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The most common questions about drug addiction and alcoholism

Drug addiction is a chronic disease that changes the brain circuits, including those responsible for governing self-control and other behaviors. Quitting drugs, even with the best intentions and strongest will is very difficult, as drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse.

Alcoholism is the struggle to control drinking, particularly when it causes problems in your life (job, relationships, health, etc.).

The best drug treatment is focused around each individual and type of addiction. Addiction treatment can include a combination of detoxification, medication (i.e., Suboxone), and behavioral therapy. Because drug addiction is typically a chronic disorder, it is usually a long-term process to avoid relapse.

Alcoholism and addiction are chronic diseases that can be managed successfully with ongoing treatment. Treatment has helped millions of people stop drinking and drugging, rebuild their lives and live a life in long-term recovery.

Treatment works and has helped millions of people rebuild their lives. Addiction has physiological and behavioral components; thus, successful treatment involves changing deeply rooted behaviors. There are times when there is an underlying mental health issue that does not get treated and thus the person may turn to drugs again, causing a relapse. Relapse means the treatment needs to be either reactivated or another type of treatment needs to be utilized. Relapse can be part of the process but is frequently not required.

A sign of addiction is when the person keeps using drugs even after they experience negative affects upon their life, such as loss of job, relationship issues, debt, or physical complications. When their addiction is impeding a person’s life and they are not open to advice, addiction is present. Often, drugs are more important than anything else in their life.

Dual diagnosis, also referred to as co-occurring disorder, is when someone experiences a mental illness (bipolar, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.) and a substance abuse problem simultaneously. Either substance abuse or mental illness can develop first. Someone with a mental health condition may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and try to alleviate their mental health symptoms, making the condition even worse. Substance abuse can also lead to mental health problems because of the effects drugs have on a person’s moods, thoughts, brain chemistry and behavior. People with co-occurring disorders need a specialized form of treatment, referred to as integrated services or dual diagnosis treatment.

People think marijuana is not harmful, but it can lead to drug addiction and studies are showing that it can also cause health issues, just like cigarettes. There are more teens in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined. Marijuana is often considered a gateway drug, leading to more illicit drugs such as heroin.

Prescription drugs are no safer than alcohol or illegal drugs. Just because a doctor prescribes a medication, doesn’t mean you can’t become addicted. Taking someone else’s prescription medication is dangerous and can lead to abuse or even death. According to a Drug-Free World, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs, in the US alone.

Detox is the process whereby the body rids itself of the drug while managing the withdrawal symptoms. It is only the first step in drug or alcohol treatment and must be followed up with behavioral therapy.

Withdrawal is the symptoms after long-term drug or alcohol abuse stops and can last for several days but the emotional or mental state can last for weeks. Medication can help but the addiction still needs to be treated.

Whether it is your first try at stopping or reducing opioid use, or a fresh start after many attempts, give yourself credit for having the courage to change. Although no single pathway to recovery is right for everyone, research has shown people seeking recovery from opioid problems are more successful when they combine a prescribed medication used to treat addiction with professional counseling and a strong support system.

Opioids are synthetic or natural drugs that have certain unique effects on the brain and body. Opioids relieve pain and give a people a sense of well-being or euphoria by changing the body and brain chemistry. The first change many people notice is tolerance, or the need for more of a drug to get the desired effect.

Over time, the need for the drug becomes a powerful motivator to keep using, even when there is a strong desire to stop. When people need the drug to function normally, they are no longer using to feel good, but rather to avoid withdrawal symptoms and to stop feeling sick.

However, even people who are certain they no longer want the daily grind of getting drugs, using drugs, and watching drugs damage their lives and health usually can’t just walk away. They need a plan of action and support. Research shows that when people include a medication prescribed to treat opioid use disorder as part of their recovery plan, their chances of success increase. This doesn’t mean medication is right for everyone. Many people also recover from opioid use disorder without medication. But, it is important information for anyone looking at treatment options.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder combines counseling and other recovery supports with prescribed medications. These medications help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms that come from stopping opioid use. The medications approved for MAT are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

People use medications to help manage many health problems, such as diabetes, cigarette smoking, or high cholesterol. Medications can help people get started while they make the lifestyle changes necessary for long-term recovery. Medications for opioid use disorder can decrease cravings or withdrawal symptoms and reduce the stress of extreme highs and lows. Some people recover from opioid use disorder without medications. Others find that medications help them to make the changes needed to build a life in recovery.