What is addiction? Drug addiction is not a bad habit, it is not the result of poor discipline, and it is not caused by hanging with the wrong crowd. It is a serious illness that destroys individuals and families, and consumes community resources. Individuals with a drug addiction are overwhelmed with the need to seek and use drugs, a need that can consume all of their time, energy, and money. Typically, an addicted individual’s first thoughts in the morning are “Do I have enough supply? Where can I get more and what will it cost? Where can I get the money?” These questions dominate the affected individual’s thoughts and actions throughout the day as they work to conceal their needs from loved ones or those around them.
Estimates are that approximately 90 percent of an addicted person’s mental energy can be consumed with seeking and using the addictive substance. Consequently, only ten percent remains to take care of themselves, their job, family, or school. As things collapse around the individual, they are often the last to recognize the problem.
Addiction is a complex disease which involves many factors and areas of the brain, including the following:
The last three elements of the above list also impact non-drug addictive behaviors such as gambling, binge eating, and compulsive shopping. Importantly, no one is immune to addiction and addictive behaviors. Addiction is a non-discriminatory disease.
What treatments are available? Both medication and psychotherapy options are available for treating addictions.
Medication assisted programs are useful for treating addictions to alcohol, pain killers, heroin, and cocaine. The primary medicines used to control these addictions include the following:
Additional medicines are used to help with craving and impulsivity, and to prevent relapses.
Psychotherapy treatments include the following:
Education and Support. A good understanding of addiction helps to empower the individual to work around the disease and to minimize its damage.
Relapse Prevention. By identifying triggers and exploring emotional memory, the recovering patient develops strategies to prevent relapse.
Sobriety Maintenance. This part of treatment focuses on correcting the dysfunctional cognitive model for stress intolerance and helps the individual make adjustments to the decision making process.
Sponsorship and Advocacy. Participation in sponsorship and advocacy programs help to maintain motivation for patients and affirmation of progress.