When it comes to addiction, many people do not understand how or why a person becomes addicted to drugs. Common misconceptions about drug addicts are that they lack morals or they could stop their use at any time. Because of the stigma and shame attached to drug abuse, many people do not realize that addiction is a complex disease.
No person takes drugs with the intention of becoming addicted, but due to several factors, quitting becomes difficult. In order for a person to overcome their addiction, they need more than strong will or thoughts and prayers. Drugs are constructed with the ability to change the manner in which the brain normally functions.
Through constant use of a drug, the brain continues changing and eventually develops a dependence. However, due to committed doctors and health care professionals, there is a plethora of information pertaining to ill effects of drugs.
Because drugs affect the user both physically and mentally, rehabilitation facilities tackle the recovery process from a 360 degree vantage point. However, in order to fully comprehend how so many people end up in rehab, it is important to understand drug addiction.
What is Drug Addiction?
Defined as an extreme desire to obtain and use increasing amounts of one or more substances, addiction is first and foremost a chronic disease. Many people are introduced to drugs through recreational use at college parties or with coworkers and friends. While some people use drugs once and move on, there are others that form an instant bond with it. Most drugs affect ways in which neurotransmitters communicate throughout the central nervous system.
Dopamine, otherwise known as the “feel good chemical”, is released at higher quantities making a user associate their drug of choice with feelings of euphoria. Dopamine is a major component of the central nervous system’s reward circuit, which motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to maintain a high quality of life. These types of behaviors include sleeping a specific amount of hours per night or spending time with the family dog.
Because drugs increase Dopamine production, the brain automatically associates feelings of pleasure with unhealthy behaviors. These major changes in the brain cause users to continually seek out drugs in order to satisfy their body’s cravings.
As a person continues using drugs, the brain eventually adapts to slowly reducing cells of the reward system to positively respond to it. Through this adaptation, the initial high a user felt when first introduced to a drug is cut in half. When this occurs, a user has developed a dependence to whichever drug they have been taking. Once a dependence develops, it causes a user to gain less pleasure from other activities they once enjoyed, such as hanging out with friends, reading, exercising or cooking.
The longer addiction continues, the more affected the brain becomes. While the brain will fight for as long it as it can, continued use leads to certain physical and mental effects. Some effects of long-term use include: difficulty learning or processing information, inability to recall events or people’s names, lack of critical thinking, and shifts in behavior.
Especially applicable during the withdrawal process, many users suffer from immense anxiety, causing them to constantly feel as though they cannot thrive or function without drugs. At this point, the brain no longer associates drugs with pleasure, but instead craves it purely to avoid symptoms of withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that they cause a person to feel suicidal. If anyone that you know ever expresses thoughts of ending their own life, it is important to act quickly and seek professional help.
Reasons for Addiction
Although heavily studied and monitored, addiction is a disease that does not have one specific factor. There are a combination of influences that may lead one person to become addicted while another is able to use and still live a normal life.
One major factor of drug addiction is biology. Until recently, many people did not consider genetics to be a factor in drug addiction. However, research shows that about half of people at risk for addiction had a genetic predisposition. Factors like gender, ethnicity and family history of mental disorders all play a role in the potential for drug addiction. Regarding ethnicity, research has shown that African Americans and American Indians are much more likely to abuse drugs than other groups.
Another important contributing factor to drug abuse is a person’s environment. The nature versus nurture question is one that has been debated for centuries. However, when it comes to drug addiction, influences like economic status, family and friends, and general quality of life all influence the availability and use of drugs. When digging a little deeper, other environmental factors like peer pressure (in high school or college settings), sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, and parental pressures can lead a young person down a dangerous road.
When a person reaches the point where drugs have negatively affected their quality of life, treatment and rehabilitation is an important step towards recovery.
Treatment for Drug Addiction
As with any chronic disease, treatment for drug addiction can not be fixed with a magic pill. However, with hard work and dedication, addiction is manageable. The types of treatments and options available to users are extensive, with each aiming to break the physical, mental and emotional dependence drugs carry. One approach to the curing of drug addiction is drug therapy.
What is Drug Therapy?
Drug therapy, otherwise known as pharmacotherapy is the use of medication to treat diseases. The drugs provided to the addict are ones which interact with receptors to restore healthy functioning in the brain. The medications used are ones that have been federally researched and closely administered by professionals. These drugs can be taken in a variety of ways, such as in pill form, injectable or as a liquid.
Drug therapy works by providing the body with medication that eradicates the effects of a disease by flushing it out and restoring its equilibrium. It is important for patients to speak at length with their physicians and health care providers in order to determine which medications will work best for the drug affecting their sobriety. Every person is different meaning that individual plans of action need to be taken in order to come up with the best outcome.
Other Treatments for Drug Addiction
Because addiction is extremely complex, treatments must reflect that complexity. While some people only suffer from a physical or mental dependence to drugs, a combination of both factors is most common. Due to these factors, treatment facilities have to be able to encompass both physical and behavioral treatments to help the addict recover. Effective treatment plans address all of the patient’s needs instead of purely focusing on their drug abuse.
When choosing a facility, it is important for a user to consult with a doctor or health care professional. Through these meetings, a patient is able to speak with a knowledgeable and objective voice, that works with them to find the best solution for their addiction. A doctor is also able to dissect the patient’s current physical, mental and emotional status going into rehab. A doctor can also recommend the best programs for the specific drug addiction that a patient suffers from. Whichever facility is chosen, it is important for the patient to receive as comprehensive of a treatment plan as possible.
During the initial parts of a patient’s rehab journey, the detox process is incredibly important. Defined as expulsion of unwanted substances, detoxing under the watchful eye of a doctor or health care professional allows them to intervene if the symptoms of withdrawal become too much for the patient to handle. While many people believe that they can go through detoxing on their own, every person reacts differently to side effects of the process, and without professional guidance, it could lead to an overdose. As previously discussed, a professional is also able to administer a low amount of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications in order for a patient to get through tough moments with some peace of mind.
Apart from drug therapy and detoxing, another common form of treatment is behavioral counseling. In order to receive a comprehensive treatment plan, a patient needs to learn more about themselves. Through behavioral therapy sessions, patients take a deep dive into their own psychology in order to assess how this drug addiction began. Though intense, the aim of these sessions is to educate and empower patients to understand what abuse is and what factors led them to use. Because there are so many factors and potential triggers, taking the time to pinpoint a trend of bad behaviors is a tool used to open a patient’s mind.
Behavioral therapy also increases healthy life skills by having a professional help patients find other areas of their life to concentrate on. There are several kinds of behavioral treatments, each highlighting a different aspect of recovery:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients recognize and cope with situations where they are most likely to use drugs. For example, if a person tends to use drugs when partying with friends, suggesting other activities or places to have fun instead of going out to bars takes away situational stressors.
Family therapy is a type of behavioral therapy which involves family members of a drug abuser. Through these sessions, family members are able to speak openly about how their loved one’s drug abuse affected their life. Family members will be equipped with ways to effectively communicate with the addict. When there is an addict in a family, modes of communication tend to suffer as a result of loved ones wanting to avoid being shut out completely.
Motivational incentives are another type of behavioral therapy which is used to provide positive reinforcement. Through the use of incentives (whether monetary or prize based) professionals train patients to associate positivity with abstinence from drugs. The longer a patient practices abstinence through positive reinforcement, the stronger their will to stay away from drugs becomes.
Constant communication with professionals is also important as drug addiction has a way of creeping back into mind, at unexpected times. While the road to recovery is difficult, there are so many treatment options that aim to help.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a drug addiction, don’t wait to get help. With so many treatment options available today, no one should have to suffer. Get help today.