Managing Drug Addiction Online
Drug addiction is a chronic disease that creates changes in the brain that can be long lasting and can lead to harmful behaviors. Because of these brain changes, a person's ability to choose not to use drugs becomes compromised. When one becomes addicted, is it often hard to stop for good and remains an ongoing struggle.
People turn to drugs or alcohol when for many reasons including pain and stress, and some peoples’ brains are even genetically predisposed to addiction. The problem arises because use of a substance or engagement in an activity that is pleasurable stimulates the brain’s "reward center", releasing a brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine regulates emotional responses and levels of motivation. A destructive cycle is created in the brain whereby it seeks more and more of the pleasurable experience, making it difficult for the person to control those urges.
Eventually, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine and the reward circuit becomes desensitized to it, requiring more and more of the substance or activity in order to feel the same level of pleasure. This causes issues known as tolerance and craving.
Drug addiction is a relapsing disease, meaning very often one returns to use the drug after an attempt to stop. For this reason, it is very difficult for one to be cured from drug addiction. However, drug addiction can be successfully managed with the proper professional help which many include a combination of medication management by a psychiatrist, counseling from a trained therapist, and peer support groups.
You and your online psychiatrist and/or therapist can help determine the severity of your addiction, what type of treatment is needed, and if a referral to an inpatient program is needed.
During a video consult on Amwell, one of our board-certified psychiatrists and/or therapists will ask you a series of targeted questions to determine the severity of your addiction. Your diagnosis will be based on the exam, your medical history, and the duration and severity of symptoms.
Addiction is a very complex disease. As every patient is different, your treatment plan will be unique and individually tailored to your situation and needs.
Effective substance use treatment depends on an accurate understanding of a patient’s history and a thorough assessment of all presenting symptoms. Our psychiatrists and therapists are experienced in treating all presenting symptoms and will look at each patient as a whole person and a unique individual.
Often, our providers will recommend that individuals pursuing addiction treatment will make Amwell teletherapy part of a greater treatment plan with other community resources. This may include regular meetings with a psychiatrist and medication management, self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and other addiction focused community therapies. It is important to note that patients requiring medically supported detox treatment are likely not appropriate for teletherapy in isolation, and teletherapy is not a substitution for inpatient or physician supported care. Treatment using Amwell online therapy may, however, be an effective addition to a greater treatment plan once a patient is medically stabilized and appropriate for outpatient care.
IMPORTANT: Although there are many options for psychiatric or medications management of addiction, only some can be prescribed through online treatment. Only non-controlled prescriptions such as antidepressants for compulsive behaviors, anticonvulsants to stabilize brain cell activity, acamprosate (Campral), disulfiram (Antabuse), naltrexone (ReVia, Vivitrol), varenicline (Chantix), and nicotine patches for cravings and abstinence can be prescribed online. Controlled substances such as benzodiazepines, naloxone (Suboxone), buprenorphine (Subutex) and methadone cannot be prescribed online and would require in-person care.