Every year, millions of Americans turn to illicit drugs, misuse prescription drugs, smoke and drink, all of which can lead to substance abuse disorder or addiction. In fact, about half of Americans have a family member or friend who has struggled with addiction.
Yet, even though substance abuse and addiction are common, many people don’t understand how the problems develop. Knowing how addiction happens can help you avoid addiction yourself, and it can also help you understand the struggles your friends or loved ones may be facing.
At Cora Health Solutions, Betsy Serrano, PMHNP, helps patients get the addiction treatment they need to break the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse and lead healthier lives. In this post, she offers a brief overview of addiction, including its effects on your body and your brain.
It’s safe to say that no one intends to become addicted to drugs. For most people, their first experience is simply an experiment born out of curiosity, a desire to try something new, a desire to flout authority, or as a result of peer pressure.
The initial use or few uses serve as a temporary escape from reality or a way to socialize and “fit in.” Many drugs and other substances bring feelings of happiness, euphoria, or deep relaxation — sensations that may be desirable for a variety of reasons.
Some people turn to drugs to escape physical or emotional abuse, deal with stress, or manage mental health issues like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Regardless of the initial trigger, it’s important to understand that addiction is not a weakness — it’s a real health problem that requires real medical treatment.
These “feel-good” effects elicited by most drugs promote more frequent use that winds up turning into a regular habit. Very quickly, your body’s neural pathways adapt to the new substance, and the initial stages of addiction are established.
This is when tolerance develops — as your body grows used to the drug, you need more and more of the substance to achieve the same pleasurable effects. At the same time, your body takes notice of the effects of these substances, decreasing production of natural “feel-good” chemicals and leaving you physically dependent on the drug.
Dependence isn’t just a theory. It’s a real effect of substance abuse that actually alters the way your body and brain respond to the drug. Once dependence is established, it’s virtually impossible to break the cycle without medical help.
You may try to kick your habit, but the feelings of withdrawal can be intensely unpleasant — even painful — and without medical supervision, life-threatening. This is why so many people with good intentions of quitting a substance find themselves with undeniable cravings that cause them to go back to their drug of choice.
Addiction treatment has evolved dramatically over the past few decades. Today, practitioners recognize the importance of using medications as part of therapy, an approach known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
MAT doesn’t use medication alone. Instead, it combines special medicines with psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and other therapies aimed at breaking the addiction cycle and providing patients with the tools and skills they need to optimize their physical and mental wellness.
Performed on an outpatient basis, MAT allows patients to lead their lives without the interruption imposed by inpatient hospital-based therapies. Our team uses different medicines based on each patient’s unique needs. Depending on your needs, we may prescribe:
In addition, we may prescribe medicines to help you deal with mental health issues, like depression or anxiety.
Our patient-centered, custom-tailored approach to substance abuse therapy helps our patients break the cycle of addiction and sets the stage for a healthy future. Combined with medication, psychotherapy helps you learn new ways to cope and deal with stress, in addition to lifestyle skills and guidance aimed at supporting you during every step of your journey.
If you’re struggling with addiction, there is a solution that can work for you. To learn how we can help, call 602-907-5300 or book an appointment online with Cora Health Solutions today. We’re located in the Biltmore Corridor area of Phoenix, Arizona.