Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Top reasons that drug and alcohol abusers in recovery relapse?
Relapse is a common part of the recovery journey for many individuals struggling with substance abuse. It's important to note that a relapse doesn't mean treatment has failed; rather, it indicates that the treatment plan needs to be revisited or adjusted. Here are some of the top reasons why individuals in recovery might relapse:
- Stress: High levels of stress can trigger a return to substance use as a coping mechanism.
- Lack of Support System: A strong support system is crucial in maintaining sobriety. Lack of emotional support and understanding from friends and family can contribute to relapse.
- Triggers and Temptations: Being in environments or around people associated with past substance use can act as triggers, leading to a desire to use again.
- Unresolved Psychological Issues: Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma, can lead to a relapse if they're not effectively treated.
- Overconfidence: Some individuals may become overconfident and believe they can control their substance use without professional help, leading to a relapse.
- Poor Self-Care: Neglecting physical health, skipping meals, lack of sleep, and not taking care of oneself in general can contribute to a relapse.
- Incomplete Treatment: Leaving a treatment program before it is completed can leave individuals ill-prepared to resist the urge to use substances.
- Not Having a Plan: If an individual does not have a clear plan for dealing with cravings or triggers, they are more likely to relapse when confronted with these challenges.
- Challenging Emotions: Negative emotions like anger, sadness, loneliness, and frustration can sometimes lead to a desire to return to substance use as a way to escape.
- Celebrations or Positive Events: Surprisingly, positive events or celebrations can also trigger a relapse. The association of substance use with celebration or reward can lead to the temptation to use.
How does a person become addicted to drugs?
Addiction to drugs is a complex process that involves a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. It is not simply a matter of weak willpower or moral failing, but rather a chronic disease of the brain that can develop over time.
Here's a simplified explanation of how a person may become addicted to drugs:
- Initial Use: The path to addiction often begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs. This could be due to curiosity, peer pressure, seeking pleasure or relief from stress, or even for medical reasons under prescription.
- Pleasure and Reward: Drugs alter the brain's normal functioning, typically leading to intense feelings of pleasure or the elimination of uncomfortable feelings. They do this by overstimulating the brain's reward system - particularly by releasing large amounts of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which plays a significant role in feelings of pleasure and reward.
- Repeated Use and Tolerance: Over time, as a person continues to use the drug, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine by producing less of it or reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high, leading the person to take more of the drug in an attempt to recreate the original experience. This is known as developing a tolerance.
- Dependence: As the brain becomes used to the drug, physiological changes occur that make the person's body require the drug to function "normally." When the drug is not taken, withdrawal symptoms may be experienced, driving the person to continue using the drug to avoid these uncomfortable or even painful symptoms.
- Addiction: At this point, seeking and consuming the drug becomes a compulsion. The person may want to stop using the drug, but they find it extremely difficult or impossible to do so on their own, even in the face of negative consequences to their health, relationships, or other aspects of their life. The brain's cognitive functions related to judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control are significantly altered, leading to harmful behaviors and the cycle of addiction.
When a person is a substance abuser, don't they realize their life is being destroyed?
Substance Use Disorder, commonly known as addiction, is a complex condition that can significantly impact a person's judgment, perceptions, and decision-making abilities. Here are a few reasons why someone struggling with substance abuse might not fully realize the extent of the damage it's causing to their life:
Denial: It's common for individuals suffering from addiction to be in denial about the extent of their problem. They might underestimate how much or how often they use, or they may not acknowledge the negative consequences that their substance use is causing.
Altered Brain Function: Addiction affects the brain's reward system and impairs cognitive function. This can distort a person's ability to clearly see the harm that their substance use is causing. They may focus intensely on the immediate rewards of drug use while minimizing or ignoring the long-term negative consequences.
Co-occurring Disorders: Many people with Substance Use Disorder also have other mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. These conditions can exacerbate feelings of denial or self-deception about the extent of the substance abuse problem.
Fear and Shame: Fear of withdrawal, fear of change, and shame about their substance use can also prevent individuals from admitting to themselves or others the full extent of their problem.
Lack of Awareness: Some individuals may not understand the signs and symptoms of addiction, or they may not recognize that they can seek help and that recovery is possible.