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Originally Posted On: Common Myths About Drug & Alcohol Addiction | Enterhealth
Myth #1: Addiction isn’t a disease, it’s the result of a lack of willpower.
The Truth: The idea that addiction is a disease is worrisome for a lot of people, but according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” A disease changes the way an organ functions, and addiction changes the brain on a physiological level – literally altering the way the brain works and rewiring its fundamental structure. That’s why scientists classify addiction as a disease.
Some diseases, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, are inherited, while others develop over time, like asthma, diabetes, and even cancer. Genetics make some people more susceptible, while others get it with no genetic history. Some develop it because of lifestyle choices, while others with a similar lifestyle never get it. For some, addiction develops over the course of years and for others, it is a clear and present danger from the start.
In the not-so-distant past, many viewed addiction as a choice that an person makes or as a behavior that can be stopped willingly at any time. However, over the past several years, the medical community’s understanding of addiction has expanded, and medical professionals now view addiction as a complex psychological and physiological problem that demands careful treatment.
Addiction is a disease that affects the limbic system of the brain. Over time it will damage the brain’s chemistry and neurological pathways and will require medical treatment and possibly even anti-addiction medicines to help restore the chemical balance, heal the pathways and get back to a more “normal” state.
Myth #2: Plenty of people get clean and sober through 12-step problems, so anyone can.
The Truth: Some people in recovery for addiction find that they can manage their disease successfully through traditional 12-step and talk therapy-based programs, but research shows that only 30% of the people in these programs find long-term success. That means that 70% or more of those who seek these kinds of treatment may be in for a seemingly endless cycle of recovery, relapse and treatment – and many view this low success rate as unacceptable.
For those who want an alternative to traditional treatment methods, Enterhealth offers a number of programs for individuals and families that seek a clean and sober life. Addiction affects people from all walks of life, and we often treat people who are driven, responsible, accomplished, admired, and respected. These are people who can do almost anything they set their minds to, but none of that seems to matter when they are around of their substance of choice. For those in this group, we can help. Using the latest advancements in medicine and therapy, Enterhealth is helping people overcome their addiction every day.
Myth #3: Using anti-addiction medicines to control your urges is just trading one addiction for another.
The Truth: The anti-addiction medications Enterhealth uses to treat addition to drugs and alcohol have been fully researched by the American Medical Association and the FDA and are proven to be both safe and non-addictive. The ways that these anti-addiction medications (such as Vivitrol, Suboxone, and Campral) interact with your brain makes it physically impossible to become addicted because they do not trigger the addiction centers in the brain like the abused substance.
What these drugs do is “stand in the gap” between your neurons and your neurotransmitters so that the signals your brain normally receives in the addiction centers of the brain are effectively disconnected. By doing so, they also turn off or negate both the compulsive cravings and the euphoria or “high” associated with pleasure if you do happen to drink or use drugs.
Research shows that the most effective methods for addiction treatment are those that combine anti-addiction medicines with evidence-based behavioral therapies. In addition, the treatment approach at Enterhealth is uniquely tailored to address each person’s abuse patterns as well as any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems to ensure a sustained recovery and a life without addiction.
Myth #4: The damage done to the brain by alcohol and drugs is permanent
The Truth: The brain can heal with the right treatment. Drugs and alcohol affect our behavior and brain chemistry, and while many people falsely believe that disrupting your brain chemistry too much can cause permanent brain damage, this is simply not the case for most people. Alcohol and drug use does disrupt brain cells and brain chemistry, that much is true. But recent research in brain science has changed our understanding of how the brain regenerates in recovery.
Typically, the neurons and neurotransmitters in addicted people have been working in overdrive for a very long time but giving them a break can allow the brain to cool down and begin to rebalance its biochemistry. After this cool-down period, the neurons and neurotransmitters start will return to functioning the way they are supposed to – the way they did before addiction.
Additionally, the longer these neurotransmitters function as intended again, the stronger they get and the less likely they are to go back to functioning in overdrive. With the brain refreshed and chemically balanced again, most patients find it much easier to focus and apply the behavioral therapies and techniques learned in treatment. This means that medically based treatments give people’s brains a chance to reboot, rewire, and recover most (if not all) of their functionality, counteracting addiction’s powerful disruptive effects and enabling people to regain control of their lives.
It takes about 45 to 90 days for the brain to refresh, and it takes about a year or two for the brain to get back to normal again. Patient’s and their families need to remember that addiction doesn’t start overnight, and it won’t get well overnight. But with a multidimensional approach to treatment, recovery is possible.
Get Help with Enterhealth
Now, through both our inpatient rehab or outpatient treatment, Enterhealth offers a science-based approach that combines state-of-the-art assessments with anti-addiction medications and proven behavioral therapies to help patients experience success in their recovery. Find out how we can help you or a loved one today by calling 800.388.4601.