This may be the most commonly asked questions about those who suffer from addiction. “Susie is ruining her life with drugs, why can’t she just stop?” “Joe is out drinking again; can’t he see how he is hurting his family? Why can’t he just stop?”
If only it could be that simple for someone who struggles with an addictive disorder. For someone who is addicted to a drug/alcohol, they spend their time thinking about how they are going to get that drug, using that drug, which may be followed briefly by self-loathing, before seeking the drug again. Over and over, you hear stories about people who gave up family life and careers to addiction.
Addiction is a disease, but unlike many ailments that are easily cured with an antibiotic, addiction has no cure, no magic potion to make everything better. Addiction can be classified with diabetes and hypertension because while incurable, it is a disease that can be managed.
Treating addiction involves multiple processes, starting with detox, which rids the body of the toxins from the drugs/alcohol. Once the toxins are gone, the individual may begin thinking clearly about their decisions and future. The next level of treatment, which can be done either as inpatient (also
referred to as residential) or on an outpatient basis, focuses on changing behaviors and learning about underlying issues that may have led the individual to drugs/alcohol initially.
While evaluating the pros and cons of residential vs. outpatient treatment is an entirely separate topic, it is important to determine which is better for you. These decisions are often dictated by family/career responsibilities, legal mandates and insurance coverage. Regardless, the components in treatment should include an evidence-based therapeutic behavioral component and one-on-one counseling sessions that can address trauma, family history or other factors that led to the addictive disorder. Working through these issues and learning new appropriate behaviors is the foundation to a life in recovery. The development of a relapse prevention strategy is another key piece of the puzzle.
Going back to the comparison between diabetes and addiction…a noncompliant diabetic will have a life-long struggle with health issues that threatens their vision and extremities and doubles their risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If untreated, addicts run the risk of overdosing, organ failure, cognitive impairment, mental disorders, anxiety, depression, cancers and the list goes on.