Far too often, drug and alcohol abuse are thought of as moral failings or criminal undertakings. They are not; substance abuse is an illness that is treatable. Most research says that it is not completely curable in most sufferers, but it can be treated with a large amount of success. The course of treatment is physical as well as psychological. The psychological flows from the physical. Treatment can be short-term or long-term, depending on what is needed. It can also be done as an in-patient treatment or as an out-patient. What’s most important is that the sufferer is treated with evidence-based treatment, not superstition or condemnation.
Some Common Misunderstandings
It is a common misconception that addiction is the result of a lack of willpower. The misconception states that one can conquer addiction by simply exerting enough willpower to resist the temptation of the substance. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the disease. It changes brain chemistry and rewrites neural pathways; someone in the grip of dependence is suffering from a physical ailment. Simply choosing to stop is rarely an option.
It is not a sign of weakness to be addicted; it’s a sign that you have a terrible ailment. Asking for help is a sign of strength; you are proving that you are willing and able to fight against this affliction. That is not a failure; it’s the first victory.
The Beginning of Evidence-Based Treatment
The first step is typically the sufferer admitting that he or she has this disease. Once the person admits the disease, it can begin to be treated at a treatment facility. The first stage of treatment differs depending on the substance the person is abusing. For most substances, the person will go through a short detoxification period. This lasts from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the substance. In certain circumstances, the detox must be carefully monitored by a medical professional because the person is at risk of health complications from the cessation of drug use.
Once the drug has been purged from the person’s system and the worst of the withdrawals has passed, the healing can begin. People cannot heal from this disease until their minds are clear.
The Root of the Addiction
As with any other disease, drug addiction has a series of external and internal contributing factors. One cannot simply treat the addict and ignore the cause of the addiction, nor is it intelligent to ignore the inner emotions and thoughts of the sufferer. Just as stress, fatigue, and other internal factors make one more susceptible to contracting an illness when confronted with a virus, these factors make one more likely to contract an illness when confronted with drug use.
The sufferer, fully committed to healing, must confront the internal and external factors that led down this path. That could mean finding a new job, a new group of friends, or a whole new career. Whatever the case may be, an evidence-based treatment under the guidance of a professional can help that person recover.