Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
What is a medical detox?
Medical detox, also known as medically supervised detoxification, is the process of safely managing the physical symptoms of withdrawal from substances like alcohol, opioids, or other drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals. This process is typically the first step in a comprehensive treatment plan for substance use disorders.
The goal of medical detox is to minimize the physical harm caused by withdrawal and to alleviate discomfort. Here's what it typically involves:
Evaluation: This first step includes a thorough assessment of the individual's physical and mental health, as well as the extent and nature of their substance use. This information is used to design an appropriate and personalized detox and treatment plan.
Stabilization: During this phase, medical professionals administer treatment to manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure the patient's safety. This may involve the use of medications to ease symptoms and prevent complications. Medical staff monitor the patient's vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature, and may provide nutritional support and hydration as needed.
Preparation for Further Treatment: Once the acute phase of detox is complete, the focus shifts to preparing the individual for further treatment, such as inpatient or outpatient rehab. This may involve counseling or therapy to help the individual understand the importance of continuing treatment to maintain long-term recovery.
What are the effects of drug addiction on the brain?
Drug addiction significantly impacts the brain's structure and function. Here are the key effects:
- Alteration of Neurotransmitters: Drugs can excessively stimulate the brain's reward system by flooding it with dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This abnormal stimulation produces euphoria and motivates repeated drug use.
- Brain Reward System Disruption: Over time, continued use of drugs leads to changes in other brain circuits and systems. The overstimulation of the reward circuit causes the intensely pleasurable 'high' that leads people to take a drug again and again.
- Cognitive Functioning and Decision Making: Extended drug use can alter the brain's prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for decision-making, impulse control, judgment, and problem-solving, leading to poor decision-making and impulsivity.
- Memory and Learning: The hippocampus, vital for learning and memory, can also be affected, making it harder to learn and remember information.
- Stress Regulation: Chronic drug use can affect the brain's amygdala, leading to increased stress levels and difficulty in managing anxiety and stress, which can potentially contribute to the cycle of addiction.
- Physical Dependence and Withdrawal: Over time, the brain adapts to the drug, diminishing its sensitivity and making it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. When the drug is withdrawn, it leads to discomfort and withdrawal symptoms, as the brain readjusts to the absence of the drug.
- Neurotoxicity: Some drugs can cause neurons to die due to overactivation or neurotoxicity, causing lasting damage to brain regions.
What is smart recovery?
SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a global community of mutual-support groups that provide a structured, scientifically grounded program to help people manage their recovery from any type of addictive behavior, including substance abuse and behavioral addictions.
SMART Recovery's approach is different from other recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, which are based on the 12-step model. Instead of focusing on the concept of "powerlessness" over addiction, SMART Recovery emphasizes self-empowerment and self-reliance. It promotes the ability of individuals to change their own thoughts and behaviors to overcome addiction.
The SMART Recovery program is based on principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing. It is designed around a 4-point program:
- Building and maintaining motivation: This helps individuals to build their motivation to change and avoid relapsing.
- Coping with urges: This gives individuals the skills to deal with urges or cravings as they arise.
- Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: This is about developing healthy thoughts, emotions, and actions in place of the destructive ones that can lead to addictive behaviors.
- Living a balanced life: This involves individuals identifying what they truly value in life and building their lives around those values, leading to satisfaction and fulfillment beyond their addiction.
SMART Recovery meetings, both in-person and online, are facilitated by trained volunteers and are free to attend, though donations are appreciated. The program also offers a variety of tools and techniques for self-empowerment and self-directed change, available in various formats such as handbooks, worksheets, and online resources.