Both the people who suffer from addiction and those who care about them are often confused about the nature of this illness. Contrary to what many think, addiction isn’t the result of being weak-willed, selfish, or even lazy. Instead, it is a complex disease affecting the brain, the body, and a person’s natural reward system. Addiction can have many underlying causes, and there are many risk factors that make people more predisposed to developing it. Whether you’re seeking treatment for addiction or hoping that your loved one will seek help, it’s important to recognize that addiction is a long-term issue that requires ongoing management.
For recovering addicts, recognizing addiction as a disease is especially important. Statistically, people have a very high likelihood of keeping their recoveries on track as long as they continue engaging in ongoing recovery efforts. These can include working with sober sponsors or accountability partners, taking part in support groups, or receiving professional therapy on a continued basis. At the very least, a person’s long-term recovery plan should include strategies for avoiding high-risk environments, potentially toxic relationships, extraordinary amounts of stress, and many other common triggers.
Why Drug Addicts Cannot be Cured
Many addiction treatment professionals believe that viewing addiction as a curable condition is dangerous. This causes people to become lax in the ongoing mitigation efforts that are absolutely necessary for staving relapse off. The way in which individual substances affect the brain and body is different for each person. This is why some people can try highly addictive substances multiple times without becoming addicted, whereas others might try them only once and wind up battling lifelong substance use disorder. This difference is related to the way in which a person’s natural reward system works. Drug and alcohol use stimulate surges in neurotransmitters that are commonly referred to as “feel good” chemicals. These surges are what produce the feelings of heightened confidence, increased relaxation, and general euphoria that people experience when they are intoxicated or high.
A person who’s predisposed to developing addiction will get an unnaturally large surge in neurotransmitters when using substances. As such, this individual will feel more relaxed and more euphoric than most. This makes returning to drug use more appealing. Moreover, when this individual’s high wears of, the sense of crashing or coming down will also feel much worse. Substance use conditions the brain to rely on drugs or alcohol to promote both neurotransmitter production and neurotransmitter release.
As a consequence, these “feel good” chemicals can get burned out. Neurotransmitter burnout is a large contributor to the painful and often overwhelming symptoms that arise when people withdrawal from substances. Although abstaining from substances and completing a comprehensive addiction treatment can help the brain adjust both its chemistry and the functioning of its natural reward system, problems with neurotransmitter production that existed before substance abuse will remain This is but one of many reasons why addiction is considered incurable by many rehab professionals.
Substance Use Can Have a Permanent Impact on Brain Health and Brain Functioning
Long-term substance use and substance use involving highly addictive drugs can actually have a permanent impact on how the brain works. After being subjected to an overwhelming amount of abuse, the brain of an addicted person sometimes sustains too much damage to make a full recovery. This certainly doesn’t mean that people cannot go on to lead normal, happy, and successful lives. However, it does mean that they’ll always have to have solid strategies for promoting mood balance, stable mental health, and general well-being.
Recovering addicts should always make a concerted effort to:
- Get plenty of rest
- Have an adequate amount of social interaction
- Eat balanced and healthy diets
- Engage in regular exercise
- Practice good stress management
- Maintain treatments for co-occurring disorders
- Maintain ongoing recovery support
When stress, sleeplessness, hunger, and other forms of discomfort become too high, these individuals have a higher likelihood of facing temptations and cravings. In some cases, this remains true even for recovering addicts who’ve successfully abstained from drug or alcohol use for years.
How Co-Occurring Disorders Affect Addiction Recovery
Co-occurring disorders also have a long-term impact on addiction recovery. These are mental health disorders that exist along with substance use disorder. They include:
- General anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Bipolar disorder
and many other conditions. People frequently use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate in their efforts to alleviate the symptoms of these illnesses. In addiction treatment, finding healthful, effective, and sustainable strategies for managing co-occurring illnesses is an essential part of recovery. As long as long-term management plans remain in place for co-occurring disorders, recovering addicts have a lower likelihood of relapsing. Addiction treatment is not a simple, set-it-and-forget-it solution. Recovery is an ongoing effort that people must consistently make to keep themselves drug and alcohol-free. The good news is that with the right strategies, staying sober gradually becomes easier. Best of all, the rewards of sobriety are also progressive, and just as long-lasting. To find out more about addiction treatment, call 614-705-0611 to connect with our counselors.