Have an Addiction Problem?

As long as humans have existed so has addiction. Some of the earliest descriptions of addiction come from the Greeks as well as the Bible. However, addiction to alcohol, drugs and certain behaviors such as eating, gambling, sex, etc. has become a silent epidemic in our modern society. How do people become addicted to alcohol, drugs and other behavioral excesses in life?

Many times people incorrectly believe that those who are addicted to alcohol, drugs or certain behaviors are either lacking in moral values or willpower assuming that they could simply choose to change their addictive behaviors. Nothing can be further from truth.

The fact is that like so many other illnesses (asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) addiction is a chronic disease that affects one of the most important organs of the human body, the brain,  and shows symptoms in the form of repetitive compulsive behaviors even in the face of dangerous and destructive consequences.

It’s true that initial engagement in addictive behaviors is under voluntary control for the most part but over time the changes that occur in an addict’s brain can make it more and more challenging to exercise self-control in resisting the powerful impulses to reengage in those same addictive behaviors.

Addiction is a complex disease which is known for its intense and, often, overpowering urges to repeatedly engage in alcohol and substance abuse and other maladaptive behaviors which stubbornly persist despite potentially devastating results. Addiction is a disease which involves many brain areas especially those involved in pleasure, reward, gratification, learning, memory, and ability to exercise control over certain behaviors.

For the most part, the problem of addiction goes untreated. US Government surveys tell us that in 2007 almost 24 million individuals (about 10% of the total population) needed addiction treatment for alcohol or substance abuse. However, only 2.4 million (10%) of these 24 million individuals actually received treatment for their addictive disorders. Put another way, more than 90% of the individuals who needed treatment for their addiction problem never received any! And, unfortunately, the story is no different for the years prior to or since 2007.

So, if you or one of your loved ones struggle with an addiction problem, you are not alone, as there are millions just like yourself. The only thing that matters is whether you or your loved one will continue the course of a self-destructive addictive behaviors or be among those lucky ones who chose the path to addiction rehab and recovery with a life of sustained abstinence, health, happiness, fulfillment and joy, we definitely hope it’s the latter!

There are Solutions

Effective treatments are available for those suffering with addiction problems. It’s in fact quite heartening to know that help is available to deter the negative effects of addiction and related behaviors. There is definitely good reason for hope and optimism provided right steps are taken in the direction of addiction treatment and rehab by those suffering from addiction or those who care for their health and wellbeing. One also needs to be mindful and wise in selecting the right treatment option from a menu of many where some are questionable in terms of their efficacy and even safety. Treatments generally help but wrong treatment can hurt instead of helping. So what are the solutions?

No one treatment is a panacea and the treatment plan has to be individually tailored for each person suffering from an addiction problem. Scientific evidence clearly suggests that combining various treatment modalities work much better than any individual treatment modality alone. Addiction treatment also needs to be geared towards each addicted person’s specific addictive behaviors as well as the co-occurring physical, mental, and psychosocial problems. Not addressing coexisting problems will greatly jeopardize the desirable outcome of successful addiction treatment, sustained recovery and an addiction free productive life.

Just like other chronic illnesses as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, addiction problems can be treated and managed successfully.  But, just like exacerbations and relapses in other chronic diseases, it is not surprising that patients with the disease of addiction also relapse into their addictive behaviors.  Relapse, however, should not indicate treatment failure—to the contrary, it should be taken as a sign to restart or modify the treatment or even consider alternative therapeutic modalities to help the individual regain control of his life and get back on the path of recovery.

Addiction treatment is not a procedure but a process and generally involves several stages such as:

  • Intervention: When the addicted person doesn’t recognize the problem; Services of a professional intervention specialist can be helpful).
  • Detoxification: In case of heavy, prolonged use of alcohol and certain drugs there is often a need for medically supervised treatment for withdrawal symptoms and to take care of any other significant concomitant medical issues.
  • Rehab: The therapeutic process to understand and modify old harmful behaviors and habits while replacing them with healthy ones; a process usually carried out by psychotherapy and counseling.
  • Extended Recovery. To ensure sustained lifelong abstinence while living a healthy and productive life.

Addiction Treatment (Remove “Options”)

Addiction is a complex problem with multiple facets. It generally affects many aspects of a person’s life. As such, treatment is generally not simple. Successful addiction treatment programs always consist of multiple components targeting various aspects of an individual’s addiction and its consequences.  Effective addiction treatment must not only stop the use of alcohol or drugs or engagement in addictive behaviors, but also foster a healthy lifestyle with productive functioning in various areas of one’s life. Addiction is a chronic illness and cannot be treated for a short period of time and be “cured”.  Majority of addicted individuals will need long-term and/or repeated episodes of treatment to attain the ultimate goal of successful rehab and sustained recovery for the rest of their lives.

Research studies over the last 3-4 decades clearly demonstrate that addiction treatment can be effective in helping individuals with various addictions to stop engaging in their addictive behaviors and live a healthy and productive life.  This same research has also shed light on the key aspects of an effective and successful addiction treatment program, as follows:

  • Providing multitude of treatment options and modalities.No single treatment works for everyone.
  • Addressing multiple needs of the addicted individual, not just his/her specific addiction.
  • Assessing patients fully from a medical standpoint especially for Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases that commonly co-occur with alcohol and substance.
  • Ensuring that medically assisted detoxification is available but is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself has minimal impact on long term addiction problems.
  • Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time, this is perhaps the most critical aspect.
  • Counseling, both for individual and group psychotherapy, as well as other behavioral modalities that are commonly used in an addiction treatment programs.
  • Providing services of well qualified physicians to manage medication therapy. This is a critical aspect of addiction treatment for many if not most patients.
  • Ongoing assessment and modification of an individual’s addiction treatment plan to access the efficacy of therapies provided and to make any adjustments and modifications as needed.
  • Monitoring engagement in addictive behaviors while in treatment on an ongoing basis and having effective strategies to deal with it in a therapeutic manner.

Why Addiction Rehab?

Addiction rehab is a journey to an addiction free, healthy, and productive life. As such, it’s not a short term quick fix but rather an ongoing involvement in treatment and rehab which takes deep commitment and hard work over a long period of time. In fact, it is a lifelong journey of sustained recovery and although often tough and arduous it’s well worth it.  The goal is not to simply detoxify a person from alcohol or drugs or to just refrain from addictive behaviors in a treatment setting but to maintain the abstinence throughout life, to resume a healthy and productive lifestyle and to function well on an ongoing basis in life. This ongoing recovery and progress towards health and happiness can only be achieved through addiction rehab.

Scientific studies tracking patients in addiction treatment have clearly shown that those individuals who remain in addiction treatment for longer periods of time have a much better outcome not only in terms of attaining a sustained abstinence from addictive drugs or behaviors but also improving their academic, occupational, psychosocial, and psychological functioning and reducing the criminal activity where it had been an issue. Although longer term involvement in addiction treatment does remarkably increase the chances of one’s sustained recovery, addiction treatment outcomes also greatly depend on the complexity and multitude of an individual patient’s problems and the appropriateness of treatment modalities utilized to address those.

Many, if not most, individuals with addiction problems and involved in addiction treatment have had lengthy periods of unhealthy lifestyles, dysfunctional relationships, and multitude of physical, emotional, mental, occupational and even at times legal issues. Some of these issues don’t even surface until the patient has already been engaged in treatment for a significant length of time; it takes time for addicts to break through their defenses and denials and to start a true introspective analysis of their emotions and feelings and their relationship to their addictive behaviors. And, once these issues do surface and become a focus of treatment, it takes yet another while before they can be addressed to a satisfactory resolution. This period obviously varies with each individual but based on years of professional experience as well as several scientific studies and surveys, it is quite safe to conclude that the addiction rehab process is not counted in days or weeks but rather months and years. However, once on the road to recovery, the journey of addiction rehab becomes part of a recovering addict’s life and not something of a burden to him or her. “It is good to have an end to journey; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”― Ernest Hemingway…