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Treatment Of Addiction

Habitual use of an addictive substance can produces changes in body chemistry and any treatment must be geared to a gradual reduction in dosage. Initially, only opium and its derivatives (morphine, heroin, codeine) were recognized as addictive, but many other drugs, whether therapeutic (for example, tranquilizers) or recreational (such as cocaine and alcohol), are now known to be addictive. Research points to a genetic predisposition to addiction; although environment and psychological make-up are other important factors and a solely genetic basis for addiction is too simplistic. Although physical addiction always has a psychological element, not all psychological dependence is accompanied by physical dependence.

Addiction of any form is difficult to treat. Many programs instituted to break the grip of addictive substances have had limited success. The "cure" depends upon the resolve of the addict, and he or she often struggles with the addiction even after treatment.

A careful medically controlled withdrawal program can reverse the chemical changes of habituation Trying to stop chemical intake without the benefit of medical help is a difficult task for the addict because of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. Pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and hallucinations must be endured for several days.

Most addicts are not able to cope with these symptoms, and they will relieve them by indulging in their addiction.

The standard therapy for chemical addiction is medically supervised withdrawal, along with a 12-step program, which provides physical and emotional support during withdrawal and recovery. The addict is also educated about drug and alcohol addiction. "Kicking" a habit, though, is difficult, and backsliding is frequent. Many former addicts have enough determination to avoid drugs for the remainder of their lives, but research shows that an equal number will take up the habit again.



Bender, D. and Leone, B. Drug Abuse: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1994.

Kuhn, C., Swartzwelder, S., and Wilson, W. Just Say Know. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2002.

Silverstein, A., V. Silverstein, and R. Silverstein. The Addictions Handbook. Hillside, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1991.

Young, Kimberley. Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction—and a Winning Strategy for Recovery. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1998.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMSHA), an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (301)443-8956. <www.samsha.gov> (March 10, 2003).

Larry Blaser


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—The process of removing a poison or toxin from the body. The liver is the primary organ of detoxification in the body.


—A group of natural substances in the brain that are activated with exercise. They bind to opiate receptors and ease pain by raising the pain threshold. Of the three types, alpha, beta, and gamma, beta is the most potent.


—Any derivative of opium (e.g., heroin).


—A natural product of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. Incising the immature pods of the plant allows the milky exudate to seep out and be collected. Air-dried, this is crude opium.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: 1,2-dibromoethane to AdrenergicAddiction - Chemical Addictions, The Nonchemical Addictions, The Addict, Treatment Of Addiction - Addictions