Methaqualone: Treatment and rehabilitation

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 12:50 pm

When a depressant drug like methaqualone is stopped abruptly, the body responds by overreacting to the substance’s absence. Functions such as heart rate that were slowed by the depressant will suddenly accelerate, often erratically. Conversely, withdrawal of a stimulant drug can cause an overall sluggishness that results in depression and extreme fatigue. These changes result in very uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening physical symptoms, called withdrawal syndrome.
The length of time detoxification takes depends on the patient and his or her pattern of methaqualone abuse. Seven to 10 days is an average detox time for someone dependent on methaqualone. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin approximately 12 to 24 hours after individuals have taken their last dose, and peak 24 to 72 hours after. Methaqualone abusers in withdrawal typically suffer from potentially serious symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, tremors, tachycardia (irregular heartbeat), excessive perspiration, anxiety, insomnia, delirium, convulsions, and grand mal seizures. For this reason, methaqualone detoxification should always take place under the supervision of a healthcare professional in a hospital or rehabilitation setting, so withdrawal symptoms can be treated appropriately.
A physician may also prescribe another sedative to ease the withdrawal symptoms during the initial detoxification period. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for patients with anxiety and sleep disorders.
In addition to providing a controlled environment for detoxification, inpatient treatment is helpful in cases where there is a risk that patients might harm themselves or others or if there is another physical or mental illness that requires a doctor’s observation and care.
Outpatient, or ambulatory, treatment is another option for substance abusers. Patients in outpatient substance abuse treatment spend their days, or a portion of their days, in a rehab facility while returning home at night.
Once detoxification is complete, the drug abuser can start the rehabilitation and long-term recovery process with a clear head. Research shows that detoxification alone is not an effective treatment, and addicts who leave rehab immediately after detox with no further counseling or interventions soon abuse methaqualone or another mind-altering substance again.
An effective drug rehabilitation program removes the drug of choice from the abuser’s body and surroundings. It also focuses on changing patterns of the abuser’s behavior and dealing with the underlying emotional issues surrounding his or her drug use. Drug education on the long-term effects of substance abuse is also typically part of a rehab program.
Recovery refers to the life-long process of avoiding substance use and the mental and physical rehabilitation of the damage done during active substance abuse. An individual in recovery must avoid not just methaqualone or another drug of choice, but any mind- and mood-altering drug, including alcohol. Substance cravings can be strong, and may last indefinitely. Recovering addicts are always in danger of slipping back into substance use, and relapse can occur with a single dose or drink. Triggers, or common causes, for relapse include major life changes such as unemployment or career change, relationship and financial problems, and family stresses. Yet more subtle circumstances — seeing people or visiting places an addict associates with the drug use — can also prompt a relapse.
Therapy and individual or group counseling are key parts of rehabilitation as well. There are a number of different therapy approaches in substance abuse treatment, and often more than one therapeutic approach is used during the patient’s stay in drug rehabilitation.
Individual psychotherapy
One-on-one counseling explores the emotional issues underlying a patient’s drug dependence and abuse. Individual psychotherapy is particularly helpful when there is also some type of mental disorder, such as depression or an anxiety disorder, along with the drug abuse.
Behavioral therapy
Behavioral therapy focuses on replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthier ones. It uses tools such as rewards (positive reinforcement for healthy behavior) and rehearsal (practicing the new behavior) to achieve a drug-free life.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Like behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) also tries teaching new behavioral patterns. However, the primary difference is CBT assumes that thinking is behind behavior and emotions. Therefore, CBT also focuses on — and tries to change — the thoughts that led to the drug abuse.
Family therapy
Family members often develop habits and ways of coping (called “enabling”) that unintentionally help the addict continue their substance abuse. Group counseling sessions with a licensed counselor or therapist can help family members build healthy relationships and relearn old behaviors. This is particularly important for adolescents in drug treatment, who should be able to rely on the support of family.
Group therapy
Group therapy offers recovering drug abusers a safe and comfortable place to work out problems with peers and a group leader (typically a therapist or counselor). It also provides drug abusers insight into their thoughts and behaviors through the eyes and experiences of others. Substance abusers who have difficulty building healthy relationships can benefit from the social interactions in group therapy. Offering suggestions and emotional support to other members of the group can help improve their self-esteem and social skills.
Self-help and 12-step groups
Self-help organizations offer recovering drug abusers and addicts important support groups to replace their former drug-using social circle. They also help create an important sense of identity and belonging to a new, recovery-focused group.
Twelve-step groups, one of the most popular types of self-help organizations, have been active in the United States since the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935. Narcotics Anonymous (NA), a group that serves recovering drug addicts, was founded in 1953. Like AA and other 12-step programs, NA is based on the spiritual philosophy that turning one’s will and life over to “a higher power” (i.e., God, another spiritual entity, or the group itself) for guidance and self-evaluation is the key to lasting recovery.
The accessibility of self-help groups is one of their most attractive features. No dues or fees are required for AA and NA, so they are a good option for the uninsured and underinsured. Meetings are held in public places like local hospitals, healthcare centers, churches, and other community organizations, and frequent and regular attendance is encouraged.
In addition, twelve-step groups work to empower members and promote self-esteem and self-reliance. NA meetings are not run by a counselor or therapist, but by the group or a member of the group. And the organization encourages sponsorship (mentoring another member), speaking at meetings, and other positive peer-to-peer interactions that can help reinforce healthy social behaviors. Today, the internet and on-line support communities have added a further degree of accessibility to those who live in rural or remote areas.

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