Dealing with a drug addiction can be frustrating and a cause for great concern for you or your family. The disease of addiction can affect anyone at any time, paying no attention to race, religion or socioeconomic status. Addiction doesn’t care if you have a job. It doesn’t care if you are single, married, divorced or whether you have children who depend on you for their every need.
Getting help for a drug addiction isn’t as complicated or as difficult as you might think. All you need is the desire to become well and to take the steps needed to get treatment.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is a disease. The National Institute on Drug Addiction explains this disease with several distinct characteristics, including:
- Drug addiction is a chronic condition.
- Drug addiction is marked by relapse.
- Drug addiction is a brain disease the physically changes the way the human brain functions.
- Prolonged use of drugs can create an inability to feel pleasure without the drug.
- It is very difficult to stop using drugs without help.
The main part of the brain that is greatly affected by the use of drugs is the part that produces certain neurotransmitters. As the NIDA further explains, the brain communicates by sending and receiving messages from one neuron to another in the form of released chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters are released through a part of the brain cell called a transporter. The transporter is also responsible for pulling back in any excess of neurotransmitters that may have been released. Brain cells have receptors that are designed specifically for each type of neurotransmitter. Drugs affect the neurotransmitters, transporters and receptors in different ways depending upon the type of drug taken.
One type of neurotransmitter often affected by drug use is called dopamine. Dopamine is the substance in the brain that communicates pleasure and reward, our ability to think and to move, as well as our emotions, motivation and pain. Some drugs change the brain process by causing the brain to produce too much dopamine while others mimic dopamine and fool the brain into thinking it should feel good. This overabundance of dopamine, as well as the ability of some drugs to block to transporters from absorbing the excess, leads to the euphoric feelings experienced and sought after by drug users.
Unfortunately for drug users, the human brain catches on rather quickly to what’s going on. The brain and body will adjust to the higher levels of dopamine, either authentic or imitation, and eventually come to believe the amounts are normal. This is why drug users must take more of a drug to gain the same euphoria they once experienced with less. This is known as “tolerance” to a drug, according to the NIDA. As the body builds up its tolerance levels, then more addiction is likely to follow.
Why Do I Need Drug Rehab to Quit Using Drugs?
When addiction has taken hold, the drug user will often do anything to continue using drugs. The actual diagnostic description, listed by Indiana University, is used to determine whether addiction is present. There are rather specific guidelines and they can show why quitting without help is often difficult.
For instance, one of the characteristics listed is the presence of withdrawal symptoms. Depending upon the drug used, withdrawal symptoms will vary. For opiates, such as heroin or prescription pain medications, like Vicodin or OxyContin, withdrawal symptoms can include pain, nausea and vomiting, chills, anxiety, insomnia, and agitation as outlined in a description from Medline Plus – a service of the National Institute of Health. To alleviate these symptoms, an individual addicted to heroin may choose to use again just to feel normal.
Another aspect of addiction is a disregard for important social, work-related or family obligations in order to obtain more drugs as well as the use of drugs even though, on a conscious level, users know they are being damaged by their effects.
Stopping use of drugs once it has reached this point is so difficult – simply based on the very definitions of addiction – that many drug users will return to use of drugs despite their best efforts.
Two Types of Drug Rehab
When a drug user has made the decision to seek treatment for his or her addiction, there are two types of rehab that can help. The first type of treatment is conducted on an outpatient basis. This can include individual psychotherapy with a psychologist or drug treatment counselor, or it can be more intensive. Intensive treatment can include group therapy, family therapy and other services beneficial to healing. The most distinct aspect of outpatient therapy is the ability of the person seeking help to remain at home, at work, and available to his or her family. While taking part in an outpatient treatment program, the participant may be required to submit to random or daily drug screenings to verify continued abstinence from the use of drugs.
This type of therapy can sometimes serve as a bridge for individuals who are waiting for a space to become available in the other type of treatment: a residential inpatient program.
While outpatient services can be of benefit to some individuals who need to keep working or who have no one available to take over responsibilities at home, such as caring for children, inpatient treatment provides a more structured environment that can be more relaxing and productive in a shorter length of time. While residing in an inpatient facility, the recovering addict will take part in psychotherapy sessions on an individual and group basis, as well as receive education about their disease and how to handle the stress and anxiety of daily life once he or she is released.
Regardless of the type of treatment a recovering addict chooses, there are certain criteria that have been established as most effective by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One such criterion is that no one treatment is going to work for everyone. Each person is different and each person’s addiction disease is different.
Some individuals may have underlying or co-occurring disorders that led to the addiction issues. Others may have similar co-occurring diagnoses, but they are the result of the addiction rather than the cause. Still others may suffer from drug addiction and an eating disorder, or some may suffer from only a drug or alcohol addiction by itself. In order for addiction treatment to be most effective, the treatment plan must be tailored to the needs of the individual, rather than forcing an individual in need of treatment into a one-size-fits-all treatment mold.
Another aspect of effective treatment is the length of time one remains in treatment. There is no set time limit or magic number of weeks for drug rehab. What is understood is that the treatment must be of a length that is adequate to meet the recovering addict’s individual needs.
Finally, the treatment plan chosen must be flexible enough to treat the entire person, and not simply the “drug addiction.” As the needs of the recovering addict change, so should the treatment plan.
Additional principles of treatment from the NIDA include:
- Detoxification is not a treatment plan by itself and must be followed with additional therapies.
- Treatment can be effective even if the participation is not voluntary.
- Treatment must be readily available to take advantage of the individual’s desire to receive help.
- Drug monitoring and testing are effective tools to prevent drug use during treatment, but lapses can and will occur periodically.
- Drug treatment should include assessments for infection diseases prevalent among drug users, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis so treatment can be administered if necessary.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. This particular type of therapy was originally designed to help recovering alcoholics withstand the temptations or behaviors that would lead to relapse but over the years, it has been tailored to the needs of many addictions and destructive behaviors with success.
When a recovering addict takes part in cognitive behavioral therapy, he or she will work with a therapist to identify thought patterns that have led to poor decision-making in the past. Together, they will determine better methods of behavior and ways to cope with the same types of influences in the future.
What Are the Rates of Successful Recovery?
Addiction is not a disease that fits into a specific set of lines or rules. Because addiction is different for everyone, what we might consider “success” is different for everyone as well. Addiction is often marked by relapse, but this doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or been unsuccessful. When a medical doctor treats a condition such as hypertension or high blood pressure, there are many methods, medications and treatment options from which to choose as outlined by the Mayo Clinic. One method may work for a time, but the patient may suffer an episode of spiking blood pressure. Additionally, a medication may work fine for one patient but not for another. The doctor may then choose another method for treatment or simply adjust the medication dosage. Treatment of addiction can be looked at in much the same way. If the treatment plan isn’t working anymore, it can be adjusted and renewed through cooperation between the recovering addict, his or her family, and the treatment providers.
None of the benefits of treatment will happen unless the drug user gets the help he or she needs to survive. If you, or a member of your family, are struggling with addiction to drugs, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Futures. We can help you make a plan and get the help you need before any more time is wasted.