Science has begun to unlock the mystery of addiction. Research now indicates that having an addiction is much like having any other chronic and progressive disease. Some people may have the disease more severely than others. However, all individuals must learn to manage the symptoms if they want to continue to live a healthy life.
Addiction and the Brain
Addiction is considered a disease of the brain.1 Addiction affects the brain’s structure and neurotransmitter chemistry. These changes result in dysfunctional thinking that leads to compulsive behaviors and negative consequences that occur because of the addiction. In treating addiction, all these aspects of the disease must be addressed in order to affect a long-lasting recovery from addiction.
Can People Be Cured of Addiction?
Addiction is a highly variable condition that affects individuals differently. Research indicates that addiction has a number of causes.2 Genetic factors appear to play a part in regard to the brain changes that occur. Environmental factors, such as the availability of addictive substances, also play a part. Psychological and social factors also contribute to the risks for addiction.
Because these factors vary from person to person, the treatment for addiction also varies. Some people may become addicted, receive treatment and never feel the need to indulge in the addictive substance again or may only experience mild cravings. Other people may have severe biological changes and psychological reactions. These individuals may require multiple treatment programs to help them learn the skills to manage their disease.
Supporting Recovery with Effective Treatment
A treatment program can begin the process of understanding addiction and how it affects an individual’s life. Individual and group counseling can provide insights on why a person abuses substances. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help individuals recognize negative thought patterns that cause them to fall into substance abuse and learn how to change their behavior to produce better outcomes. Learning about the triggers that may cause them to fall back into substance abuse can help these individuals prevent relapse.
But all these efforts may not be sufficient to support them after they leave a treatment program. A strategy for aftercare is critical to preventing relapse and providing the support system individuals need to rebuild their lives in sobriety. A good aftercare plan may include finding counseling in the individual’s community, connecting with a support group that can provide encouragement and getting employment to build a normal, productive life. These efforts can make a significant difference in helping individuals maintain sobriety over the long term.
Each year, science provides more answers about addiction and the best methods for treating this perplexing condition. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, contact a treatment center to discuss the therapies that can help you regain control of your life.