Most people who are suffering from addiction can’t stop using drugs just because they want to. They won’t feel OK until their bodies and brains stop feeling a need for the drug. Sometimes medicines can make it easier to stop taking the drug, without feeling sick.
But getting the drug out of a person’s system is just the first stage of treatment.
People with addictions also need to change how they do things so they can live healthy lives again without drugs.
Often they became so focused on getting and using drugs that:
- They did not care for their family, their work, or their community. People with addictions often are in a lot of trouble for breaking rules and not keeping their promises.
- They did not look after their health. People with addictions might not be eating or sleeping well, cleaning their teeth, or getting treated for infections. Their drug use might have caused health problems.
- Things they used to enjoy no longer make them feel good. Drugs have made them stop caring about hobbies, interests, and friends.
- Talking with doctors or counselors (people trained to listen and help you solve personal problems) or other people in treatment can help.
Does Drug Treatment Work?
Yes. People who get treatment and stick with it can stop using drugs. They can change their lives so they don’t go back to taking drugs. But they have to try hard and for a long time.
A person can make mistakes, feel bad, and start using drugs again. This is called a relapse. If that happens, the person should get back into treatment as quickly as possible. Relapse happens to a lot of people recovering from drug addiction.
Stopping drug abuse is like trying to diet and lose weight. It’s hard to learn to do things differently, like eat less, exercise more, and avoid some favorite foods. It’s easy to slip up, eat too much, and gain back the weight. But then you have to try again.
It’s the same with quitting drugs. People with addictions might get treatment, slip up, and then go back to treatment many times before it works. It’s important to get treatment for as long as you need it.
What Is a Relapse?
Sometimes people quit their drug use for a while, but start using again no matter how hard they try. This return to drug use is called a relapse. People recovering from addiction often have one or more relapses along the way.
Drug addiction is a chronic (long-lasting) disease. That means it stays with the person for a long time, sometimes for life. It doesn’t go away like a cold. A person with an addiction can get treatment and stop using drugs. But if he started using again, he would:
- Feel a strong need to keep taking the drug.
- Want to take more and more of it.
- Need to get back into treatment as soon as possible.
- He could be just as hooked on the drug and out of control as before.
Recovery from addiction means you have to stop using drugs AND learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and dealing with problems. Drug addiction makes it hard to function in daily life. It affects how you act with your family, at work, and in the community. It is hard to change so many things at once and not fall back into old habits.
Recovery from addiction is a lifelong effort.
Why Is It So Hard to Quit Drugs?
Healing from addiction takes time. Making up your mind to stop using drugs is a big step. Being addicted makes you afraid of what will happen if you don’t keep taking the drug. People often won’t try quitting until they’re forced to, because it seems too hard.
When you stop using the drug, it upsets your body and brain. You might feel very sick for a while, and feel a very strong need to take the drug. It can be really hard to refuse to use the drug when you feel that bad.
But you don’t have to do it alone. Support groups, treatment programs, and sometimes medicines can help. You’ll meet people who understand what you’re going through, who can give you advice and cheer you on. Counselors can help you find medicines that make you feel less sick and reduce your cravings to use the drug. They can also teach you how to cope with problems without using drugs.
After you’ve stopped using the drug, you still have a lot to do:
- You have to relearn how to live without using drugs.
- You have to work on the problems your drug abuse caused with your family, your job, your friends, and your money.
- You have to stay away from people you used drugs with, and places where you used.
- You have to learn what makes you want to take drugs again, so you can avoid or work on those things.
- You may also need treatment for problems that led to your drug use, such as depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.
What is a Trigger?
A trigger is anything that makes a person feel the urge to go back to using drugs. It can be a place, person, thing, smell, feeling, or memory that reminds the person of taking a drug and getting high. A trigger can be something stressful that you want to escape from. It can even be something that makes you feel happy. People fighting addiction need to stay away from the triggers that can make them start using drugs again. Just like people with breathing problems need to avoid smoke and dust.
How Does Drug Abuse Become Addiction?
Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted. Each person’s body and brain are different. So people react to drugs differently. Your relationships, surroundings, and stress can also make you more or less likely to become addicted. After you take a drug for a while, the feel-good parts of your brain get used to it. Soon, your brain and body must have the drug to just feel normal.
But how does taking drugs become an addiction?
Our brains want us to repeat things that we need or enjoy—like eating a good meal. That’s why you want to eat more dessert than you know you should. That’s why a little child often shouts “again!” when you do something to make her laugh.
All drugs of abuse excite the parts of the brain that make you feel good. But, after you take a drug for a while, the feel-good parts of your brain get used to it. Then you need to take more of the drug to get the same good feeling. Soon, your brain and body must have the drug to just feel normal. You feel sick and awful without the drug. You no longer have the good feelings that you had when you first used the drug.
What makes people more likely to get addicted to drugs?
- Trouble at home. If your home is an unhappy place, or was when you were growing up, you might be more likely to have a drug problem. When kids aren’t cared for well, or there are lots of fights, or a parent is using drugs, the risk of addiction goes up.
- Mental health problems. People who have mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or attention deficit disorder are more likely to become addicted. They might abuse drugs to try to feel better.
- Trouble in school, trouble at work, trouble making friends. Failures at school or work, or trouble getting along with people, can make life hard. You might abuse drugs to get your mind off these problems.
- Hanging around other people who use drugs. Friends or family members who use drugs might get you into trouble with drugs as well.
- Starting drug use when you’re young. When kids use drugs, it affects how their bodies and brains finish growing. Using drugs when you are young increases your chances of becoming addicted when you are an adult.
- Your biology. Everyone’s bodies react to drugs differently. Some people like the feeling the first time they try a drug and want more. Other people hate how it feels and never try it again.