If you are starting or considering recovery, you'll need to understand why you got addicted to drugs and how they changed your behavior. You'll also want to know what you can expect from drug addiction recovery and how you'll prevent a relapse.
Drug addiction can affect many aspects of your life. "When using drugs or drinking becomes your focus, you're tempted to step away from the things you enjoy and the people you love to pursue your addiction," says Rebecca Hyde, MA, manager of recovery services at Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI). "The most important thing to remember is that asking for help makes you strong—you have the strength to want more and to see a better future."
Why did you get addicted to drugs?
Your path to drug addiction probably began by taking drugs for recreational use or by using a prescription for a medical condition. Over time, your ability to choose not to take drugs became compromised. Seeking and relying on drugs became compulsive. Long-term drug exposure changes your brain and can have harmful and long-lasting consequences.
How have drugs changed your behavior?
Addiction affects parts of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior. Addiction may cause negative behaviors, including:
- An inability to stop
- Changes in mood, appetite, and sleep
- Continuing drug abuse despite negative consequences
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Legal and financial problems
- Losing interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Putting the substance or using ahead of other parts of your life, including family, work, and other responsibilities
- Using increasingly larger substance amounts
- Taking more of the substance than you intended
- Withdrawal symptoms
What can you expect from drug addiction recovery?
"Many people think they can stop using and stay sober by themselves," Hyde says. "They may have periods of sobriety but then find themselves sliding back into their old patterns. Recovery programs provide the skills, support, and accountability that allow people to succeed."
By complying with behavioral therapies, appropriate medication management, experiential therapies, family therapy, and aftercare support, participants can gain skills to handle and balance family, community, and work-life situations, and help prevent relapse.
Treatment is usually intensive at first, with frequent, lengthy sessions. After completing initial, intensive treatment, patients transition to less-frequent sessions and weekly check-ins to help sustain recovery.
Successful treatment includes:
- Medically assisted detoxification (if necessary)
- Medication to reduce cravings, manage withdrawal symptoms, and prevent relapse
- Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
- Behavioral therapies to modify attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, increase healthy life skills, and improve relationships
- Education on healthy relationships, boundaries, and other life skills
- Long-term follow-up to prevent relapse
Patients can receive treatment in many different settings and approaches:
- Medication management for substance use and co-occurring conditions
- Individual and group counseling
Intensive outpatient programs
- Group therapy sessions
- Family support groups
- Education groups for patients and their loved ones
- Art/recreation therapy
- Relapse prevention groups
- Supervised, short-term housing for patients, following inpatient or residential treatment
- Support for the transition to an independent life
- Licensed residential treatment facilities offering 24-hour structured and intensive care, including safe housing and medical attention (programs usually take 30 days)
- A variety of therapeutic approaches to help patients build sobriety
Inpatient medical detox
- Medically supervised detox for alcohol and other drug use (usually takes two to five days)
- Staff-assisted develop of effective treatment continuation plans for patients
How will you prevent a relapse?
It's critical for you to stay in treatment for a prescribed and adequate amount of time. Drug abuse can change the function of your brain and many things can "trigger" your drug cravings following drug addiction recovery. Learning how to recognize, avoid, and cope with triggers is key to maintaining sobriety.
Emotional and mental relapse may start weeks or even months before the event of physical relapse. While in treatment, you'll learn the early warning signs of relapse and specific prevention techniques for each stage of relapse. You'll also have systems and people you can contact to support your continued sobriety.
"People with addiction find themselves in a world that keeps getting smaller and more isolated," Hyde says. "The opposite of addiction is connection. If you have substance abuse issues, reach out to connect with treatment. This first step will eventually allow you to build a world of healthy relationships with family, friends, and yourself."