Until the last decade or so, people with a substance addiction were mostly treated with the same disdain as someone with an infectious disease. Whether the condition occurred as a result of medical or recreational use of drugs, the common thread running through most personal drug addict stories is the memory of being treated like an outcast of society or feeling like one.
Due to the all-consuming nature of addiction, many addicts like Angela, find themselves doing and acting in ways that have characterized people in addiction as deviant and more deserving of punishment than treatment. In her personal drug story she said…. “I went from being a full time mom, college student, daughter and productive member of society to being a criminal, thief, prostitute, IV drug user and a source of grief and embarrassment for all who loved me.” Thankfully, this was not the end of Angela’s story. Once she reached out for help, Angela was able to push past the guilt and shame and find her way back to normalcy.
The sad reality for many people in addiction however, is that without help it can be difficult, if not impossible, to escape the cycles of addiction. As Dr. Mehmet Oz explains, the disease of addiction is an ambiguous amalgam of mostly negative or self-harming behavioral manifestations that is described as “powerlessness” by doctors and patients alike. And, despite the fact that an estimated 20 million Americans are affected by this condition, the typical reaction to people with this disease is usually rejection.
For much of the past century, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), scientists studying drug abuse mostly operated under the misconception that addiction is the result of weak moral fiber rather than a chronic health problem. Fortunately, technological breakthroughs have enabled scientists to conduct in-depth research and exploration into what happens to the brain on drugs. As result, they have been able to identify significant issues that influence addiction in some individuals such as environmental factors and genetic predisposition among others. These research outcomes have revolutionized the treatment of people with substance abuse disorders. Also, the fact that addiction touch every demographic and socio economic strata of today’s society and with the kill rate reaching staggering proportions, the harsh stigmatization levied on addicts and their loved ones is gradually diminishing.
With greater understanding of addiction and shifting public opinion of addicts, the possibility of recovery can now take center stage. As such, these changes have already begun to open greater opportunities in research, treatment mechanisms, increased funding and long overdue changes in policies and support for those battling this debilitating disease.
This changing perspective helped recovering addict, Alycia to be get on the road to recovery through acceptance of both her strengths and weaknesses. “I was able to separate my disease from who I am and live my life” she said in her personal drug addiction story. But she also noted that recovery for her was an ongoing process, not an endpoint.
For this reason, NIDA scientists pointed out drug addiction is typically characterized by occasional relapses. As such it is important for people seeking recovery to understand that, for many addicts, a short-term, one-time treatment is usually not sufficient to achieve full recovery or sustainable sobriety. Recognizing that treatment is usually a slow process that may involve multiple interventions and regular monitoring often help to reduce the disappointment and hopelessness that addicts and their loved one’s experience following a lapse or relapse.
In reality, the duration of treatment can vary for each individual. There are also different treatment options and intervention models that occur in different settings to satisfy the variable needs of each individual. The ultimate goal of any treatment program is to stop obsessive drug seeking and compulsive use in such a way that the person in recovery is able to restore physical and psychological balance as well as long term sobriety.
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