If you or a loved one have struggled with addiction, undoubtedly there have been times when you wished for a magical cure for the condition. You hoped for something that would make the pain go away, and understandably so. Addiction is not an easy thing to navigate. It is hard for the person struggling with addiction and hard on his or her family.
When it comes to drugs and alcohol, many would prefer to know how to cure addiction in a foolproof, no-surprises way with long-term success. They do not want to worry about being tempted to drink or use drugs again after working so hard to achieve sobriety during initial treatment. They are not so much scared of the hard work that comes with getting sober but with the lifetime of choices ahead of them, knowing they will always crave the drink or drugs they can no longer have.
Is there a cure for addiction? We’ll explore the answer in-depth with a look at the scientific and social implications of that question. We’ll also discuss how to stop using drugs and alcohol in the long term and what the most effective methods are.
What is Addiction?
Before we can explore whether the cure for addiction exists, first we must examine the definition of addiction. Addiction is a disease, much like diabetes. Though in most cases it begins with the voluntary taking of drugs or alcohol, as a person becomes dependent on these substances, the voluntary element disappears. A chemical dependency develops. The person will become consumed with finding and taking drugs, until it is no longer a choice but a compulsion.
This results from a change in brain behavior. Addiction impacts the brain circuits, causing changes to the regions governing:
- Behavior Control
Addiction is an extremely complex issue. Studies have shown that up to half an individual’s risk for addiction can be determined by heredity, which obviously is not something any of us can control. These biological factors may not become apparent until someone is in the throes of addiction.
Answering the question of is there a cure for addiction is complex. In the very strictest definition of the word cure, the answer is no, at least not in the sense many people hope. There is no pill that can be taken to eliminate drug addiction altogether. There is no radiation treatment that will remove all traces of addiction from a person’s body. Every solution involves hard work and difficult choices.
There has been a lot of research into this area. Of course, it would make treatment for how to stop using drugs and alcohol so much easier if there was a tidy solution, a cure that would be available to anyone. However, researchers have been pursuing this topic for years with little luck. Though they have learned a lot more about the causes of addiction and the properties in the human genome that make people more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, they have not found the cure for addiction that will magically instill an addict with willpower or suddenly make alcohol taste foul.
However, addiction can be treated. It can go into remission, so to speak, much the way cancer goes into remission and new growths stop appearing. Addiction is somewhat like diabetes. It requires vigilance but when treated properly, it can be managed and the individual suffering from addiction can live a healthy, productive life.
The Only True “Cure” for Addiction
Treatment is the only way to help someone overcome the stronghold of drug and alcohol addiction. Not all treatment is the same. Addiction is a very individual disease. In addition to differences in what the individual is addicted to, such as alcohol or prescription drugs or marijuana, there are also nuances depending on personalities. No one responds the same way to the same treatment, and it takes vigilance and dedication to craft a treatment program that works for the individual.
Here are examples of treatments that can be effective to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Closely monitored detoxification
Every person requires an individualized approach to treatment. This increases the odds that the cure for addiction will stick for years and years, which is the goal. Not every initial treatment is successful. Some people find they must return to rehab to recommit to sober living. This is because even within a treatment program, brain chemistry cannot be changed.
Once a person has become an addict, their brain has been forever changed, and there is no switching off that propensity for addiction.
It is more accurate to say that addiction can be controlled rather than cured. There are a number of long-term solutions for drug and alcohol abuse that can be employed by treatment centers. Addiction is very treatable. While there is a social stigma on people who relapse into using drugs or alcohol again after going to rehab, professionals who treat people addicted to drugs and alcohol note that this is simply part of fighting a disease. Many people with cancer, too, unfortunately come out of remission and are forced to battle the disease a second or third time.
The long-term effectiveness of entering a drug or alcohol treatment program can help in the quest for how to cure addiction. Just as you’d trust a doctor to treat your cancer, you can rely on the experience and expertise of staff at a rehab facility to help you learn how to stop using drugs and alcohol. According to statistics, more than half of drug addicts and up to 70 percent of alcoholics can successfully overcome their addiction if they remain in treatment.
This is, in part, why those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction are often encouraged to take one day at a time. It can be scary to think of a lifetime without using drugs or alcohol to those in the depths of addiction, but considering one day without popping a pill or taking a drink is much less daunting. By pushing short-term solutions that can develop into long-term approaches, those struggling with addiction can come as close to a cure as possible.
How to Stop Using Drugs
The best way to treat drug addiction is going to rehab. Drug rehabilitation programs that help treat the root causes of abuse, including emotional struggles and mental health disorders, have been found to be the most effective treatments for those struggling with how to stop using drugs.
The best program begins with a medically assisted detoxification. During this period, illicit drugs are removed from the system, while the proper levels of medication to maintain mental health are determined. The detox period can be difficult but it is a key part to ending drug use.
Once the physical task of detoxing the body has been accomplished, it is time to switch attention to the emotional and mental side of things. Those struggling with addiction engage in counseling sessions and explore the reasons behind their addiction. They learn how to cope with life, even the hard times, without drugs. They focus on shedding the need for chemical substances, instead of worrying about those around them or fearing what others are thinking. The single-minded focus on recovery is what makes rehab centers so effective.
It is very difficult to kick a drug habit without the assistance of a rehab program. That is because ending drug dependency is not just an issue of willpower, as many perceive it to be. There are medical issues that need to be addressed as well, and how to cure addiction goes beyond just the mental side of things to physical as well. The changes in the brain must be acknowledged and treated.
If you choose to try to battle your addiction on your own, you will not have the support that you need for the physical side effects and strain that you will face. Rehab gives you the tools you will need to draw on in the long term. Like anything else having to do with addiction, rehab is not a cure, but it is the most effective way to kick drug abuse.
New Research Into Addiction
A cure for addiction has become the life’s work for a handful of researchers, who are eager to find a way to avoid the perils of seeking treatment for addiction and want to provide an easier, simpler way to combat the disease. This research focuses on ferreting out the causes in the brain that lead to addiction and finding ways to treat the changes that occur in the brain over an addict’s lifetime.
Research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has turned up some interesting findings. For instance, abusing drugs and alcohol leads to changes in the brain that spark anxious and tense feelings. These feelings can only be soothed by taking more drugs or drinking more alcohol. With that in mind, scientists are now focusing on producing drugs that address anxiety to help those struggling with addiction kick the habit.
In the future, there will no doubt be even more research into this area. This latest breakthrough is clearly a sign that we have not fully plumbed the depths of addiction and all there is to understand about it. While it does not answer the question “is there a cure for addiction,” it does provide hope of finding more ways to complement treatment options.
Long-Term Management of Drug and Alcohol Addiction
The goal of a treatment program is not to provide the magic bullet against addiction. Instead, it is to help people learn to manage their disease in the long term. You would not expect someone with cancer to simply stop getting checkups once the cancer had left his or her body. In the same way, you should not expect someone who has struggled with addiction to be cured after treatment. It requires a lifetime of dedication to remain sober.
Here are some strategies that can help with the long-term management of drug and alcohol addiction:
Developing Coping Strategies. A good alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility will help those struggling with addiction to develop coping strategies they can call on when they get in situations where their desire for drugs or alcohol is strong. For instance, the individual might decide to avoid socializing with certain people who make alcohol a central part of every celebration.
Continuing Outpatient Counseling. Many people find that after leaving an inpatient program, they get many benefits from continuing to emphasize the same sort of treatment they received as an inpatient. This allows the individual to feel more control over their treatment and recovery.
Utilize Friends and Family. Very often, friends and family will let you know you can count on them to help you in your recovery process. It is tempting to try to recover alone, but you have a greater chance of success if you open up about your struggles and share in your triumphs and your setbacks. A great support system helps you remember you are not in this alone.
Finding New Ways to De-Stress. Drugs and alcohol can become a crutch for dealing with stress. A long-term recovery plan will incorporate new ways to let off steam, whether that is exercising or indulging in a new hobby or practicing meditation.
Avoiding Old Haunts and Drug Buddies. If you frequently went to the same places to feed your addiction and did it with the same people, drop them all like a bad habit. If one of those old friends kicks their habits as well, that is great and perhaps one day you can forge a friendship based on something more than drugs. Until then, go cold turkey on your past.
Distracting Yourself. There is no cure for the cravings that accompany addiction. Even decades later, you may still get excited at the thought of just one drink or hit. When the urge strikes, try to distract yourself from the craving or the desire. Call a friend, go to a movie or hop on your bike. You will start to recognize the warning signs well enough to preemptively react.
Building a New Life. A life without addiction offers the opportunity for you to enjoy things you may not have considered as important before, such as family, a fulfilling job and devoted friends. Find your passion and pursue it.
Checking In. Even years into your newly sober life, there is no shame in checking in to a rehab facility to tweak or manage your sobriety. It is a lifelong process, and it is smart to keep tabs on your recovery.
Making Lifelong Sobriety Last
There is no one cure for addiction. The secret to managing the disease is to treat it and monitor it going forward, without looking for shortcuts or hoping for a medicine that can eliminate the hard work that goes with kicking a habit. A cure implies that you treat the problem and it is done. For addiction, however, recovery is a process that will last an entire lifetime.
At Clarity Way, we understand the desire for finding a cure for addiction. Our empathetic and qualified staff can help treat you or a loved one’s addiction and help them find the tools needed for a lifetime of sobriety. There may not be a cure for addiction, but there are smart ways to treat and manage it, and Clarity Way is here to show the way.
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