Whether it is a dependence on or addiction to alcohol, opioids, “street drugs” or any other substance, statistics show addiction kills thousands of Americans each year and impacts millions of lives. According to various surveys, almost two-thirds of American families have been significantly affected (in some way) by addictions to drugs or alcohol. It is safe to say that virtually everyone knows someone with a substance use disorder, be it a family member, a friend, or a co-worker. Despite the vast impact of addiction on the American population, there remains many misconceptions and little-known facts about addiction that continue to persist. Ongoing education and understanding are crucial to mitigating the detriment for which addiction is responsible.
Addiction is an (Incurable) Disease
Alcoholism was the first addiction to officially receive classification as a disease. Today, it is widely known that all addictions fall into the same category. Yet, many people still view and think of addiction in the same light with which it was considered decades ago. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population still views addiction as a voluntary personal weakness or a moral failing. It is vital to shed light on this ongoing misconception. When their addiction is “active,” the alcoholic or addict has virtually no control over their actions. In these circumstances, they are just as much a victim of their disease as someone who has received a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or any other chronic, debilitating condition.
Common symptoms of addiction include a mixture of well-known and lesser-known actions on the part of the addict in the effort to obtain or consume that to which they are addicted. For example, look for acts such as needing to use or drink more to achieve the same effects as when they began using, anxiety or irritation when using, constant preoccupation with using, hiding their addiction, or the inability to stop using even in the face of significant adverse consequences. Other, less obvious symptoms may include new or worsening financial struggles, new or ongoing legal difficulties or difficulties within the home environment.
Addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol, is a chronic, progressive disease. Addiction is classified as chronic because it can never be cured. This is not to say it is not treatable, and one cannot achieve sobriety. However, a person who is addicted will always have to be on guard with their thoughts, actions, and triggers to avoid the potential of relapse after successful treatment. Addiction is considered progressive because unless treatment at an addiction treatment facility such as The Hills in Los Angeles is sought, the disease inevitably worsens to the point of fatality (in some cases).
Although the phrase “recovered” is often used in the context of addiction treatment, it is essential to note that recovery does not equal cured. One who has had a substance abuse problem cannot (safely) resume social drinking and recreational drug use without running the risk of significant relapse. Again, the disease of addiction is manageable by monitoring triggers and making lifestyle changes that will halt the disease’s progress. Time and specialized addiction treatment will allow the addict to recover from much of the damage -to the mind and body- that addiction has inflicted over time.
No One Knows the Exact Causes Addiction
Addiction is a disease with many different contributing factors, yet no single identifying cause. Therefore, science’s ability to directly point to one contributory element is difficult, if not impossible. There are several factors that may play a role, including:
Genetics and Family History
Many experts believe that more than half of a person’s risk for developing an addiction is related to personal genetic disposition. It is commonly known that individuals who have immediate family members with a substance use disorder are more likely to suffer a similar outcome at some point in their lives. Also, individuals who were exposed to drug or alcohol abuse as a child are at a significantly higher risk of developing a substance abuse disorder during their lifetime.
Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders
Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder can both partially cause and be partly caused by addiction. It is thought that as many as twenty percent of those with a substance use disorder also have a diagnosed mood disorder such as anxiety or depression. Conversely, approximately twenty percent of those with a mood disorder also report struggling with a substance abuse disorder.
Social Pressure and Behavior
When an individual already has a genetic predisposition or family history of addiction and is exposed to regular usage, it can rapidly decline into addiction. Also, chronic social or recreational use of alcohol or drugs can result in physical and structural changes to the brain that dictate addictive behavior.
Many who have personally experienced or been witness to a past emotional challenge or traumatic experience will turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self-medicate.
Unsupervised Recovery and Addiction Can Both Be Fatal
Many people are aware and understand that recovery from addiction means abstaining from using and drinking. Courtesy of television and movies, people, also know that the early parts of recovery are often accompanied by unpleasant withdrawal. Detox is a necessary and sometimes dangerous part of addiction treatment. To successfully “get clean,” it is essential to rid the body of substances so treatment can begin with a clear mind and substance-free system. Withdrawal can bring about a host of symptoms, including tremors, difficulty sleeping, body aches, mood swings, headaches, and gastric disturbances.
As unpleasant as all that may be, withdrawal from most drugs is not inherently dangerous. Painful and unpleasant? Often yes, this is the case. That is why it is recommended and highly encouraged that when a person detoxes from alcohol or drugs, they do so in a medically supervised setting such as that offered here at the Hills in Los Angeles, CA. Our facility staff can help ease the discomfort and unpleasantness of the worst withdrawal symptoms and ensure your safety throughout the process. In the case of detoxing from alcohol or benzodiazepines, it is absolutely vital that the detox takes place under medical supervision. Severe withdrawal symptoms from these two substances can be so severe that they can often be life-threatening. It is not uncommon for medication to be essential to maintain the individual’s safety throughout the detox’s early stages.
There is No Such Thing as a Stereotypical Addict or Addiction
Due to ongoing and unrelenting stigma, many people still have the mental picture of an addict as someone who is dirty, incoherent, economically unstable, and often with a criminal history. Undoubtedly, some substance abusers do fit that profile; however, there are many more who appear outwardly as normal, productive, everyday citizens. Addiction knows no bounds and does not care who you are, how much money you make, what religion you practice, or your skin color. That said, it is not uncommon for someone to have all of the trappings of success, such as a good job, white-collar income, lovely house, and a happy family -but still, be lost to their addiction.
Along the same lines, when people think of addiction, they often think of alcohol or drugs. However, these are not the only types of addictions. There’s also a large segment of the population that struggles with addictions too other behaviors or substances, including caffeine, gambling, the Internet, shopping, sex, cigarettes, and hoarding. Addiction is defined as any behavior that disrupts a person’s life and leaves them powerless to stop without the assistance of professional intervention or counseling at an addiction treatment center like The Hills.
Recovery is Possible But Not Without Drastic Lifestyle Changes
People in recovery for alcoholism or drug addiction quickly learn that in order to maintain their sobriety, they will need to avoid people, places, and things that were a regular part of their drinking and substance abuse lifestyles in the past. Unfortunately, treatment is not the beginning and the end of long term sobriety. This means to avoid relapse, someone in recovery must stay away from those who are still actively addicted. Sometimes this will require the individual to choose to end relationships with family or close friends who cannot understand this newfound lifestyle.
With proper treatment by trained professionals, it is possible for someone to recover from alcoholism or drug abuse. Again, it is essential to note that this does not mean that they are cured. Without ongoing work and dedication to maintaining their sobriety, relapse remains a strong possibility. Addiction is a highly personalized disease, and from individual to individual, it will manifest itself in different ways. This means that treatment plans must be tailored to the person, starting with an in-depth and detailed intake evaluation upon arrival at the treatment facility. From there, counselors, staff, and the patient will work together to come up with an effective treatment plan that meets their specific needs.
To date, there are several thousand drug and alcohol rehab facilities across the United States. Each of these facilities offers different treatment options, and therefore it is essential to research those facilities that best meet your needs. As previously noted, addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders often go hand in hand. Because of this, it is important to find a treatment facility that not only treats the addiction but the mental health concerns as well. This is known as dual diagnosis treatment, but it is not something every addiction treatment facility specializes in.
If you are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and are ready to take the next steps to achieve sobriety, contact The Hills in Los Angeles today to speak with one of our admissions advisors.