The scientific understanding of addiction as a disease is expanding every day, and research into treatment options for substance abuse continues to shed new light. One of the most commonly asked questions about addiction is simple: can it be cured?
On the surface, the answer is “no, a cure for addiction has not been found”. However, addiction can be managed successfully using a fully integrated treatment that is specifically designed to suit each individual’s needs.
This article explores what it means to successfully manage the disease of addiction, and how treatment can help you or a loved one that is struggling with substance abuse.
What Is Addiction?
First off, it is important to understand exactly what addiction means. Addiction is now recognized by science as a chronic brain disorder. This puts it in the same category as other chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
There is a part of the brain that is often referred to as the ‘pleasure center’; it is a mass of circuits that, when stimulated, produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine essentially makes you feel good. When the pleasure center is activated by a particular activity, dopamine floods the brain. Drugs such as heroin, opioids, and cocaine produce a particularly strong release of dopamine. The brain attempts to protect itself from the onslaught by ‘shutting down’ some of the dopamine receptors, reducing the effect over time.
This is how somebody becomes addicted to a certain substance; the person craves the release of dopamine while the brain simultaneously diminishes its effects, creating a feedback loop in which the person requires more and more of the drug to achieve the same good feelings. Once using the drug becomes compulsive, it can be called an addiction.
How Can Addiction Be Treated?
Effective treatment aims to help addicts develop strategies to manage their addiction. Addiction is a biopsychosocial disease. This requires a multi-disciplinary approach that uses methods including medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and individual and family therapy.
Medication is often the first method used when somebody enters addiction treatment, as it is effective when combating the effects of withdrawal. Medications can also help mitigate co-occurring disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. In the long-term, medication can help an addict by interfering with triggers in his or her environment that threaten relapses, such as certain people, places, and things.
Behavioral, cognitive and family therapy are also effective tools when working toward sustainable recovery. The aim is to help develop coping mechanisms that a person can use when confronted with the desire or opportunity to relapse back into addiction. Family therapy is especially helpful if family dynamics play a role in why somebody uses drugs in the first place, particularly in cases involving youth drug abuse.
Does Relapse Mean Treatment Has Failed?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates for drug addiction are closely in line with relapse rates of other chronic diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes or hypertension. Drug addiction relapse occurs to 40-60 percent of addicts.
Relapse does not mean that treatment has failed; it means that treatment must be revisited, adjusted, or changed.
The chronic nature of addiction means that relapse is not only possible, but very likely, especially in the early stages of recovery.
Effective treatments that address the mind, body, and spirit of the person suffering from addiction can reduce relapse rates significantly. On-going monitoring of addiction is crucial to sustaining long-term recovery.
At Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we offer Colorado residents that struggle with addiction a place to achieve that long-term recovery. Our treatment plans are highly individualized to suit your needs, and our peaceful location just an hour out of Denver promises to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit as you work toward wellness. Contact us today to start your journey.