Addiction is a chronic illness brought about by significant changes in an individual’s brain chemistry due to drugs or alcohol. Addiction is a physical disease and, as such, requires professional attention and support to properly heal. Our understanding of addiction has changed over the years. Substance use disorder, or addiction, is no longer approached from the perspective of being a moral weakness. However, addiction is complex with both physical and mental aspects; this is why finding the right addiction recovery program and treatment is necessary.
What Is Addiction?
When healthy, an individual’s brain releases the chemical dopamine as a natural response to experiences. However, when an individual uses drugs or alcohol, these substances can hijack the brain’s neuropathways that regulate the release of dopamine. The chemicals cause the brain to release more dopamine than it usually would. The increased and sometimes constant influx of dopamine means feelings of reward, motivation, or pleasure increase. Unfortunately, this leads the brain to naturally produce less dopamine, becoming reliant upon the drug or alcohol to produce the chemical. When this happens, an individual becomes dependent on the substance abused in order to function normally. Using drugs or alcohol becomes no longer about a pleasant experience but rather simply avoiding the discomfort of withdrawal as the brain’s chemistry is altered. When someone is dependent, they are addicted and need support to heal and recover.
The Stages of Addiction Recovery
Traditionally, substance abuse experts recognize five stages of addiction recovery. When individuals enter a substance use disorder treatment program, they will likely go through each of these stages. However, not everyone will progress through the stages of addiction recovery at the same pace or duration. Addiction and recovery are always very unique to the individual. But there are shared aspects and experiences. The stages of recovery include:
- Pre-Contemplation: This is when an individual has yet to recognize they have a problem.
- Contemplation: This is the stage where the individual realizes they have an addiction. It usually arises when the struggle to keep one’s dependency secret or under control fails. Often, individuals are unsure of what their next step should be. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding addiction recovery. During this stage, individuals will likely continue to abuse substances due to their addiction. However, they are coming to understand they need help and support to deal with their condition.
- Preparation: At this stage, concrete plans have been made to seek help or to begin treatment. This can range from the intention to make plans, making a promise, or taking a pledge, to being admitted to a detox facility or treatment program. Committing to a course of action can take some time, but once one does, it is key to follow through.
- Action: Perhaps the most self-explanatory stage. Individuals at this point are actively engaged in the process of addiction treatment. This stage involves addressing the physical aspects of addiction, such as withdrawal symptoms and detoxing. It will also entail dealing with the mental and emotional aspects of addiction.
- Maintenance: Addiction recovery takes time, and even after treatment is completed, individuals need to be vigilant to avoid relapse. However, relapse doesn’t mean failure of recovery. Instead, relapse can be seen as the ongoing process of maintenance. Should a relapse occur, individuals need to have the resources they need to get back on track. Maintaining a sober lifestyle requires a supportive community and access to aftercare programs.
Find Treatment with Treatment Connection
Substance use disorder springing from drug or alcohol abuse is serious. Fortunately, addiction, like many diseases, is highly treatable. Individuals, when they get the right help, individuals recover. If you or a loved one needs support or treatment, don’t delay getting help. Use the Addiction Treatment Needs Assessment on the Treatment Connection website to determine what type of treatment fits your specific needs. Then search for treatment providers in your area anonymously. Learn more about your options by visiting Treatment Connection.