Dr. Tucker with Dana Point Rehab Campus takes a deeper look into addiction and “The Addicts Dilemma” in this week’s video blog.
Coping with your loved one’s addiction can be confusing and overwhelming. Frustrated families often wonder, “Why doesn’t my loved one stop using? Don’t they see the damage they’ve caused?” But substance abuse isn’t simple or straightforward. Families may wish their loved one would “just stop” or “get help.” But once addiction develops, quitting becomes extremely difficult.
As Dr. Tucker explains, activities that feel good are often essential for survival. For example, eating, sleeping, and procreating help our species survive. So our brains make these tasks pleasurable. The brain sends chemical signals, encouraging us to indulge in these activities. But addiction hijacks this system of pleasure and rewards. Substance abuse distorts the chemical signals in our brain. Over time, substance use feels necessary for survival. Getting high feels good, and quitting doesn’t. It’s no surprise that many people who struggle with addiction don’t want to stop.
Successful alcohol and drug rehab programs like those offered at Dana Point Rehab Campus and overseen by Dr, Tucker must break this biochemical feedback cycle. Science-based rehab teaches patients to take charge of their brains. Patients learn how to make permanent lifestyle changes that support their sobriety.
Risk Factors for Addiction
Today, millions of Americans struggle with addiction. Families want to help their loved one get sober, but they may not understand how. Too often, families avoid asking an important question: What prompts their loved one’s substance use?
Risk factors for substance abuse vary. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with mental illness. Others use substances to manage stress, grief, or trauma. Genetic risk factors can also increase the risk of dependency.
No matter what risk factors play a role, people who struggle with addiction have one thing in common. They have found that using drugs or alcohol feels good. When substance abuse offers pleasure and relief, quitting may feel impossible. This struggle is sometimes known as “the addict’s dilemma.”
The Addict’s Dilemma
Dr. Tucker explains that drugs and alcohol create a rush of feel-good chemicals in the brain. For patients struggling with withdrawal, this chemical rush can be especially powerful. Using drugs or alcohol erases their pain. It eases anxiety and distress. After using, the person feels good. Without it, they’re in pain.
Most people who struggle with substance abuse know they should quit. They recognize that these substances are harmful to their long-term health. Many are also aware that their addiction has caused harm to the people around them. They feel guilty and vow to change. But quitting isn’t easy.
Once patients develop a dependency, quitting can trigger withdrawal. This process can be physically and psychologically painful. The body has gotten used to drugs or alcohol. When deprived of these substances, it triggers powerful cravings. Our brains can urge us toward drugs or alcohol as they urge us toward food or water.
Soon, people who struggle with substance abuse are in the grips of this cycle. They’re caught between pleasure and pain: using feels good, and quitting doesn’t. In this state, it can be hard to make rational decisions.
It’s no wonder that many patients spend years seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. They know they should quit, but they can’t seem to manage it. Patients often try to quit on their own. But the cravings are too powerful, so they fail again and again.
How Can Treatment Help?
Substance use triggers intense chemical reactions in the brain. These reactions can interfere with logic, reason, and long-term planning. It’s no surprise that most people who struggle with substance abuse can’t get sober on their own. But comprehensive, evidence-based treatment can help during detoxification and withdrawal.
Medically supported alcohol and drug detox relieves or even eliminate many withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can be the most frightening part of getting sober. But medication can make this process easier.
Once detox is complete, patients transition to the next phase. During an inpatient residential rehab program, patients discover the underlying reasons for their addiction. They also identify emotions that contribute to their substance use.
Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with negative emotions. A qualified therapist can offer anger management, grief and loss therapy, and much more. Some patients may benefit from a dual diagnosis program. This form of addiction treatment supports patients who struggle with both substance abuse and mental illness. Treating underlying psychiatric disorders allows many patients to break the chains of addiction.
If you struggle with substance abuse, don’t suffer alone. Let our team at Dana Point Rehab Campus help you rebuild your life. We offer medically-assisted detox, inpatient residential rehab, and dual diagnosis programs. To learn more, call us at 949-503-9554 today.
Dr. Tucker is the Medical Director for Dana Point Rehab Campus. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine, practicing in the pharmacological management of psychiatric disorders and addiction medicine.