms involve hypersensitivity to pain. Benzodiazepines are a highly efficient form of anti-anxiety medications. When people stop taking benzodiazepines, they sometimes experience extreme anxiety and restlessness. These symptoms are referred to as rebound effects.

Another factor to consider is the severity of withdrawals. Some people only experience mild discomfort during the withdrawal period, while others are traumatized by severe withdrawal. The wide range of unpleasant symptoms commonly associated with this condition include:  

  • Congestion  
  • Fatigue  
  • Irritability  
  • Changes in appetite  
  • Changes in mood  
  • Runny nose  
  • Sweating  
  • Shakiness  
  • Sleeping difficulties  
  • Muscle cramps and pain  
  • Nausea  
  • Restlessness  
  • Tremors  
  • Vomiting  
  • Abdominal cramping 

More intense withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, delirium may also occur in some instances. In general, signs of withdrawal can be categorized as: 

  • Physical symptoms 
  • Behavioral symptoms 
  • Gastrointestinal 
  • Sleep Problems 
  • Psychological symptoms 
  • Cognition   

Dangers of Drug Withdrawal 

Sometimes symptoms are more than just minor inconveniences; they can be fatal. When a person’s body becomes dependent on drugs, the abrupt disruption can be more harmful than expected. 

Opiates, heroin, and methamphetamine are powerful drugs that cause some of the more serious life-threatening symptoms. During withdrawal, extreme delusions and hallucinations can cause an individual to harm themselves or others. Some patients can also have withdrawal-induced seizures. And as such, certain withdrawals can be extremely complicated to manage without professional medical help. 

The intensity of symptoms increases when individuals use massive doses of drugs for an extended period of time. When someone who has been using heroin for a few years decides to quit, they are more likely to have severe symptoms. 

Another danger associated with withdrawal is drug overdose, which can result in fatal consequences. Overdoses can occur when a person takes higher doses than usual, combines other drugs to enhance their effects, or takes their usual dose after a duration of abstinence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70,630 people died due to a drug overdose in the United States in 2019.  

How to Manage Drug Withdrawal? 

The management of the withdrawal process involves receiving support, care, therapy, and medications to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications. Depending on the clinical scenario, the following laboratory tests are recommended in cases of potential withdrawal:  

  • CBC 
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel 
  • Urinalysis 
  • Serum glucose 
  • Arterial blood gas analysis 
  • Prothrombin time 
  • Toxicology screening 
  • Cardiac biomarker measurements

Some substances enable people to avoid using them immediately and treat their symptoms on their own. For example, one can quit caffeine independently by avoiding their morning coffee and dealing with caffeine withdrawal symptoms until they fully subside. However, abrupt cessation of drugs such as benzodiazepines or alcohol can be harmful, so contact your doctor for medical care before formulating a detox strategy. 

Detoxification or medically-assisted detox allows the body to rid itself of drugs. Detox is used to safely manage withdrawal symptoms after someone ceases taking alcohol or drugs. Each person’s detox experience is unique. The type of drug used and how long it was used affect the duration and intensity of detox. 

Medically assisted detox programs utilize medications to minimize the risks of withdrawals. Some medications used to treat symptoms during detox include: 

  • Buprenex (buprenorphine) 
  • Valium (diazepam) 
  • Ativan (lorazepam) 
  • Methadone 
  • Catapres (clonidine) 
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide) 

Certain medications can help alleviate specific symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, among other medications, are used to relieve nausea or sleep disorders. 

Other than the use of medications, patients can also utilize coping strategies and therapeutic options to manage withdrawals, including:

Healthy diet: Make an effort to consume healthy, well-balanced meals. Eating sugary, fried, or fatty foods can aggravate your symptoms. 

Exercise: Try to engage in physical exercise every day. Stretching, cycling, swimming, and other exercises can make you feel better. 

Sleep well: Although withdrawal may often cause sleeping problems, try to get enough rest. Work on developing a daily sleep routine and healthy sleeping habits. 

Stay hydrated: It’s critical to remain hydrated throughout the process, especially if you’re having flu-like symptoms like nausea and vomiting. 

Stress management: Activities like yoga and meditation can also assist you in dealing with your symptoms.  

If you wish to stop using addictive substances, reach out to a physician or addiction specialist for support and guidance. Many addiction treatment facilities all across the U.S specialize in helping individuals achieve sobriety and maintain prolonged recovery.

The opioid epidemic remains a crisis in the U.S and around the world. The number of deaths and hospitalizations associated with opioids, including prescription painkillers, illicit drugs, and analogs, has reached epidemic levels. And as a result, drug overdose is currently the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S.

The number of deaths related to accidental opioid overdose largely overshadows every other drug combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 68 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid. 

Governments and health institutes around the world have initiated various measures to tackle this growing crisis, including campaigns to educate people about the dangers of opioids, encouraging public health departments to provide drug screening and refer people to appropriate treatment, the deployment of medications to combat overdoses, and medication-assisted treatments (MATs) to treat opioid use disorders (OUDs).

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT utilizes medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole-patient” approach to substance use disorder treatment. The use of medications in treatment is proven to help minimize the risk and severity of withdrawals so that patients can focus more on recovery. 

One of the most widely used medications approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorders is methadone. 

What Is Methadone?

Methadone, sold under the brand names Dolophine and Methadose, is an opioid analgesic used to relieve chronic pain. It’s also used to treat OUDs as part of a comprehensive opioid addiction treatment program. Methadone functions by acting on the same opioid receptors as heroin and morphine to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and block the effects of other opioids. Therefore, methadone helps people in recovery avoid relapses and maintain long-term abstinence.

Methadone is a federally designated schedule II medication that has a high risk for misuse and dependence. Although it doesn’t cause euphoric highs when prescribed as part of an opioid addiction treatment program, it does have certain sedative effects that can turn euphoric when misused. Although such euphoric effects are limited, they are still strong enough to cause certain side effects. And as such, methadone is only dispensed through methadone clinics to limit the risk of misuse and adverse side effects.

What Is a Methadone Clinic?

A methadone clinic is a facility that provides medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid dependence. They are most accurately called “substance use disorder services” as they also dispense other medications such as Suboxone and naltrexone to help overcome opioid dependence. However, since methadone is the primary medication dispensed, the term has become synonymous with such facilities.

Methadone clinics prescribe patients with medications over a certain time frame to help prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce opioid cravings. They also provide patients with family, group, and one-on-one counseling sessions to ensure comprehensive treatment and recovery. Counseling helps patients avoid relapses, deal with stress, repair estranged personal relationships and learn healthy coping skills. 

There are two main types of methadone clinics available: private and public. Public clinics are generally less expensive but involve a long waiting list due to limited government funding. In contrast, private clinics are quite expensive but provide patients the opportunity to receive treatment within short notice. All methadone clinics must be certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to provide treatment. And as of 2018, there were around 1,500 methadone clinics across the U.S. 

How Do Methadone Clinics Work?

Most methadone clinics don’t require prior authorization. Patients can simply walk into a methadone clinic and request to be treated. The clinic will then perform a series of in-depth assessments and tests to determine the patient’s eligibility for methadone treatment. Once all requirements are met, the clinic will develop an individualized treatment plan based on the patient’s severity of addiction and specific treatment needs. The treatment plan will include the use of methadone and counseling and therapy sessions to ensure successful long-term recovery.

Methadone is mostly administered on-site. Patients are required to visit the clinic every day to receive their daily dosage of the medication. However, some programs may also allow patients to take home a few doses for self-administration once it’s clear that they are responsible enough to take the medication unsupervised. Methadone is dispensed by a practitioner licensed by the state or federal government. Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists may also dispense the medication or other opioid treatment medications under the supervision of a licensed practitioner. 

Methadone maintenance treatment is often a long-term commitment. Patients should take their daily dose of the medication religiously and engage in counseling and therapy sessions as scheduled to reap the program’s benefits.

What Requirements Should Methadone Clinics Meet?

To gain the certifications required to dispense medication-assisted treatments, methadone clinics must meet a few federal guidelines and protocols, such as:

  • Perform a complete physical examination on all patients under the supervision of a licensed practitioner prior to treatment. They must also provide full documentation of the examination. 
  • Have adequate policies and procedures in place to cater to the unique needs of pregnant patients. They should be able to provide prenatal care or refer such patients to appropriate services. 
  • Perform an initial assessment and subsequent periodic assessments on patients to develop and modify treatment plans as needed. 
  • Provide adequate substance abuse counseling through qualified professionals. 
  • Staff must conduct a minimum of eight drug tests per patient per year. Short-term detox programs require an initial drug test, while long-term detox programs require an initial drug test and randomized drug tests each month. 

The above are some of the basic services provided by all methadone clinics. The best clinics will go above and beyond such requirements to provide their patients with the highest level of care. 

Methadone Clinic - Turning-Point-Centers

Benefits of Methadone Clinics 

Some of the main benefits of methadone clinics are their cost, time-effectiveness, and convenience. Unlike residential treatment, methadone clinics require patients to only pay for the medications and services provided and not for accommodations. They also provide patients the flexibility to receive treatment while continuing their routine life with minimal interruptions. As long as patients commit to visiting the clinic every day to receive treatment and counseling, they can successfully participate in methadone maintenance treatment. 

Methadone maintenance treatment helps patients apply the skills learned during therapy and counseling sessions in their daily lives rather than at the end of their rehabilitation program. This helps people in recovery and counselors navigate through issues as and when they arise. 

Methadone maintenance programs are regarded as the gold standard for opioid addiction treatment. Methadone maintenance treatment has a success rate of 90 percent. Those who employ methadone services do have a better long-term prognosis than those who don’t. Its efficacy over 40 years has led to it being regarded as the most standard of opioid addiction treatment strategies.

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