To diagnose addiction, a licensed treater will ask you about the nature of your substance use and learn how substance use is affecting your life. They may ask about other factors, such as your personal and family history as well as identifying any coexisting mental health issues. Honesty and family involvement in this process are crucial to receiving an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders may include a combination of medications, family therapy, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), exposure and response prevention therapy, and group therapy approaches.
Before embarking on any treatment journey, it is important to contact your health care providers to seek help that is best suited for your condition or a loved one.
Treatments vary depending on the type of disorder. Here are some of the more common treatment and support options.
This form of short-term treatment is for people who are physically dependent on drugs or alcohol.
Detox may be necessary for people withdrawing from alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates, as the withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be fatal without medical supervision. Medical professionals monitor patients to ensure a safe and comfortable withdrawal.
This type of treatment involves a 14- to 30-day stay at a treatment center like McLean. This type of treatment can be incredibly helpful for people who prefer to be in a structured, drug-free environment, removed from temptations or triggers.
Dual diagnosis programs specialize in helping people who struggle with both addiction and other mental health issues. Treatment may involve group, individual, and family therapy, and medication management.
Partial Hospital or Outpatient Treatment
Outpatient and partial hospital (day) programs offer less structure because patients do not live at the facility. Patients return home each day after treatment is complete.
Treatment may consist of medication, talk therapy, or both. Sessions can occur one or more times per week. Those who are in stable recovery may attend therapy less frequently.
Mutual Help Programs
12-step fellowship programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), offer meetings in a supportive and encouraging environment. They are free to join and widely available. Other programs, such as SMART Recovery, also provide tools for recovery and social support.
Recovery Is Possible—There Is Hope!
In addition to medications and therapy, successful recovery involves rebuilding a meaningful life. This process can be slow and challenging as you rebuild family and social relationships and begin to expand your role in your community. Unfortunately, the process can be difficult for those struggling with homelessness, financial instability, lack of social supports, or limited education.
Moreover, the recovery process can involve investing in new interests and provide meaning to your life. A successful recovery from addiction can include understanding that your problems usually are temporary. Recovery also involves acknowledging that life is not always supposed to be pleasurable.
An important step in recovery is having personal agency. There are many ways to heal by just being part of better things. By diversifying interests and goals, identifying and working through drawbacks, and remembering life has its highs and lows, recovery can be longer-lasting.
Individuals are encouraged to focus on positive behaviors like:
- Creating realistic goals
- Being flexible
- Having a gratitude list
- Assisting people
- Working to transform your mindset for the better
Whether practicing these behaviors alone or with loved ones, positivity can be a powerful—and successful—component of the recovery process.
McLean is a leader in addiction treatment. Let us help you or a loved one. Call us today at 978.464.2331, and we’ll help you find the treatment option that’s right for you.
Addiction: How It Affects the Brain
Addiction is fueled by a loss of control over the use of a substance as the brain goes through a series of changes, starting with the recognition of pleasure and ending with a drive toward compulsive behavior.
Understanding the Pleasure Principle
Whether it is a psychoactive drug, sexual experience, or any other form of pleasure, the brain perceives them all in the same way. It stimulates dopamine release from the brain’s pleasure center.
The difference comes in the speed, intensity, and reliability with which the brain releases dopamine. Typically, drugs of abuse stimulate a high dopamine surge. That’s why they will always be so addictive. The high levels create an alternative route to the brain’s reward system, which causes dopamine to flood the brain—and ultimately intensifies addiction.
Overloading the Reward Circuit
Until recently, scientists thought the only cause of addiction was pleasure. But recent studies show that dopamine affects the brain’s learning process and the ability to retain things in memory.
Dopamine takes over the control of the brain’s reward learning process when it interacts with glutamate—like dopamine, another neurotransmitter. This learning process is essential to encouraging necessary body activities, like eating and sex, that are needed for survival.
Again, since the brain’s reward circuit includes the parts that boost motivation, dopamine does the same—but with an overload of motivation.
Continued consumption of the drugs causes the brain to stimulate the body into a deep desire to consume more drugs.
The Brain Develops Tolerance
With time, the brain gets used to the substances, which translates to less pleasure. Naturally, we know pleasure comes after some hard work. But these drugs overwhelm the brain, and in turn, the brain either releases less dopamine or gets rid of its receptors.
That means that dopamine’s effect on the reward center reduces significantly. So, even if you were addicted, you no longer experience the pleasure you were used to. And that can drive someone to consume even more quantities to reach the dopamine “high” levels that can cause significant pleasure.
Relief Is Short-Lived
Most substances only provide fleeting relief. For instance, if you have pain or stress, taking opioids could result in temporary painlessness. If you are experiencing negative moods, anxiety, or sadness, taking stimulants like cocaine also provides short-term fulfillment.
Despite short-term respite, the long-term effects of an addiction are quite detrimental. But even so, the intense urge for that relief can cause you to ignore the risk.
Compulsion Becomes the Driving Force
Even if you hardly experience pleasure from drugs, the memory created from past use compels the desire to recreate that pleasure. This compulsion causes part of your brain—the hippocampus and amygdala—to start developing thoughts about getting the drug again, which grows into intense desire when encountering an environment with those drugs.
This desire to relapse even after years of sobriety, especially when you encounter tempting environments, results from this conditional learning.
Do People Really Experience Withdrawal From Drugs and Alcohol?
When entering treatment, it’s possible for a person to experience withdrawal. Withdrawal is the process of quitting a substance and can vary in severity.
Physical and psychological dependencies can also appear during withdrawal. Your body gets used to drugs and alcohol such that if you don’t use them for a while, physical symptoms begin to show up. You have to take the drugs to maintain your “normal” self. Psychological dependence stems from the mind. You believe you cannot survive without using—for example, it’s impossible to be social or fun without drinking alcohol.
When you have a psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol, you may also come to believe that you need to use the substance all the time. You believe you cannot survive without drugs.