January 28, 2016
A major breakthrough developed over the last decade is increased acceptance that drug and alcohol addiction is a brain disease that can worsen over time with continued use. One of the most distressing aspects of the disease is the intense, ever increasing, compulsive cravings for drugs. Cravings can interfere with a person’s functioning. Untreated addiction has led to the epidemic we have today and far too many deaths from overdose that have followed.
Science has identified how the brain reacts to drugs and how it affects mood, thinking and behavior. Repeated and sustained use over time alters the brain’s reward system and chemical processes (in effect, rewiring it). After the person stops using drugs, cravings and other effects may remain for months or years. Addiction is a result of changes in brain chemistry. Drugs or alcohol have high-jacked the brain and taken over control of thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviors. With continued use, this becomes the new norm. The idea that addiction is a brain disease is becoming more widely accepted. It’s a disease that carries a tremendous amount of shame, guilt and stigma. Addiction is not a failure to control will power or the result of just hanging out with the wrong people. However, like many other diseases, recovery is possible; addiction can be managed. Accepting that addiction is a brain disease does not mean the person is helpless. Personal responsibility is an important component of recovery. A drug exposed brain is not an excuse for not accepting responsibility for one’s decisions and recovery.
No matter the drug, all drugs have a withdrawal syndrome. Detoxification or “detox” is the process of withdrawing from alcohol or drugs and it can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Many people try to detox themselves and sometimes fail. Some drugs present life threatening withdrawal symptoms, for example, alcohol withdrawal can cause delirium tremens (or “DTs”), seizures and other complications that may result in death. Opiates or painkillers like heroin have no life threatening withdrawal syndrome but the symptoms are so uncomfortable that the individual will use again to relieve the withdrawal.
Effective treatment is available, but the treatment that works for some will not always work for everyone. Treatment and recovery involve a healing of the mind, body and spirit. If it does not work the first time, it does not mean the treatment is not effective, it means addiction is a treatable disease for which there is no cure. Many people have multiple attempts at treatment and recovery before changes stick and recovery is sustained.
There are many paths to recovery and this path is different for every individual. While some programs treat some aspects of addiction, not all programs are capable of addressing previous traumatic experiences or other co-occurring disorders such as depression. Recovery frequently is negatively impacted if these co-occurring problems are not addressed as well. Fortunately, there are a number of different models for treatment and recovery available to individuals with addiction. Some programs have success with a peer approach to recovery. Some programs combine professional help with peer recovery coaching. There are programs that offer free or low-cost treatment to individuals with limited financial resources. Prestera Center is one of these programs. Prestera Center is a licensed behavioral health facility that must meet standards that guarantee of quality, effective services. The Center is also nationally accredited. At Prestera Center, we have been leading the way in quality behavioral health services including addictions treatment and recovery services since 1967. If you or a loved one are having addiction issues, call 1-877-399-7776 and get the help you need and the life you deserve.