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Understanding and Overcoming Addiction

Addictive illness is one of the most common psychiatric disorders. In fact, The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study found that there’s a 15% lifetime chance that an American will develop an abuse or dependent disorder for alcohol, and a 6% chance for other drugs. 

Although many addicted people turn to psychiatrists and other mental health care professionals for help, the office setting often doesn’t provide the elements of peer support and self-help that are vital to effective addiction treatment.

As opposed to traditional treatment, which is normally limited to the addicted person and their psychologist, network treatment involves the support of a small group of family and friends. By engaging the support of family and peers in a psychologist working team, the addicted person gets the support necessary to overcome the denial that can prolong addiction and lead to relapse. 

Understanding Addiction and Relapse

All addictive agents share two main characteristics — they cause a desire for repeated use and generate craving, and they produce discomfort when withdrawn. This first characteristic reinforces the addicted person by producing a desirable reaction that they want to repeat. For example, consuming caffeine creates a mild stimulating effect, and alcohol releases tension and produces euphoria. 

That immediate reinforcement is extremely influential, much more so than any deterrents related to the addictive substance, like a hangover or even the loss of a job. And, part of what makes recovery so challenging is that the addicted person remains vulnerable to that response long after they stop consuming the drug. 

The second characteristic of an addictive substance is the production of discomfort when withdrawn. The withdrawal reaction can be deeply unpleasant and occurs most frequently when the addictive substances are withdrawn after long use. However, the withdrawal reaction can also occur when the addicted person is exposed to certain environmental cues.

Conditioned withdrawal — also called continued abstinence — occurs when the addicted person, who has abstained from the addictive substance, is exposed to stimuli related to it. For example, if an addict uses heroin on the same street corner over and over again, merely being exposed to that same street corner can cause a withdrawal response. 

These conditioned cues, combined with the outright denial that’s commonplace in addiction, increase the likelihood of relapse. Treating addiction and preventing relapse must include the awareness of these triggers and cues.

Debunking the Myths About Addiction

There are many things that make overcoming addiction challenging, including many widely held beliefs about addiction that persist among professionals and the public alike. Here are a few of the most common myths about addiction:

  1. Some People Have an Addictive Personality 

Contrary to popular belief, the poor adaptations and personality aberrations send in addicted people do not predate their addiction. In fact, they are often the result of years of substance abuse. Psychological tests show that people are more likely to develop sociopathic or dependent traits as a product of their addiction than they are to have had these traits prior to their substance abuse. 

  1. Understanding Yourself Can Help You Overcome Addiction

There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to understand your own motives — why you do what you do. However, for the addicted person, insights such as these can easily become rationalizations. It’s not uncommon to hear an alcoholic talk about continuing to drink through insight psychotherapy, and hiding a pattern of addictive behavior from yourself or your psychologist isn’t exactly a challenge. In most cases, well-structured abstinence programs are typically much more effective than introspection. 

  1. AA is the Only Option to Achieve Recovery

AA is, without a doubt, the most commonly used resource for addiction recovery in the United States. However, it’s far from the only recovery option for addicted people. Some people have retained abstinence with the assistance of a mental health professional alone, and others have done so through their own willpower. There are also other self-help groups similar to AA that have helped addicted people sustain abstinence. 

  1. Some Ethnic Groups are More Vulnerable to Alcoholism

Epidemiological studies show that members of some groups, including Jewish and Chinese communities, are less likely to develop alcoholism, and that Native Americans are more likely to develop alcoholism. However, when the groups assimilate into the mainstream culture, so too do their drinking patterns until they resemble those of other Americans. 

  1. Psychologists Cannot Help People Struggling With Addiction

As previously mentioned, even with introspective treatment, many addicted people continue to abuse the addictive substance. The benefits of insight can be limited. Nonetheless, when mental health professionals are adherent to the basic principles of addiction treatment, they can be extremely helpful to the addicted person. Psychotherapy can lead to effective addiction treatment so long as abstinence is secured at the outset of treatment and treatment is centered around actively preventing relapse. 

  1. AA is Strictly for Religious Alcoholics

Although AA is oriented toward the spiritual part of the recovery process, the program also embodies procedures that are well thought out and highly systemic for achieving and maintaining abstinence. AA was founded with a focus on social psychology, and with experience in stabilizing other alcoholics. Many techniques found in AA have been adapted in professional addiction treatment settings. 

  1. Going to Rehab is the Best Way to Start Addiction Recovery

In some cases, inpatient hospitalization is a necessary part of the addicted person’s initiation of addiction recovery — usually when the patient doesn’t have a stable residence to return to or is psychiatrically disturbed. However, most addicted people can achieve stable abstinence with outpatient management, especially if they have support from family, a mental health professional and a self-help group like AA. 

Overcome Addiction With Blair Wellness Group

Dr. Cassidy Blair of Blair Wellness Group is a licensed clinical psychologist and has the training, experience, and insights necessary to treat a variety of addictions, from substance abuse to relationship and love addiction. Get the addiction treatment you need to overcome your addiction. Schedule your appointment with Blair Wellness Group. We serve clients in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Brentwood, West Hollywood, and the surrounding areas. Schedule your appointment today.

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