When Substance Abuse Turns Into Long-Term Addiction

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An individual who is suffering from long-term drug addiction problems often has little semblance of a normal life.  They often suffer from poor physical, mental and emotional health, have few, if any, true and friendly relationships with others, are disconnected from family members and wallow in self-pity and despair.  In fact, many individuals who suffer from long-term addiction problems confront the idea that the only real ways out of their drug problems are incarceration or death.

Others who watch individuals struggle with long-term addiction and who don’t understand how it occurs may puzzle over why someone would deliberately throw away their life and their life for something that is actively destroying it.  They may think that the individual must want to suffer, otherwise they wouldn’t continue to participate in such a destructive activity.  Actually, the individual is neither a helpless victim nor a deliberate life-destroyer.  The truth lies somewhere in between.

About Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction

Initially, drug use is a voluntary action that the individual partakes in, but the very first problem lies right there because they are under the mistaken impression that drugs will be able to help them in some way.  Perhaps they want to fit in socially, perhaps they want to experience euphoric highs, or perhaps they are struggling with some physical, mental or emotional problem they seek to suppress somehow.  No matter what is advertised, drugs cannot help individuals by addressing and resolving the root problem.  Drugs are simply chemical substances that are designed to interact with the human brain, central nervous system and basic body functions in order to suppress certain symptoms and stimulate desirable sensations.

An individual who experiments with drug substances may determine that they don’t help them or that they cause more harm than help, and they may abandon their drug use entirely at that point.  However, many individuals feel that drug substances have effectively helped them in some way, and they continue their drug use.  Long-term and regular drug use can lead to drug tolerance, wherein the individual’s body is no longer affected by the same quantity of drugs.  Since the individual was taking drug substances in order to achieve desired effects, they often handle drug tolerance by taking larger quantities of drugs, or sometimes more potent drugs.

The individual’s drug use can become compulsive in nature, and can continue despite the devastating effects that drug use is having on their health, relationships and life.  This is drug-addiction, and often times it occurs in conjunction with drug dependence, wherein the individual’s body has grown to depend on drug substances in order to function normally.  This occurs because drug substances have artificially stimulated brain circuits, like those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, for so long that the body no longer normally stimulates these brain circuits.  This is the point at which the individual can become trapped in long-term addiction, unless they receive professional help in the form of rehabilitation treatment.

How Treatment Can Help

Rehabilitation treatment is not simply a place where an individual can go to withdraw and abstain from drug use, and perhaps talk about their feelings and emotions.  The path to full and lasting recovery includes thoroughly uncovering and pulling apart all of the causes and effects of the individual’s drug use, and this takes time, discipline and persistence.  Even an individual who desperately wishes to be free from drug use may find that the physical and psychological pulls of addiction and dependence can be overwhelming and difficult to fight and overcome.  Rehabilitation treatment programs must provide the individual with the help, support and encouragement they need to successfully restore a healthy, productive life.

Some of the basic components to effective treatment include:

● Individualized treatment programs that address specific needs.

● Physical detoxification that helps an individual withdraw from drug substances as safely and comfortably as possible.

● Counseling to help the individual address the root causes of their drug use, and learn to take responsibility for their choices and the damages that have resulted.

● Life skills groups that help the individual learn how to cope with difficulties and challenges in their life without turning to drugs.

Some health professionals have proposed the idea that long-term drug addiction is a disease that the individual cannot fully recover from, and can only learn how to live with.  However, there are numerous stories of individuals successfully and permanently overcoming their long-term addiction problems with the help of professional rehabilitation treatment services and moving forward into healthy, happy and drug-free futures.

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