What is Addiction?

Drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic brain disease. Impacting millions of people worldwide, addiction touches nearly every family in one way or another. Individuals struggling to come to terms with their substance abuse will benefit greatly by learning the ins and outs of addiction and, in turn, how to recover.

Addiction is the inability to quit drinking alcohol or consuming a drug (or drugs), despite the consequences. As an outsider looking in, one might think it is easy to stop using drugs or alcohol because of negative consequences; however, the truth is more complicated.

Alcoholism and addiction are chronic diseases that cause a physical and emotional dependence on alcohol or drugs, resulting in compulsive use or behavior regardless of the impact on one’s life. An individual’s genetic makeup and environmental factors play an essential role in developing a substance use disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “genetics, including the impact of one’s environment on gene expression, account for about 40% to 60% of a person’s risk of addiction.”

Seeking professional help or addiction treatment will provide an individual with the best chance to manage and fight addiction.

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How Does Addiction Start?

When someone uses a drug and/or alcohol, changes occur in the brain, which increases dopamine levels and creates a euphoric feeling. With repeated use, an individual can build a tolerance, which means that more of the substance is needed to achieve the same pleasurable effects or “high.”

Certain substances are more addictive than others and can cause physical cravings very quickly. This physical need and the continuous compulsive behavior to use leads to the downward spiral of addiction.





Addiction Treatment Journey

Each individual’s experience with addiction can be vastly different. As such, important to design a specific, customized recovery treatment program catered to the whole person. A holistic recovery program will address a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual needs and generally includes different stages and options.

Learn more about the addiction treatment process

Initial Rehab/Detox

This stage is the entry point for treating addiction. It includes stopping alcohol and/or drugs in a medically supervised environment. Professional staff will help a person successfully manage the withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping. When necessary, additional medication might be introduced to make the withdrawal process more comfortable.

Learn more about the detox process

Initial Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment

Once a complete detox has occurred, full-time inpatient rehab programs, in which an individual stays at a licensed rehab facility, can be the next step. An individual will begin working with medical and psychiatric professionals and addiction specialists to address underlying mental health conditions and learn about their substance use disorder and learn skills to recover.

Outpatient addiction programs require less commitment as they are part-time and can allow a person to live at home or in sober living and address any work, school responsibilities, which may prohibit an inpatient stay.

Usually, inpatient rehab is the best choice for a person looking to stop using drugs and/or alcohol. Inpatient recovery programs can last about 28 days and tend to be more effective. Outpatient rehab programs, which can last three to six months, are more suitable for an individual in the early stages of a substance use disorder.

Ongoing Addiction Care

Managing one’s addiction and maintaining a successful recovery is a lifelong process. Staying sober isn’t easy. Following rehabilitation, it is essential to establish a post-treatment plan. Identifying a support system in your personal life and ensuring the availability of medical professionals is vital.

Strategies learned in treatment to manage triggers can help prevent a relapse. It is equally important to strengthen relationships with those who encourage a healthy, safe lifestyle. An excellent addition to any post-recovery plan is involvement with an alumni program to stay connected to friendships formed in rehab. In addition, a post-recovery care program may include:

  • Counseling or therapy
  • Support groups
  • Check-ins from medical professionals
  • Assistance with returning back to everyday life (personal/professional)

Co-Occurring Disorders

Drug and alcohol addiction is commonly accompanied by other co-occurring disorders that are important to address for a successful recovery. Co-occurring disorders can include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, PTSD, personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), and eating disorders.

Drug and alcohol use can be a way to self-medicate or improve mental illness. In some cases, mental health disorders can develop as a result of addiction. When an individual experiences both addiction and co-occurring behaviors, it is imperative to seek addiction recovery treatment. While in inpatient rehab, an integrated approach and an individualized treatment plan will be developed to treat both substance use and mental health.

At Cardinal Recovery, we understand addiction. Recovery is challenging, and having an encouraging support system, experienced and caring staff, and a beautiful environment makes it much more attainable. Addiction can be isolating, but you are not alone. We are here for you, and we are here to help.

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