Searching for effective addiction treatment can be overwhelming. There’s many, many options, and each option offers many, many choices. Since almost all of them promise a full recovery, it’s hard to know which service you need or where to even begin. Here’s ten simple facts to put your mind at ease before you start searching.
1. Addiction Can Happen To Anyone
And anyone can be addicted to any number of substances such as:
- Stimulants (amphetamine, Ritalin, methamphetamine)
- Sedatives (tranquilizers, sleep medications, anti-anxiety medications)
- Opioids (heroin, fentanyl, carfentanyl, and prescribed pain relievers, such as oxycontin, vicodin and lortab)
You can become addicted if you just drink beer. You can become addicted if you just use marijuana. Because some of these substances are more powerful or potent than others, addiction can be faster with them. All of the above substances can produce an addiction.
2. Virtually All Addiction Begins During Adolescence – Over 90%
This is not just because adolescence is a period of experimentation and social challenge. Because all of the above drugs affect the brain, developing adolescent brains are more vulnerable.
The adolescent brain (12 – 25) is more susceptible to drug effects than the adult brain.
3. Addiction Is Not Related To Intelligence Or Social Standing
Many intelligent individuals from “good families” become addicted.
4. Addiction Is Partially Hereditary
Like most other chronic illnesses, addiction is more likely among those who have an addicted family member. Addiction is also more likely among those with a psychiatric illness like depression, anxiety, or thought disorder. This is how smoking marijuana every week may be harmless to some individuals, but it’s seriously addicting to others.
5. Addiction Is A Chronic Illnesses That Affects the Brain
Addictions are now understood to be a chronic illnesses or disease. Addiction affects the motivational, stress and inhibitory circuits of the brain. As a result, these brain changes can then cause disturbing behavioral changes like:
- Inability to fulfill promises
- Mood changes
Addiction does NOT happen all at once, and sometimes it takes years of substance misuse to produce these brain changes. These changes last for many months, even after the substance use stops. Some people may never return to their “normal” pre-addictive functioning.
6. Most People Who Become Addicted Ultimately Recover
People who struggle with addiction are not a lost cause. Recovery rates for most addictions are similar to the recovery rates for other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Recovery really means three things:
- Eliminating or significantly reducing all substance use – Uncontrolled substance use is the cardinal symptom of addiction.
- Improving overall health and function – Simply stopping substance use will be hollow unless it is accompanied by improved quality of life.
- Learning to recognize and self-manage threats to relapse – Returning to normal life will involve cravings and relapse threats.
Over 4 million formerly addicted individuals are now in stable recovery. Many people recover without treatment, but good treatment accelerates the process.
7. An Addicted Person Doesn’t Have To “Hit Bottom”
Some people say, “there is nothing you can do until a person is ready to stop,” but this simply isn’t true. Families and society in general can help people find recovery in two ways:
- By applying constructive but steady pressure
- By assisting in the treatment process
Many people gain recovery because someone gave them an ultimatum while others get into recovery after trying many options. To be successful, people need continuing support from a boss, spouse, or family member.
8. There Are No Short-term Treatments
Have you heard about ultra-rapid detoxes, one-week detoxex and 30-day programs? All of these can be helpful, but they are just the beginning phase of treatment. None are effective by themselves. Like all other chronic illnesses, recovery is more likely with continuing care and monitoring.
9. Medications Can Help Gain And Maintain Recovery
The FDA has approved medications help people recovery from cigarette, opioid and alcohol addictions. At this point, not all treatment providers offer these medications. These medications aren’t appropriate for all cases, but many people find medications to be an important piece of their treatment plan.
10. Family Participation Improves Their Recovery
What can you do to help?
- Support your loved ones. Your constructive support and encouragement is invaluable.
- Learn about their treatment and respect their choices.
- Be willing to un-learn some destructive attitudes and behaviors. (All families have them.)
- Share responsibilities for developing new, constructive attitudes and behaviors.
Good treatment encourages healthy family participation in the course of care. Now that you are armed with the truth about addiction and treatment, click on the button below to take our self-assessment guide:
A Recovery Guidance Exclusive By: Tom McLellan, Ph. D.
Dr. Tom McLellan served as the Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the Obama administration. In 2016 Dr. McLellan was a Senior Editor for the US Surgeon General report on Facing Addiction, and he’s a key advisor to Recovery Guidance.