Addiction can be defined as a chronic brain disease that leads to dysfunction in the reward, motivation, memory, and related cognitive processes. Addiction follows a cycle of relapse and remission, characterized by distinct changes in behavior, mood, and psychological distress. Without treatment, individuals with addiction often face financial, interpersonal, social, and even legal complications and difficulties. Furthermore, the cyclic nature of addiction can lead to severe dysfunction in the individual’s ability to cope with stress and make sound judgements and decisions. Drug addiction, which includes addiction to prescription medications and illicit street drugs, has a very poor prognosis if left untreated; drug-related incarceration, incidental disability or death, and risk of fatal drug overdose are the likely outcomes of untreated drug addiction.
Addiction treatment refers to the various available services to assist those with addiction. Since addiction encompasses biological, psychological, and social variables, effective addiction treatment aims to address each aspect of a person’s addiction. There are two primary goals of all addiction treatment: to safely detox the individual from the substance of abuse and to provide adequate interventions to prevent future relapse of substance use. Addiction is a chronic disease that requires a continuum of care, often throughout the individual’s life. Most often, drug addiction is compared to other chronic illness that must be managed throughout the lifespan, such as diabetes. Similarly, addiction treatment often encompasses different fields of expertise, including medical, psychiatric, social, and spiritual ideologies.
The first stage of all addiction treatment is a safe detox. The goal of detox is to eliminate the toxins and chemical effects of the choice substance. For many people with addiction, there is a history of polysubstance use, most often involving alcohol. Detox involves a guided withdrawal phase, which may be mediated with the use of medication, if it is safe and necessary to do so. While some people may detox in a home setting, many people choose to do so in a hospital or specialized treatment center. Some substances, such as opiates, benzodiazepines, and alcohol cause physical dependency, where the body has adapted to the presence of the substance and will not function normally or properly during a sudden or rapid cessation. In those situations, severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms can occur, making medical intervention necessary for the safety and comfort of the individual.
Detox is a critical step in treating drug addiction. Research has shown that drugs affect the cognitive functions of the brain involved in memory, pleasure, behavior control, emotional processing, and decision-making. Under the drug’s influence, users have very little control over their thoughts, emotions, and behavior; this makes the other important steps of treatment impossible to do without first eliminating the toxin from the body. The process of detoxing varies between individuals and is determined by several factors: type of substance, duration of use, quantity of use, and overall health of the individual.
Rehabilitation- Getting to the Heart of Addiction Treatment
Rehabilitation is a complex phase of drug addiction treatment. The overall goal of rehabilitation is to reintroduce life without drugs to an individual who has created a lifestyle focused on seeking, obtaining, and using substances. To effectively rehabilitate a person to a sober lifestyle, many different perspectives must be taken into consideration and complex problems need to be solved. Educating former users on the effects of drugs, the financial cost of addiction, and the social repercussions of drug use is very often a part of the rehabilitation process. Beyond educating in an informative way, many rehabilitation programs employ counselors and therapists to teach behavioral techniques, stress-management, and relapse prevention exercises to provide former users with alternative behaviors they can turn to and employ when faced with difficult situations, stressors, and cravings.
Rehabilitation often incorporates various forms of psychotherapy, including individual and family therapy. The goal of psychotherapy is to find the underlying causes for an individual’s choice to use illicit substances or abuse prescription substances. Family therapy addresses not just the impact of the user’s behaviors on the family or caregivers, but also addresses dynamics within the family that may unintentially enable or influence the user’s addiction.
Continuum of Care
Drug addiction is a chronic illness; even when detox and rehabilitation efforts are successful, the recurrence of cravings cannot be prevented. Many individuals face a long, difficult journey as they attempt to live drug-free. A continuum of care involves active participation by the individual to manage the symptoms of addiction, which can recur even after periods of abstinence. As people resume their lives without substances, they often need to engage in preventive activities and avoid situations and environments where they once engaged in substance use or may be exposed to substance use by others. For many people struggling with addiction, “down time”, periods of isolation, and boredom can lead to increased cravings and urges to use; for this reason, many people choose to engage in support groups like AA and NA. While many healthcare and addiction experts recognize the need for a continuum of care extending well beyond detox, there is a lack of programs available to the many people who need this care. Support groups that are independently run, like AA, often fill the void and provide much needed social support and motivation to the many people who want to maintain their sobriety.
Addiction treatment is a work in progress. Treatments continually evolve; already, research has found biological evidence of neural changes in the brain that account for many of the compulsive behaviors seen in addicted individuals, behaviors that were previously misunderstood as evidence of personal weakness or character defects, and dismissed as a matter of will power. As advancements are made in the understanding of addiction, so too will advancements be made in the treatment of addiction.
The staff who work with patients are also trained to deal with any physical and/or emotional issues that may occur. The medical staff work to stabilize you during the detox process. Methadone detox is accomplished using Suboxone and/or Codeine and is the first priority. Further work cannot be successfully completed until you detox from the drug.
During detox and afterword, you will meet with Master’s-level, trained counselors and therapists who will work with you to understand the emotional issues that have gone unaddressed. You will be attending groups and individual therapy sessions designed to help you recover successfully from opiate addiction. All while in an environment that provides you with the time needed to reflect and begin healing.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call AKUA at 833-258-2669 and speak with a staff member. It is never too late to begin your new life.
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