After successfully detoxing and completing a treatment program, there may be a question of whether an individual is healed from their addiction or if it is something that they will have to deal with forever. Mastering an addiction is a heavy feat and one that should be celebrated. Many assume that this can be the end of their journey while others feel that supports are necessary for the remainder of their life. Is this really necessary though? Can addiction be cured or will addiction’s control over an individual’s life always have mastery?
An addiction is a disease in which the physiological process and physical responses of the body have become affected by the drug and the user becomes dependent on the drug to feel normal or to survive. The brain and neurotransmitters in the brain depend on the drug to function properly. This is because many drugs affect dopamine, the pleasure hormone and the brain, or serotonin. The brain specifically records the substance and the use of the drug as an activity that produces an extreme amount of pleasure. After sometime of using, the brain needs the drug to even function at a certain point. The individual may never feel like their old “normal self” because certain pathways have been affected or neurotransmitters are no longer being produced. However, the body craves the drug to avoid going through withdrawals.
Another important point to note is that an emotional memory or memories are often associated with addiction. An emotional memory is formed when an individual uses the drugs and receives a pleasurable response. The brain associates the surroundings, and information from the senses with the drug and with receiving a very pleasurable high. This is something that the brain wants to experience again. The person, places, or things recorded become important within that memory and if encountered they can trigger the feeling of wanting to use again. The brain has become conditioned to crave the drug.
Addiction is considered to be a disease. Like all diseases, they can be managed and effectively treated but they cannot be completely cured. Addiction is a chronic condition that must be successfully maintained with some type of treatment. Without treatment, addiction progressively worsens and can lead to death.
The University of Pennsylvania health system notes that if an alcoholic stays in treatment for at least one year, 70% of them percent can achieve permanent sobriety. If someone who uses drugs stays in treatment for a year, 50% to 60% percent of them can achieve permanent sobriety. What can be done to manage addiction?
Addiction often stems from an event or trauma, environmental factors, as well as genes. One day something triggers this past trauma, and if a substance is used to cope with the effects and feelings of the original trauma and the triggers, it can lead to addiction.
Addiction can be managed and successfully mastered through different avenues. These include inpatient, partial hospitalization (day treatment), intensive outpatient treatment, and outpatient treatment and therapy. Sometimes a combination of the different offerings is necessary to find success. These treatments focus on successful elimination of the drugs, monitoring, physiological support and physical support. They also focus on education, social skills, societal reintegration, therapy (and coping skills) and providing the individual with peer understanding and support. Specific behavioral therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, work well to help change beliefs, restructure thinking and cognitions surrounding faulty ideals, and offer alternative behavioral responses to stress. Expressive Art therapies are great for patients who are having trouble verbally expressing their traumas, and help with an overall release of negative emotions. Following these treatment programs, a person should practice proper aftercare. Aftercare includes therapy, support meetings, and other positive addiction management practices. These should continue well after treatment has subsided, to lessen the chance of relapse and to help support a healthy lifestyle.
It is important to note that relapse can occur and is part of the healing process, just like any other chronically debilitating disease there may be setbacks and progressions. If relapse occurs, the course of treatment should be reinstated or evaluated for its efficacy.
Individuals who master addiction are never powerless. The drug may have had, at one time, power to dictate and cripple the user’s life. With the proper techniques an individual can reclaim the power over their own life and begin to live a full and whole life again, without the presence of substances. Yes the individual will always be affected, however, managing a disease effectively is powerful in and of itself. You can overpower addiction’s control.
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