Addiction can affect anyone of any age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Most people are very good at hiding it. It’s nearly impossible to spot, even when you know someone well. Whether it’s alcohol, opioids, or marijuana, millions of people battle substance addiction every single day, but there are also other types of addictions.
Why does addiction feel so hard to overcome? It may seem impossible, but it’s not. Millions have recovered, and you can too. It’s a healing process, and the healing may have to start on a deeper level than you initially thought. You’ll need to take it seriously in order to dig deep and pull the weed out by the roots in order to make sure you get every last part out of your life.
The Sensation of Addiction
It’s all about dopamine, something that is produced by the brain in relation to complex or powerful stimuli. Dopamine is a high that your brain produces that contributes to feelings of satisfaction also pleasure. It’s something that the brain uses to reward itself for an accomplishment or to tell you that your body is happy and in a good state. Dopamine affects the whole brain, spreading along the brain’s major pathways. When dopamine is well-regulated, it can help you perform essential functions like staying alert, having a positive mood, sleeping well, learning effectively, maintaining an even heart rate, and motivating yourself. It even affects your blood vessels and heart. But it is possible to confuse your body and trick it into giving you more dopamine. When this happens, you start to get too much of a good thing, and the need for the reward starts to overtake the benefit you got from earning that reward. This is when you start to cross over into addiction.
Substances like drugs, nicotine, and alcohol produce high levels of dopamine in the brain. Instead of getting dopamine because you completed a run or a complex task, you get it by introducing a toxin into your body. This upsets the dopamine equilibrium of the brain, and if left unchecked, your brain will attempt to seek out that feeling repeatedly.
That is the technical side of the process, but there is far, far more taking place, and there are distinct disadvantages to those who form uncontrollable habits around substances.
How Addiction Lays Hold
Not everyone who smokes a cigarette or drinks a pint of beer will become addicted to those substances. Dopamine plays a big role, but unfortunately, there is no other single cause as to why addiction forms in certain people and not others. What we know is that biological and environmental factors are at play in the form of your genes, your lifetime health history, your social environment, and your mental well-being.
Brains are complex machines and are constantly rewiring themselves as they take in new stimuli. For those who suffer from addiction, unhealthy habits such as smoking or alcohol abuse start to rewire that brain, meaning that it expects the dopamine to be delivered to it and will start to punish it if it doesn’t get it.
As you can imagine, it’s a difficult process to undertake, wiring your brain back in a healthy fashion, but healing is possible, and good results have come from treating addiction as a medical disease.
The Right Steps
However, the first step to overcoming an addiction is to admit that there is a problem. That is the hard first step, but now you’re one step closer to healing.
Next, it’s time to get some information and assess your options. Your first step may be a simple search online like “how to quit smoking.” Further healing steps may include support groups, checking into a detox center, and almost certainly some kind of therapy.
If you are in the UK, you will also need to notify your doctor. Your doctor will have a lot of resources at their fingertips to help you and will assist you in planning a safe and healthy way to quit an addiction. Additionally, they might be able to offer you treatments or direct you somewhere locally for treatment.
If you’re not comfortable talking to a GP, you can approach your local drug treatment service yourself, and you can also find an online GP service.
What To Expect
During your first appointment, you will be asked about your addiction, specifically how much you use. You will also be asked for personal details about work, family, and living situations. Be honest in all your responses. You will likely not be telling them something they haven’t heard before. You may be asked to provide a sample of urine or saliva, and then your doctor or another qualified staff member will discuss treatment options to find a treatment plan that you are both happy with. They inform you about local support groups for drug users and their families or carers, and you’ll also be given a key worker, who is someone who can support you throughout your treatment.
The Shape of Healing
The treatment that you and your key worker commit to will depend on your circumstances and the nature of the addiction. Your plan may include a number of different treatments and strategies. Here are some of the ones that you may be referred to:
- Treating Associated Conditions – A good base to cover early, you will be checked for diseases and conditions that may result from drug or addiction use, such as testing and treatment for hepatitis or HIV.
- Medicinal Treatment – If you are dependent on an opioid, such as heroin or another opioid, taking a substitute drug such as methadone has been shown to be very effective in diverting the body’s craving to a similar but a far less harmful drug.
- Talking Therapies – Talking therapies, such as CBT, help you to see how your thoughts and feelings affect your behavior. In these sessions, deeper issues may be uncovered, and you can switch to another type of therapy, such as trauma-based counseling.
- Detoxifying (detox) – This is for people who want to stop taking opioids like heroin completely. It creates a space that lets your body purge the toxin and its effects from its system. It helps you to cope with the withdrawal symptoms, and starting from this new base state can jump-start recovery.
- Peer Meetings – Meeting with other recovering addicts can be a big emotional support, and it is likely there is one in your area that will help you with what you’re facing. An online search can be useful, but your keyworker will actually have the best information on what is available to you.
There is a lot of help available to you virtually any time you need it. Don’t try to do it on your own, and the people in your life won’t judge you for making the right decision for your health and their well-being.
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