Have you ever become angry when thinking about how a loved one just cannot seem to quit using drugs? If so, you are not alone. It is easy to hold contempt for a “weak” or “immoral” person who always seems to take the easy way out by making bad choice after bad choice. Before you judge, however, remember that unless you have walked in the shoes of an addict, you likely will not understand why quitting drugs is such a challenge.
Drugs Change the Brain
Alcohol and certain drugs change the brain in several notable ways, including the release of dopamine and other important chemicals that influence our natural “reward” system and how we learn. Dopamine, for example, is a chemical your body makes to help you feel good. Drugs and alcohol — even in non-addicted people — override the brain’s ability to produce dopamine. Instead of releasing dopamine a little bit at a time, drugs and alcohol force the brain to release large amounts of this get-happy chemical all at once. This dopamine rush, or “high,” is short-lived. Unfortunately, the more drugs and alcohol a person takes, the more the brain counts on the substance to produce the dopamine rush. Eventually the brain stops releasing dopamine on its own and requires taking drugs to feel normal.
Even when a person realizes that the addictive behavior has to stop, the physical consequences of resuming dopamine production often cause a return to substance abuse. The symptoms of resuming dopamine production — a condition more commonly known as withdrawal — are intolerable for many and can include pain, intense vomiting and nausea, anxiety and depression, hallucinations and more. The addict knows he can escape withdrawal by using again, which starts the cycle of abuse that is difficult to break without the help of an experienced professional.
Addiction Is a Chronic, Often-Relapsing Brain Disease
It is true that the choice to abuse drugs and alcohol at the beginning is exactly that: a choice. But as the addiction feeds itself, the behaviors become compulsive, and even a person who wants to quit finds resisting the cravings that accompany withdrawal almost impossible to ignore. These cravings can last for years, which explains why even people who have been sober for decades can relapse into full-blown addiction in a short period of time.
Even though quitting drugs for good is challenging, increasing research demonstrates that combining evidence-based behavioral therapies with other treatments can help even the most addicted person recover into sobriety. Contact 12 Keys Rehab today to get your life back on track.