Drug therapy is a form of treatment that involves the use of any substance other than food to prevent, diagnose, treat, or relieve symptoms of an abnormal disease or condition. It is used to treat a variety of diseases and illnesses, from psychiatric illnesses to cancer treatment. Drug therapy is also known as pharmacotherapy, and it involves the administration of drugs to treat or prevent diseases. Drug therapy has a solid foundation for the treatment of substance use disorders. The specific type of medication used will depend on the problem being addressed.
For example, certain medications can be given to reduce drug cravings. Medications and devices may also be used to control withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat co-occurring conditions. Patients can use medications to help restore normal brain function and decrease cravings. Medications are available for the treatment of opioid addiction (heroin, prescription pain relievers), tobacco (nicotine) and alcohol. Scientists are also developing other drugs to treat addiction to stimulants (cocaine, methamphetamine) and cannabis (marijuana).
People who take more than one medication need treatment for all substances they use. Drug therapy can also be used to treat cancer. Cancer cells may grow too fast or don't die quickly. Drug therapy may accelerate the death of cancer cells. Sometimes, cancer cells may be resistant to drugs that were initially used or may become resistant to drugs after a period of time. Mixed agonist-antagonists are drugs that have a dual action; they both stimulate neurotransmitter receptors in the brain and, at the same time, block the activation of neurotransmitter receptors by a specific drug or classes of drugs.
Treatments for prescription drug abuse tend to be similar to those for illicit drugs that affect the same brain system. In the treatment of addiction, medications are used to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings for alcohol and other drugs, and reduce the likelihood of use or relapse of specific drugs by blocking their effect. Drug abuse changes brain function and many things can trigger the desire to use drugs in the brain. Pharmacological stimulating and blocking actions are non-permanent effects that only occur when the drug is taken and activated in the body. In more general terms, drug therapy can also be used to refer to drugs that are used to prevent or diagnose any abnormal condition. In recent years, new drugs and new uses of existing drugs have significantly improved cure or remission rates for patients of all ages. Many conventional and investigational drug therapies combine drugs that target cancer cells at different points in their growth cycles. Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive or uncontrollable search and use of drugs despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long-lasting.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to manufacture them into five distinct categories or programs, depending on the acceptable medical use of a drug and the potential for misuse of a drug. Scientific research since the mid-1970s shows that drug abuse treatment can help many drug offenders change their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors toward drug abuse; avoid relapses; and successfully exit a life of substance abuse and crime.