Why do drug-addicted persons keep using drugs?

Nearly all addicted individuals believe at the start that they can stop using drugs on their own by their willpower only, and most try to stop without treatment. Although some people are successful, many such willpower attempts result in failure to achieve long term abstinence. Research has shown that long-term drug addiction results in changes in the brain that continues long after a person stops using drugs. These drug-induced changes in brain function can have many behavioral consequences, including an inability to maintain control over the impulse to use drugs despite troubling and harmful consequences—the crucial feature of addiction.

Psychological stress from work, family problems, psychiatric illness, pain associated with medical problems, social triggers (such as meeting individuals from one’s drug using past i.e. slippery people), or environmental triggers (such as encountering streets, objects, or even smells associated with drug abuse i.e. slippery places) can trigger intense cravings without the individual even being consciously aware of the triggering event. Family and friends may also be enabling and provoking an individual towards drugs and alcohol without being consciously aware of it. Any one of these factors can get in the way of continued abstinence and make relapse more likely. Nevertheless, research shows that active involvement and compliance in treatment is vital component for good outcomes and can benefit even the most severely addicted individuals.

When should I get help?

Addiction is a progressive illness. Leaving it to worsen, without help, is a course of action that we simply do not recommend. To avoid the potentially heartbreaking and traumatic consequences of addiction it is vital to secure early identification of a problem and to seek professional help as soon as possible. Don’t leave it until you, or the person you are trying to help, reaches their lowest ebb. They sooner you, or they, can get help the more effective treatment will be and the quicker it could be to reach recovery.

When is detox needed?

After a residential detox, some people choose not to participate in residential drug treatment; these people put their hard-won freedom from addiction in jeopardy. Detox is not addiction treatment, and people who used drugs or alcohol heavily enough to become physically addicted generally need the intensity of a drug rehab stay for the best chance at long-term recovery.

What is dual diagnosis?

This refers to that someone has been diagnosed with both a type of mood disorder (such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder) and drug or alcohol addiction. The person has two illnesses and must be treated for both.

How do other mental disorders coexisting with drug addiction affect drug addiction treatment?

Drug addiction is a disease of the brain that frequently occurs with other mental disorders. In fact, as many as 6 in 10 people with an illegal drug use disorder also suffer from another mental illness; and rates are similar for users of legal drugs—i.e., tobacco and alcohol. For these individuals, one condition becomes more difficult to treat successfully as an additional condition is also associated. Thus, patients entering treatment either for addiction or for another mental disorder should be assessed for the co-occurrence of the other condition. Research shows that treating both (or multiple) illnesses together in a structured fashion is generally the best treatment approach for these patients.

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