Perhaps you yourself, have experienced some drug use, or have gotten all the way addicted. Or it might be in your family. Maybe you know people who have become addicted to illegal (or in some cases legal) substances. Regardless of what the case may be, it is very hard to overcome drug addiction. Yet many people do recover from drug addiction every day, and they stay clean and sober for a very long time. That means there’s hope!
Why is Drug Addiction so Hard to Overcome?
There are multitudes of reasons why drug addiction is very difficult to overcome. First of all, addiction is not just about whether a person wants to drink or use drugs to cope with life, but it is a powerful physiological pull which then takes command over users’ feelings and thoughts in the brain. Then their behavior starts to change … for the worse. So simple willpower will not change that altered biochemistry in the brain because the drugs change their brains, creating compulsions to use.
Also, most people who find themselves in the throes of drug and alcohol addiction also have some mental health disorder (or sometimes more than just one) going on at the same time. That’s why we have coined the phrase dual diagnosis – there is the diagnosis of drug use, and the mental health diagnosis too. Many individuals, once getting clean and sober, start to experience depression.
Then unfortunately there is still a great deal of stigma attached to people who get caught in the web of drug use and addiction. No, addiction is not a moral failing. It’s not a lack of willpower. In fact, perfectly wonderful people from all walks of life – rich, middle-class, and poor – get caught in this trap. People who don’t have a lot of education, and people who are highly educated can and do become addicted to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
How to Stop Drug Addiction.
In most people, addiction is strong and powerful. It is an actual disease of the brain and its biochemistry, often influenced by a person’s genetic makeup (not a moral failing), which leads that individual into losing the ability to control the use of their drug of choice. Perhaps the best choice to stop using is to seek professional treatment and to stay in the program. Addiction is treatable (although perhaps not cured, depending on who you talk to). Engaging in conventional approaches using prescription medication plus an effective form of talk therapy and attendance at meetings have been proven to assist greatly in drug addiction recovery.
There are also holistic interventions for drug addiction which rely heavily on nutrition and supplementation rather than medications. Additionally, there are treatment centers which offer an integration between conventional and holistic approaches.
What is the Cause of Drug Addiction?
There are many ways in which people fall into the trap of addiction. It can begin with experimentation with peers (especially in kids), or it can start with prescriptions for pain (this is particularly true for opioid use). It’s been years since the entire human genome has been mapped out, and a great deal of research has been conducted. So, we now know that people can be predisposed genetically to substance abuse.
Not to worry! Let me explain this a bit further. Genes have on/off switches, and environmental stressors can turn gene switches on. If you are genetically predisposed to addiction, your switch may be activated by life stressors. However, we also know that gene expression can be controlled by your nutrition, supplements, mindfulness, how you handle stress, etc. That’s what we mean when we suggest you make lifestyle changes – the healthier lifestyle choices you make each day, the less likely your genes are to express themselves. In other words, you can shut down your genes which may be driving you to use!
How to Overcome Drug Addiction.
It makes sense that a person become aware and admit that they have a drug addiction problem. In more extreme and advanced cases, close friends and family members, with or without the help of a professional, can stage an intervention for the using person. Oftentimes, this results in admitting them to a detox treatment center where the individual can be taken off the drugs safely. Some people need to be closely, medically monitored as they detox heavy drugs from their bodies. This, then, enables your loved ones to begin the actual drug addiction rehab.
What are the Signs of Drug Addiction?
There are many signs of drug addiction, and because people are individuals, they may display these signs in different ways. It makes sense to become familiar with the symptoms to help you identify if a close loved one and/or family member is in need of drug addiction rehab and recovery. A few of these symptoms are:
Additionally, there are specific symptoms when using specific drugs. One example is when using central nervous system depressants, like barbiturates, benzos, and hypnotics, you can feel drowsy, have slurred speaking, you can be irritable and otherwise moody, etc.
How to Help Someone with Drug Addiction and Depression.
One of the best things you can do for someone who is dealing with addiction is to encourage that person to get drug addiction treatment. Overcoming drug addiction without rehab isn’t usually too successful, as the physiological, mental, and emotional pull to continue the addiction is extremely strong. Even if you can stop using drugs, you may not be able to continue staying clean and sober, as you are not engaging in getting drug addiction help in the form of counseling, nutrition, supplements, or medications.
When a person detoxes and gets clean and sober, the real work begins. To overcome drug and alcohol addiction, once your mind is cleared, counseling, education, 12 step meetings, and other things can start. It’s important to address many issues at the same time, using a holistic approach, to achieve a full recovery effort, and your chances of clean and sober increase with this approach.
Unfortunately, many people, once starting their recovery program, experience physical pain. That’s why a holistic approach is good; since pain can leave you with many difficult-to-manage feelings, like anger, sadness, hopelessness, and depression, getting mental health therapy can help even with your physical pain by reducing the mental stress as you learn to cope with life stressors more effectively. Medication to treat depression can also bolster this effort (but is not a substitute for good psychological help).
Taking sugar and other sweeteners and refined flour products (like bread and pasta) out of the food you consume is another meaningful step at alleviating depression. Starting to get some moderate, healthy levels of physical activity is another important step at alleviating depression and may even help with other physical pain. Eat fresh produce (watch the fruits as they contain a fair amount of sugar!), and meats or grains if you don’t want to eat meats. Stop the sodas and energy drinks – they contain things that can impact your mood, like caffeine and sugar. At first this might seem difficult, and it is indeed different to live without ups and downs but keeping the insulin spikes in your blood at a more even keel will have a calming effect.
Some supplements that may be helpful to your overall health, and especially your mental health, are omega-3s (think fish oil or cod liver oil), vitamin D (get plenty of sunshine and take some supplemental D), B12, St. John’s wort, ginseng, lavender, and more. Be careful about your supplements and always check with your health care practitioner to see if they will mix well with your medications. While not many, there are some contra-indications, and your doctor will be able to guide you.
How Drug Addiction Affects Family.
When a person starts using drugs, even if they use their drugs while they are alone, still has a profound affect on family (and close friends). Drug addiction is never a solitary disease. Persons grappling with addiction are often very difficult to get along with, and their behavior usually worsens as they can start stealing from loved ones to get more drugs. Family members and friends usually find it increasingly difficult to trust a person in the midst of addiction. Communication suffers. Divorces happen. Family members start fighting with each other. A using person may suddenly disappear for long periods of time, and sometimes family members find out that their loved one has died from an overdose. It can result in high levels of trauma.
When children grow up in families where a parent abuses drugs, this can have long-term, negative effects on them. These kids are more likely to develop substance use problems of their own and are often neglected and abused. This can impact their learning and development in a negative way. Sometimes kids are removed from their homes and put into foster care.
This is why we often treat the entire family, not just the person with the addiction. There’s hope! The earlier the interventions for drug addiction are made for the entire family, the better. Early intervention can mean less psychological and physical damage.
What is Drug Addiction Treatment?
Drug addiction treatment takes on many forms. It is usually a major, longer-term effort to help addicted individuals stop looking for and taking drugs. Excellent programs geared toward alcohol and drug addiction are multi-faceted since the disease of addiction affects several aspects of daily life simultaneously. Most treatment programs include prescription medications, mental health therapy, attendance at 12 step meetings, exercise programs, and education. In addition, more holistically oriented treatment programs offer nutritional advice (i.e., healthier eating and taking supplements), amino acid therapy, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, reiki, herbal remedies, and neurofeedback, among other approaches. Since the disease of drug addiction is long-lasting and far-reaching, a certain level of monitoring over time is also included in comprehensive treatment programs.
How to Prevent Drug Addiction.
Yes, it is possible to prevent drug addiction! Prevention efforts are often geared toward younger children and adolescents. In fact, the Search Institute is a leading organization engaged in research to help adults help kids have the developmental assets they need to grow up without engaging in drug and alcohol use. These assets range from family support and positive communication to how parents are involved in their kids’ schooling, how the neighborhood/community impacts their lives, to safety and values.
How you parent can also make a difference in how children cope with life. The four main styles are permissive, authoritative, neglectful, and authoritarian, as defined originally by Diana Baumrind. Psst: the most effective style is authoritative!
How to Get Rid of Drug Addiction.
While there are no known ways per se to actually get rid of it since it is considered a chronic disease, there are ways to treat it so effectively that those affected can completely overcome drug addiction. Affected individuals can and do learn to manage this disease so successfully, that they lead happy, healthy, and fulfilled lives.
How Does Drug Addiction Affect the Brain?
The human brain is one of the most astounding, complex organs in the body. It controls all human activity and functioning so you can respond to everything you may experience. Your brain contains billions of cells called neurons. It is divided into circuits and networks. When a person takes drugs, the brain’s reward circuit is impacted which causes a euphoric reaction and dopamine is released.
Drugs interfere with the signals the neurons send, receive and process by way of neurotransmitters. For example, marijuana and heroin can mimic chemicals naturally produced in the brain, and so the messaging system becomes abnormal. Opioids are especially dangerous because they can interfere with the brain stem which controls heart rate, breathing, and sleeping.
The pleasurable or euphoric effect produced by drugs is not completely understood in the context of how it impacts the human brain, but it is believed that the drugs cause abnormally high surges in neurotransmitters that ultimately affect the reward circuit. Since we are hard-wired or programmed to reinforce pleasure, we keep taking drugs.
10 Ways to Avoid Drug Addiction
There are many steps to take to overcome drug addiction. Perhaps the best one is to avoid it completely! Here are some tips to overcome drug addiction as well as prevent it from happening in the first place.
And, as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
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