The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has reported that substance abuse and addiction are problems that directly affect over twenty-three million individuals in the United States. The true number of individuals affected by substance abuse and addiction problems is likely double or triple that amount, when one considers the family members and friends who also suffer when an individual is abusing drugs or alcohol. Considering that substance abuse and addiction can readily and completely destroy lives, it is frustrating to learn that only three million individuals seek help for their drug and alcohol problems. When many sober individuals hear about the damages that substance abuse and addiction can cause in someone’s life, they may make the rather bold statement that the individual obviously doesn’t want to stop using. While such a statement does overlook some of the basics regarding addiction, it is also not far from the simple truth. Drug Addiction & Rehabilitation An individual normally begins to use drugs when they are trying to avoid or suppress a problem that they have encountered in life. It could be physical, mental or emotional, but the individual has no ready solution for the problem and turns to drugs. No matter the drug, its legal status or its potency, it is not designed to solve the problem for which it is taken. Drug chemicals are designed to interact and interfere with the basic, normal functions of the human body, most often the brain. This interaction and interference creates a numbing sensation that can effectively suppress an individual’s awareness of physical, mental or emotional pain or discomfort. Much like throwing a towel over a pile of garbage does nothing more than conceal the problem, taking a drug does nothing to handle the problem that bothered the individual. This initial choice and action in taking drugs is entirely the individual’s responsibility, but continued drug use can change the very nature of the game. When the desirable effects of drugs wear off, it is much like pulling the towel off the pile of garbage. The problem that the individual sought to escape is not only still there, it is often exacerbated by their drug use. The memory of relief, albeit temporary, is still fresh in their mind and the solution seems simple: take more drugs. When this pattern continues for a length of time, the individual may discover that they have grown tolerant of the drug chemicals, and they no longer experience the same desirable effects they once did. Their new solution is often to simply take even more drugs, or sometimes to find and take more potent drugs. The individual still has responsibility over their actions, but they are quickly approaching the dangerously steep slope of addiction. Drug dependence or addiction occurs when an individual’s ability to make choices regarding their drug use, including quantity and frequency of use, is replaced by powerful physical and physiological cravings and urges to keep drug chemicals in their system. Many individuals suffering from drug addiction desire to be free from drugs, but cannot fight the powerful demon that controls their every thought, decision and action. Whether or not the drug addicted individual feels responsible for the condition he now finds himself in, he is certain that there is absolutely nothing he can do about it. About Choices Recovery It is understandable that drug dependence and addiction are complex conditions that cannot simply be solved by the individual’s decision to stop their drug use. However, the individual’s willingness to accept responsibility for their choices regarding drug use, and for their recovery, can play a critical role in their successful rehabilitation. Each individual has their own reasons for turning to drug use in the first place, and they need to understand and recognize these reasons and feel empowered in turning their own life around in order to move forward in recovery and in building a stronger future. In order to help empower an individual to fully recover from drug abuse and addiction, the main components of effective recovery treatment include: An individualized treatment plan Each individual has their own specific needs and goals when it comes to recovery treatment. An addiction specialist can help the individual design the program that will work best for them, and that includes any specific treatment services they desire to receive. Individual and group counseling Individuals who are recovering from substance abuse and addiction often have to work through many mental and emotional causes and effects of drug use. This can be difficult to do on one’s own, but with guidance an individual may be able to successfully unearth the root causes for their drug use and take responsibility for the damages they have caused for self and others. In group counseling, recovering individuals can bond together, learn from each other’s experiences and receive support and encouragement from peers who are also undergoing treatment. Drug and life education It could be said that individuals who suffer from drug abuse and addiction are uneducated in two areas: how drugs affect the individual and how to handle life problems without drugs. Education in the truth about drugs and how they affect the individual can help someone wisely choose to abstain from future drug use. Education in how to handle life, including challenges and stress, without using drugs is a valuable skill that can improve the individual’s confidence in the future. Individuals may also learn how to recognize what triggers their drug use, and how to avoid or handle these triggers when they arise. Additional life skills groups may include time management, money management, parenting and more. Nutrition and physical fitness Drug chemicals can not only destroy an individual’s physical structure, they can destroy an individual’s interest in maintaining a healthy diet and exercise plan. Recovering individuals can find that good nutrition and physical fitness makes them feel stronger and more energetic, and it also helps them do something with their time, where before they may have spent that time in drug use. Spiritual therapy Regardless of an individual’s religious beliefs, drug recovery has to address the spiritual nature of the individual and help them recover to where he feels more confident, happy and content with himself. Spiritual therapy can consist of religious study and groups, or self-help groups that empower the individual to think positively about his recovery and future. Art therapy Whether art therapy is in the form of painting, dancing or music, individuals can sometimes find it easier to communicate deep, difficult emotions through art than through words. Art often helps individuals relax and handle stress, and is a valuable therapy that an individual can take with them even after recovery. Reaching Full Recovery An individual who has suffered from substance abuse or addiction has experienced physical, mental and emotional damages as a result. Full recovery treatment must help the individual safely and fully withdraw from drugs and cleanse their body of residual drug chemicals, but it must also help the individual heal mentally and emotionally. Residential treatment programs are very valuable because they not only remove the individual from the environment in which drug use was occurring, but they also stabilize the individual in a drug-free, safe and supportive environment in which full recovery is not only possible, it is expected.