Over recent posts, we’ve been exploring the relationship between the brain and addictive behavior. Today, we’re pleased to present the fourth and final installment of our blog series, “Brain & Addictive Behavior.” Today’s topic? The invaluable role of rehabilitation in helping addicts cope with the physical and emotional aspects of addiction in order to embrace recovery and move forward with their lives.
Understanding the Nature of Addiction
A century ago, addiction was attributed to moral weakness and a lack of willpower. As a result, attempts to deal with addiction were more punitive than curative in nature. Since that time, research has continued to push the boundaries of our understanding regarding drug abuse and addictive behaviors. Today, we know that substance addiction is a health issue, as opposed to a moral failing, and that the combination of prevention and treatment constitutes the best response to the problem.
Explains NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.:
“As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior. We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities.”
Rehabbing the Brain
While addicts may once have been written off as incurable or as “lost causes,” it’s since been proven that addiction is actually a treatable disease. Says NIDA:
“Research in the science of addiction and the treatment of substance use disorders has led to the development of evidence-based interventions that help people stop abusing drugs and resume productive lives.”
While addiction cannot be cured, it is not a life sentence. Today’s drug addiction rehab programs offer the best shot of helping addicts learn to successfully manage the disease. Continues NIDA:
“Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on their brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.”
Which begs the question, how, specifically, does addiction rehab work? That depends on the addict. Proposes NIDA, “Treatment approaches must be tailored to address each patient’s drug use patterns and drug-related medical, psychiatric, and social problems.” While certain medications can help with treating withdrawal, staying in treatment, and preventing relapse, the critical role of behavioral therapies must not be overlooked.
Behavioral treatments help those with addiction disorders to modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use and learn coping skills to help them handle stressful situations and circumstances that might lead to relapse into destructive behaviors. Additionally, behavioral treatments help people to stay in treatment longer, thus expanding their opportunities to get and stay sober in the long term.
Treating the “Whole Person”
For someone who has never been addicted to drugs, the concept of simply stopping may seem easy. However, just as the journey to addiction is complex, so is the journey to an addiction-free life. Explains NIDA:
“When people enter treatment for a substance use disorder, addiction has often taken over their lives. The compulsion to get drugs, take drugs, and experience the effects of drugs has dominated their every waking moment, and abusing drugs has taken the place of all the things they used to enjoy doing. It has disrupted how they function in their family lives, at work, and in the community, and has made them more likely to suffer from other serious illnesses.”
While this doesn’t mean that addiction is insurmountable, it does necessitate a holistic and rigorous approach that addresses changes to both the body and the brain. To that end, substance abuse treatment may incorporate a breadth and depth of techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, motivational enhancement therapy, and family therapy.
A Word on Relapse
It’s also critical to note that relapse doesn’t signify failure, but instead speaks to the complex nature of addiction and treatment. According to the Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, “patients typically require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives. Indeed, scientific research and clinical practice demonstrate the value of continuing care in treating addiction, with a variety of approaches having been tested and integrated in residential and community settings.” In other words, if an addict’s recovery is time-intensive or involves setbacks, these are merely part of the process and not an indication of hopelessness or futility.
Ultimately, says NIDA, “Because addiction can affect so many aspects of a person’s life, treatment must address the needs of the whole person to be successful. This is why the best programs incorporate a variety of rehabilitative services into their comprehensive treatment regimens. Treatment counselors may select from a menu of services for meeting the specific medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal needs of their patients to foster their recovery from addiction.”
We’re Here to Help
For this reason, choosing the right drug addiction rehab program can mean the difference between addiction and freedom from addiction. For more information on successful addiction recovery in St Louis, contact the experts at Harris House today.