Overcoming addiction may seem like an impossibility, but a countless number of people have been able to break the vicious circle of drug or alcohol abuse. It requires taking the first step, treatment, and long-term diligence, and those who are truly motivated can ultimately find happiness without the use of intoxicating substances.
Understanding Drug Addiction
In order to resolve a problem, you have to understand it. Simply put, substance addiction is a chronic disorder in which the person suffering cannot control their behaviors related to drug or alcohol use. Moreover, the person struggles with a compulsive urge to obtain and use substances despite the incurrence of adverse consequences.
Drug Addiction is a Disease
Drug addiction is classified as a chronic brain disease because it impacts multiple brain functions, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Decision making
- Reward and pleasure
The changes in the aforementioned functions may persist for years after quitting drug use, and this is one of the primary reasons why many formerly active addicts have trouble successfully overcoming addiction and continually relapse. This pattern is not much different than the patterns of improvement and regression seen in other diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes. Like many other health conditions, drug addiction is also preventable and treatable, and, if left unaddressed, it can devastate a person’s life.
What Causes Drug Addiction?
People use drugs and abuse alcohol for many reasons. Much drug use is a form of self-medication, but most drug use is justified—prescription drugs such as opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines, when used properly, can vastly improve people’s lives.
In the end, reasons for drug and alcohol abuse come down to a variety of possibilities, such as social pressure, curiosity, or to avoid negative psycho-emotional states such as depression and anxiety. Some seek to experience euphoria or “get high.” Still, others use drugs to enhance productivity or athletic performance.
Your Brain on Drugs
Most people who use substances for the first time do so voluntarily. However, after drugs or alcohol have begun to induce changes in a ‘person’s brain, it can become difficult to resist the desire to use more. Many intoxicating substances cause brain chemistry changes at a very fundamental level, and this is what causes physical dependence.
Most illicit drugs interfere with the brain’s reward system. This effect is often related to a massive boost in dopamine, the hormone responsible for feelings of well-being, which motivates us to repeat a particular behavior. If you use substances that manipulate the reward system, you are essentially causing your brain to reward itself in the aftermath of harmful behaviors.
Dependence is characterized by the body’s inability to function “normally” without the presence of a substance. Discontinuation of the use of drugs or alcohol at this point results in unpleasant and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms that manifest as the brain fights to regain chemical stability.
As a person uses a substance for a prolonged period of time, their brain becomes accustomed to the effects of that drug, and this adaptation makes them feel increasingly less satisfied with the results. This condition is known as drug tolerance and means a person will need to use increasing amounts of a substance to achieve the desired effect.
The Circle of Relapse
Because substance addiction rewires the brain, it tends to impair a person’s judgment and self-control. This effect means that many people trying to overcome their addiction will be vulnerable to relapse and may be driven to reengage in drug or alcohol use. Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that requires a complex, multidisciplinary approach to treatment.
Moreover, if you try to overcome your addiction by sheer will alone, the chances of long-term success are poor. Even individuals who have been in recovery for years can still relapse. It is important to realize that relapse does not equate to total failure—it simply means that you may need further treatment and that treatment components will likely need to be adjusted.
Research has shown that people who receive comprehensive care in a specialized addiction program experience better outcomes than those who go it alone or receive inadequate care. That said, people have certainly quit using substances cold turkey without help. One of the main problems with this, however, is that you can remove drugs or alcohol from your life, but that doesn’t address the underlying reasons why you used them and became addicted in the first place.
Steps to Overcome Drug Addiction
If you or someone you love is currently suffering from addiction, you shouldn’t feel helpless. Although addiction is not curable, it can be effectively treated if you are motivated and take certain steps to make it happen.
1. Accept You Have a Problem
Everything starts with acceptance. You will never be able to overcome your addiction if you don’t admit it to yourself and others. You have to confront your problem and start working towards resolving it.
2. Decide to Make a Change Immediately
Everyone knows that addiction is a harmful and undesirable condition. However, it is often hard to make a change in the here and now. The nature of addiction causes people to feel uncertain and hesitate when it comes to resolving to change their destructive behaviors.
3. Set Goals
Short-term goals may include several elements, but seeking treatment should be an absolute priority. You may wish to immediately start changing your habits by cutting back on drug or alcohol use while you await entry into a treatment program. You can also avoid social interaction with people who may dissuade you from getting help or drag you deeper into addiction.
Another goal should be coming clean (if you haven’t already) with family and close friends and asking them for support. You shouldn’t have to go through this alone. They can help you find treatment and keep you from escalating your use until you enroll in a program.
The treatment-seeking process often involves calling facilities, discussing treatment options, and finding out what insurance they take, or how much costs will be. Treatment specialists should also be able to help you determine what treatment would be appropriate for you and help you get on track for the best outcome.
You may want to think about some long-term goals, such as where you would like to see yourself in three months, six months, a year, etc. This will help you stay motivated. Remember that achieving a full recovery can take a considerable amount of time, so you should not let yourself be discouraged if you don’t feel immediately assured of yourself—it will all fall into place eventually.
Overcoming Addiction: Finding Treatment
Overcoming addiction is possible. Recovery in Tune can we help you or a loved one begin the journey to a healthier, more fulfilling life free from the use of drugs and alcohol.
We offer comprehensive treatment programs in both intensive inpatient and outpatient formats. Our programs include clinically-proven services essential for the process of recovery, including psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and medication-assisted treatment.
Our teams of compassionate, skilled addiction specialists are dedicated to providing each client with the care, support, and tools they need to recover from substance addiction, prevent relapse, and enjoy long-lasting sobriety and well-being.
If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, please contact Recovery in Tune today to discuss treatment options. Find out how we help people free themselves from the disease of addiction!