What Is Addiction?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is considered a brain disease, and an actual complex condition in which a person might take part in harmful behavior in order to fulfill a feeling of need for substance use. This behavior is compulsive, meaning that it can go beyond the logical thinking of “this is bad for me, I should not do it” as someone who is addicted continues drinking or using drugs. It is not the same as casual consumption such as a weekly glass of wine – it is an addiction when the desire takes over the person’s life.
Addiction, which is a substance use disorder, is a result of changes in the wiring of the brain, which cause intense cravings and a general feeling of need for something. This also distorts the functionality and activity of parts of the body affected by these imbalances, such as behavior, thinking, and body function. Through brain imaging studies, it has been proven that there are changes in the areas of the brain related to decision making, behavioral control, judgment, learning, and memory.
While there are many different symptoms for different types of addiction, there are four categories in which they usually fall under. They can be described as:
- Impaired control: a strong craving and desire to use certain substances; not being able to cut down or quit said substances.
- Risky use: substance abuse in risky situations or settings; continued use despite knowledge of risks and harm caused by substances.
- Drug effect: tolerance of substance or dose needed to get the same effects; withdrawal symptoms whenever not using (might take long to manifest themselves depending on whether or not it’s a short-acting or long-acting drug and on the level of addiction).
- Social problems: having problems keeping up with daily tasks at home, work, and/or school; changes in interests, social groups, and locations of social activity; isolation and/or avoiding loved ones.
It is possible to become addicted to all sorts of substances, both legal and illegal. As of now, the biggest addiction issue the U.S. is facing today is opioid addiction, commonly referred to as the opioid crisis. When getting clean, the first step for treatment is detoxing, so the body can get rid of all the toxins and its effects. Detox can be done “naturally” or through medical assistance, which is a service offered by many facilities.
How Does Detox Work?
After ending substance use, people often experience withdrawal symptoms. This is why the detox process is so important when it comes to recovering from addiction.
Detoxing is expected from any treatment process, even though it might seem quite scary because of the possible effects. The average time that it will take depends on the dose, the substance, and the level of addiction. It can go from a few days to as long as two to eight weeks, but it needs to be done until the drugs are flushed from the body.
Medically assisted detox is the safest way to go through this stage since it can help lower the chances of relapse. Additionally, practitioners can tell the best course of action to treat symptoms and keep a patient safe, especially if they require medication to go through detox.
Quitting abruptly on your own (commonly called “cold turkey”) can be dangerous or even deadly for some when done without medical supervision since there’s a risk of the body going into shock or of an overdose in the case of relapse.
Even though they vary depending on the substance the person is addicted to, symptoms of withdrawal are most commonly reported as follows:
- Digestive system problems (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
- Fever, sweating, and chills
- Cardiac alterations (hypertension, altered heartbeat)
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Erratic sleep cycles
- Changes in eating habits
- Mood swings and changes in general mood
- Cravings for alcohol or drugs
A patient might not feel all of these symptoms, but these are some of the most common. In some cases, like with opioids, symptoms such as muscle pains and spasms might also occur, and general feelings of mental confusion were also reported for multiple withdrawal cases. As for when they might manifest themselves, this might start as early as 6 hours after the last dose, and last for a few days or even weeks.
Once detox is done, the patient needs to go onto the next phase of treatment. Seeing as medical detox is only a way to treat and deal with the acute symptoms triggered by withdrawal, it will not be enough to avoid relapse. In order to truly treat addiction, other aspects of the illness need to be addressed as well. Now, what needs to be taken care of is the psychiatric condition of the patient, which is usually done through therapy and counseling, along with any prescription medication that might be required.
For this phase of treatment, there are a number of programs available depending on the needs of the patient. Residential or inpatient treatment can be recommended to those who still need full-on medical attention and have higher chances of relapse since the patient must stay in the facilities 24/7 for this program. However, it requires that the patient meets diagnostic criteria, and it might even be too expensive for some.
Another recovery program option is outpatient treatment, which can be done through different service settings. The structure of the program allows patients to go back home, and they only need to come to the clinic or hospital of their choice for sessions of treatment such as therapy, counseling, medical consults, group sessions, and any other activities the patient needs to partake in.
The partial hospitalization program (PHP) requires almost daily visits, and the intensity of treatment might be compared to that of residential treatment. The intensive outpatient program (IOP), on the other hand, requires fewer visits a week, and is especially better for those who have a safe environment to come home to and a strong support system, too.
Aggravating Factors For Treatment
Addiction alone is already quite a troublesome condition to treat, but there are other issues that might require special attention or additional help. These should not discourage anyone from getting help, they are just things that should be discussed with the team responsible for treatment so that they can factor it into their plans for the program. Some of these will need separate treatment, while others might help understand the patient and the root of the problem.
One of these issues is co-occurring disorders, where a patient who is already dealing with addiction is diagnosed (later or previously) with another mental disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder. This would make them a dual-diagnosis patient, as both disorders would have to be treated. That, however, could be done simultaneously or sequentially. Another factor that would have to be brought up is family history with addiction or other mental disorders. While it doesn’t take genetics to be prone to brain rewiring after substance abuse, having a predisposition for addiction or other mental disorders can come from such history.
Something else that a substance abuser needs to be aware of is their medical scenario as they begin treatment. Addiction takes its toll on the body and can cause more than addiction-related symptoms. A common result of constant drinking and drug abuse are liver diseases, and because the liver might become overworked from processing medication, the medical staff would have to be aware of it. Other diseases that affect the immune system that can be contracted by injecting and sharing needles are HIV and hepatitis C. These would have to be looked into and diagnosed even before treatment so as to avoid medical complications.
The Next Step After Detox
As it was said before, detoxification is only the starting point of recovery, but it is not all, and certainly not enough to stop someone from relapsing. Knowing what is to come is not meant to scare anyone – it should just prepare them for the steps of their journey. While it might be painful and uncomfortable at times, it is a needed process for one to be really free from addiction, and it can be much better with the right team by your side. We at The Freedom Center offer great programs for anyone transitioning into their new, healthy daily routine after detoxing.
Along with therapy and counseling for patients, we offer a variety of activities created for rehabilitation which can help not just in getting rid of addiction, but in rebuilding a life for themselves. Group sessions, for instance, are a great way to understand your own process of getting clean while also bringing new people into your social circle. Exercise and nutrition plans can help health improvements, which allow for the body to balance all the chemicals back to normal more easily. These and many other services are available for our recovery programs.
If you want to know more so that you or a loved one can get the help needed, visit our website and feel free to contact us or call 888-530-5023 today. Our team will answer all the questions you might have and can guide you as you decide what would be the best way to turn your life around and be free from addiction.