Thanks to research and scientific advances, we now understand that a lack of willpower does not cause addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease, just like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. Like these other chronic diseases, addiction is a treatable disorder. It can be managed, but it cannot be cured. This understanding has shifted how health care professionals approach and treat substance abuse.
Myths About Addiction
While much has changed about how people understand addiction, some myths surrounding drug and alcohol abuse remain. A powerful myth is that addiction is voluntary behavior. While initially taking drugs or drinking is something a person does voluntarily, the behavior can shift from voluntary to compulsive over time. That results from the changes that substances produce in the brain with regular use.
Another myth is that addiction is linked to a flaw in a person’s character. Again, the use of substances changes how the brain functions over time. Someone’s inability to stop taking drugs or drinking is not because of a lack of willpower or a bad character; it is connected to the changes that occur in brain function thanks to ongoing substance abuse. Addiction is a disease of the brain.
There are also myths about addiction treatment. Some people believe that treatment only works if the addicted person wants help. Loved ones pressure most people to seek treatment, or they are forced by a court order to get help. In the past, it was believed that those individuals didn’t fare as well in achieving recovery because they weren’t as invested in living a sober life. However, multiple research studies reveal that even those who don’t seek treatment willingly in the beginning benefit from treatment, and they may even do better because of the pressure they are under to stop using.
The Role of Relapse in Recovery
People who have an asthma attack are not judged for failing in their treatment. Someone who relapses on their sober journey should be given the same respect. Care for any chronic disease means managing the symptoms and conditions around the person that impact their illness. For this reason, relapse for an addict is an indication that the treatment approach needs to be updated or revisited. It does not mean that the person has failed.
A person can grow over time, and circumstances can change. Recovery from addiction requires using the skills and tools the person learned in treatment to help navigate existing situations and triggers. However, new events can happen that test these coping mechanisms. They may even trigger a relapse. What matters is that the individual moves quickly to return to treatment and learn new ways to handle any issues.
Barriers to Treatment
Recovery from addiction is possible, but some individuals face more challenges in achieving it. For instance, racial bias plays a role in who gets treatment. Additionally, people who live in more rural parts of the country may face a more significant challenge finding the care they need to recover.
The level of someone’s addiction may also play a role in how long it takes them to achieve recovery. Another primary concern is the increasing role that fentanyl plays. Recovery can take multiple attempts. Fentanyl is highly deadly because it is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. As a result, many people may not be given the time they need to go through a recovery and relapse cycle. Too many people do not survive their substance abuse because of unknowingly taking drugs laced with the highly deadly opioid.
Finally, money plays a role. Those with more financial means may receive better care more quickly, which allows them to achieve recovery more easily or more quickly.
Long-Term Recovery is Possible
There are many grim statistics about addiction, but there is also good news. Several recent scientific studies have revealed that many who have drug or alcohol addictions learn to manage their chronic conditions and go on to live full and healthy lives.
For instance, one study found that more than 22 million adults in the U.S., or about 9% of the population, are currently living in recovery from substance addiction. Another joint effort conducted in 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that three-quarters of individuals with an addiction do recover eventually.
Despite the impression the news may give, the reality is most people do recover. Unfortunately, the destructive side of addiction garners more attention than the 75% of individuals who learn to manage their substance misuse.
Recovery from addiction is possible and the first step is to get help. The most effective treatment for many substance use disorders is medication-assisted treatment or MAT. A combination of medications and behavioral therapy, MAT offers a holistic approach. The medications assist in managing any withdrawal symptoms or cravings. Behavioral therapy teaches the person ways to manage stress and other triggers, so they do not return to drug or alcohol use.
Bridges of Hope’s treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing all issues related to substance use and mental health disorders. Utilizing therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices, Bridges of Hope provides superior patient care in Indiana through its all-inclusive treatment services.