Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
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.
Can I successfully get treatment for my addiction to alcohol on an outpatient basis?
"Yes, it is possible to successfully receive treatment for alcohol addiction on an outpatient basis. Outpatient treatment programs can be an effective and flexible option for individuals who cannot commit to inpatient or residential programs due to work, family, or other responsibilities. However, the success of outpatient treatment largely depends on the individual's motivation, support system, and the severity of their addiction. While outpatient treatment can be successful for many individuals, it may not be suitable for everyone. Those with severe alcohol addiction, a history of relapse, or co-occurring mental health disorders may require more intensive inpatient or residential treatment to ensure their safety and promote lasting recovery.
Ultimately, the success of outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction depends on the individual's commitment, the support of their family and friends, and the quality of the treatment program. It is essential to choose a reputable and evidence-based outpatient program and to be fully engaged in the recovery process for the best possible outcome."
What is the 12 step method for treating addiction?
"The 12-step method for treating addiction is a structured, peer-based approach that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the 1930s. Since then, it has been adapted for various other substance use disorders and behavioral addictions, including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA), and Overeaters Anonymous (OA), among others. The method is based on a set of guiding principles, known as the 12 steps, that outline a path to recovery, personal growth, and spiritual development.
The 12 steps of the method are as follows:
- Admitting powerlessness over the addiction and recognizing that one's life has become unmanageable.
- Believing that a higher power (interpreted by each individual according to their beliefs) can restore sanity and provide support in recovery.
- Deciding to turn one's will and life over to the care of the higher power.
- Conducting a thorough and honest moral inventory of oneself.
- Admitting to oneself, the higher power, and another person the exact nature of one's wrongs and shortcomings.
- Being ready to have the higher power remove these defects of character.
- Humbly asking the higher power to remove one's shortcomings.
- Making a list of all the people harmed by one's addiction and being willing to make amends to them.
- Making direct amends to those harmed, whenever possible, except when doing so would cause harm to them or others.
- Continuing to take personal inventory and promptly admitting when one is wrong.
- Seeking to improve one's conscious contact with the higher power through prayer and meditation, asking for knowledge of the higher power's will and the strength to carry it out.
- Having experienced a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, carrying the message to others struggling with addiction and practicing these principles in all aspects of life.
The 12-step method emphasizes the importance of peer support, mutual aid, and the sharing of personal experiences as a means of overcoming addiction. Participants typically attend regular meetings, where they share their stories, listen to others, and work through the steps at their own pace. Many 12-step programs also encourage members to find a sponsor, an experienced member who has worked through the steps and can provide guidance, support, and accountability during the recovery process."