Drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug-seeking behavior and compulsive use. Contrary to what some believe, addiction is not the result of moral failure or lack of willpower. In fact, there are countless unpredictable genetic, environmental, and developmental factors that predispose some people to a higher risk of addiction than others.
While the initial decision to take drugs or drink alcohol is voluntary for most people, these substances can alter the user’s mind and body, interfering with their self-control and ability to function. Drug addiction is a complex disorder we are still learning about, and quitting takes more than good intentions or even a strong will. Due to its chronic nature, recovery from addiction can often be a life-long process. Getting your life back on track from the depths of addiction and living sober takes a lot of time and effort, but it is always worth it in the end.
The Brain and Addiction
No matter the substance, regular drug or alcohol abuse has a massive effect on the mind and body. These substances hijack the brain’s reward circuit, throwing off the brain’s normal chemistry, causing dependency and other long-term cognitive effects like memory loss, irritability, and cognitive impairment. As use continues, the body begins to build a tolerance to its effects, and the user will require more of the substance to feel the same “high,” causing further imbalance to brain chemistry.
Although there is no cure for drug or alcohol addiction, it is fortunately treatable, and many people successfully manage it through rehabilitation and continued treatment. Additionally, the changes these substances make to the brain are also impermanent. Studies show that the brains of ex-users can recover to near normal function after 14 months of abstinence.
The detoxification stage is often the most challenging part of the recovery process since the mind and body have to readjust to sober living. Depending on the length of time, substance, amount, and frequency used, the addict may experience intense feelings of withdrawal. This can be scary to go through and may require medical supervision, which is why it is recommended to find a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center with qualified staff and support groups.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
There are two main categories of withdrawal symptoms: physical and psychological. Typical withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to weeks, but post-acute withdrawal symptoms may last for months. The initial, shorter withdrawal stage includes physical symptoms, while the post-acute withdrawal symptoms are primarily psychological. Understanding the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal can help ease the fears of those suffering from addiction and prepare them for their recovery journey.
Physical symptoms of withdrawal are largely dependent on the substance and amount used, family history, and length and frequency of use. These can include:
- Nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal distress
- Muscle aches and tension
Psychological symptoms are also largely dependent on the factors previously mentioned. These mental symptoms include:
- Anxiety and depression
While physical symptoms of withdrawal typically last for a shorter time period, they can be very uncomfortable and even life-threatening in some cases. The psychological effects of withdrawal may last longer, but there are countless accessible treatment options to help deal with these symptoms, such as therapy, support groups, and other rehabilitation programs.
While some people are able to recover from minor dependencies to things like nicotine or alcohol through the support of loved ones, many substances and people require professional help as there is always a risk during the withdrawal stage. It is never bad or shameful to ask for help, especially when some estimates put the death rate during alcohol withdrawal at 6.6% and potentially higher for other substances.
Professional treatment and recovery centers are there to be by your side and help you fully commit to your recovery in a safe and effective manner. They also provide medical intervention for when withdrawal symptoms become unmanageable. Don’t be afraid to search online for “rehabilitation centers,” no matter your addiction. Some Nevada drug rehab centers even offer services for gambling addiction. Find a rehab center that will work for you and suit your best interests so that you can start leading a happier, healthier life.