Depression; withdrawals; frustration; relapse; the cycle seems to go on and on, often with the end nowhere in sight. But this devastating cycle doesn’t have to last forever.
You or your loved one can live a life free from addiction. Recovery and positive change is both achievable and sustainable.
But firstly, you need to know addiction is a disease. And like every other disease, it can be treated. With the right medication, therapy, and exercise, you will find that the road to recovery doesn’t have to be dark and hopeless. It is not impossible to be clean and free from addiction to drugs and alcohol, no matter how long it may take.
To overcome an addiction, you will first need to understand the nature of the challenges you or your loved one are facing.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a disease, sometimes referred to as a brain disorder, which affects how the brain functions. It tampers with the nerves relating to pleasure, logical thinking, and self-control, by creating a compulsion powerful enough to render a person helpless to the need for the drug or substance being abused.
How Addiction Affects the Human Brain
The human brain is made up of a billion cells called neurons, which are formed into circuits and networks. Among these circuits, there is what is popularly called a reward (pleasure) circuit in every person. This reward circuit is responsible for producing positive feelings, happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure when certain activities are carried out, for instance, activities like eating, having sex, playing sports, socializing, etc. This circuit is also responsible for the creation of habits in an individual.
When certain substances are introduced, they put the reward circuit into overdrive, producing an excess amount of pleasure, called the ‘high’. But with continuous use, the reward circuit gets accustomed to that level of euphoria, making it “normal”, till one has to depend on the substance just to maintain feeling normal. At this point, the individual would need a greater amount of the substance to feel “high” again.
An addict is someone who no longer has control over their use of a substance.
Starting as an Addict
It is rare to find an addict today who started with the mindset to deliberately be one, especially given the knowledge of the harmful and sometimes fatal side effects. Most often it starts as a voluntary use or abuse of drugs, alcohol, prescription medicines, and so on, for either a legitimate reason or an illegitimate one.
Every year, millions of people are prescribed pain killers by medical practitioners to give them relief from pain. Unfortunately, some of these drugs are powerful and not only provide the required relief from the pain but also give the users a sweet rush of pleasure. Other substances such as stimulants, anti-anxiety medications, depressants can also be abused to give the users varying effects from self-confidence to relief from anxiety.
How to Recognise an Addiction?
Addiction has different ways of revealing itself, though it often varies from person to person. This is because of individual differences stemming from age, genetics, medical history, environment, and so on. People experiencing the challenges of an addiction are often impacted by fractured relationships, legal pressure, physical health issues, mental health issues, unemployment etc.
Signs of Addiction
The younger the user, the greater the risk of long-term damage and addiction. Children and young adults that are exposed to substance abuse have a greater challenge in overcoming addiction, once they get hooked. This is because they are still at a developing phase where their bodies go through changes and abusing substances at that age would tamper with their brain development.
It is important to note that not all the signs may be exhibited by every addict.
l Physical Signs:
ü Unexplained weight loss or gain
ü Needle marks on the body
ü Poor coordination
ü Red eyes, watery eyes, or blank stares
ü The smell of substance on body or breath; or unusual consumption of mints (to cover up)
ü Shaky palms, etc.
l Behavioral Signs:
ü Changes in attitude
ü Loss of interest or motivation in once enjoyable activities
ü Changes in the friend circle
ü Worsened academic performance
ü Becoming secretive
ü Stealing money or having unusually high expenses
ü Sudden switches in moods like irritability, temper, and excitement
ü Changes in sleeping pattern, etc.
Recognising there's an addiction problem and making the decision to seek help with it is the first step on the road to recovery - whether it is for yourself or a loved one.
There are diverse ways to get the help you need, but all begin with picking up the phone and seeking support and assistance. Yes, it will be difficult to stop, but do not take that as a sign of weakness or failure. Most people who battle with addictions require professional assistance in various regards because it is almost impossible to do it on your own.
Talk about it
In overcoming an addiction problem, there's truth to the saying; "A problem shared is a problem solved". Having a confidant and a supportive person who you can share your challenges; fears; urges; and other feelings with, has a huge therapeutic benefit effect. Not only that, but the confidant also acts as an accountability partner who can hold you in check throughout your recovery process.
Get Professional Assistance
The type of professional help you or your loved one may require depends on the type of substance abused, and how potent the level of addiction is. Receiving accurate and evidenced based information and working with appropriately qualified, experienced and professional clinical supports is critical to a more positive and sustainable outcome.
Prepare for Tough Moments
Quitting an addiction is never easy. If you have started the process and you feel it’s been easy, be careful that you are not experiencing a “pink cloud” syndrome, where you feel confident and excited about recovery, till you are faced with a challenge then it becomes hard to continue the healing process.
There are many more tips to help with the challenging nature of addiction, but It is good to bear in mind that situations will arise that will tempt you to go into relapse. Sometimes, it may be the withdrawal symptoms, at other times, the very reason you started taking the substance in the first instance, like body pains, insomnia, anxiety, and so on. But know that just because you or your loved one relapsed, it doesn’t mean you or they will never overcome it.
Face each challenge like a hurdle race. It doesn’t matter if you can’t jump over a few or any of the hurdles at all, so long as you keep running right through them, you will eventually cross the finish line.
"ASV programs and services provide affordable, evidenced based drug and alcohol rehab options across Melbourne, Victoria. The core program is delivered in the persons home where they feel safe and their privacy is protected". - Jase Bowman - ASV CEO Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center, Melbourne 2020.