Pharmacotherapy in the treatment of addictions?


I have always had the belief that God (or whomever we want to believe) created drugs for a reason. If someone has a headache, we recommend they take a Tylenol. If someone has sinuses, we recommend they take some Claritin. However, I never fully understood why there is an argument around pharmacotherapy, especially when an individual states that they are an addict and would like to seek treatment. However, I do understand that no one ever sets out to become dependent on drugs. Just like no one ever sets out to being diagnosed with cancer.

It is my opinion that pharmacotherapy is essential to the recovery of an addict. It is important for us to understand that drug use may start with an individual being prescribed something for pain or taking something for recreational use. This drug may relieve that pain or give a heighted feeling of pleasure that caused the individual to continue the drug use. Eventually, this leads the client to have changes in the brain and crave the drug making them dependent on it. Therefore, when this perspective is given to drug use and the way it alters the structure of the brain, I believe it is almost essential to use pharmacotherapy to assist a client. It is my belief that there is no way that an addict can completely do counseling free of drugs that their bodies have become so dependent on. Therefore, when drugs are prescribed that assist with recovery, it is more helpful to getting the client’s life back on track. I have seen the positive effects of this type of therapy working with substance abuse clients this semester and I don’t know how effective it would be to try to do therapy to an individual that was still using drugs as a means to minimize withdraw symptoms or stabilize themselves. It is my belief that pharmacotherapy makes a huge difference in this population. Therefore, I fully support it!



4 thoughts on “Pharmacotherapy in the treatment of addictions?

  1. Ayzha,

    I liked reading your perspective about medication leading to chemical dependency. It’s difficult to judge the possibility of addiction in the initial stages. Just as you mentioned the drug was described for pain relief but at the consequence of brain changes. What I am curious to know is how medical doctors prevent the patient from tipping over the threshold to addiction. I know medication typically have a duration of use. Perhaps a question of ethics comes to play when patients say they need more of the drug for pain relief or request longer usage because they can’t deal with the pain. It would be a good idea for the patient to see a therapist just as you mentioned about the bi-modal approach. The doctor can scale back on the dosage while the patient works through perceived obstacles. It’s tricky but given the proper support clients can work through the addiction.


  2. Hi Ayzha,
    I appreciated your response and particularly your exploration of the neurological aspects behind a client becoming addicted. It is easy for people to forget that long-term substance abuse alters brain processes. As a result of this, many people believe that those who have not given up their addictions haven’t done so because they cannot control themselves or don’t truly want to. However, the brain processes are another contributing factor at play, making it more difficult for the client to gain control over their addiction. It is for this reason that I think drugs can be the tipping point to assist a client in overcoming withdrawal and brain processes and working more on what they can control, such as their environment, social support, and behaviors. I agree with Jen that there is risk involved in clients becoming addicted to these assisting drugs and so I believe that regulation is very important. Thanks for your post!

  3. Hi Ayzha,

    I completely agree, as long as the drug is shown to work and has limited side effects I see no reason to not use them. To me it would be similar to denying a diabetic their insulin, if it can help them manage what they are going through why not use it? I agree with Margot and Jen that medication management is important and should be used in an ethical manner, but this is true for all medical issues that are treated with drugs and is not a true argument against pharmacotherapy. Would we deny a person who went through a operation Vicodin since we are concerned about the potential of abuse? Just as we would manage the person’s Vicodin, we would hopefully help manage the client’s use of the drug we prescribe for their addiction.



  4. Hey Ayzha,
    First off, I loved your graphic you included in your post. Furthermore, that is a very interesting perspective that I had never considered; that God created drugs for a reason. That’s a very provocative notion that I will consider further. As far as the rest of your post, I agree with it all. If it works and have limited side effects, why not right?

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