If you or a loved one have struggled with addiction, undoubtedly there have been times when you wished for a magical cure for the condition. You hoped for something that would make the pain go away, and understandably so. Addiction is not an easy thing to navigate. It is hard for the person struggling with addiction as well as their family. Many would prefer to know how to cure addiction in a foolproof, no-surprises way with long-term success. They do not want to worry about being tempted to drink or use drugs again after working so hard to achieve sobriety during the initial treatment. They are scared of the lifetime of choices ahead of them, knowing they will always crave the drink or drugs they can no longer have. Is there a cure for addiction? Read on to learn more about the scientific and social implications of that question, and also what the most effective ways to stop using drugs and alcohol in the long term are.
What is Addiction?
Before we can explore whether the cure for addiction exists, first we must examine the definition of addiction. Addiction is a disease. Though in most cases it begins with the voluntary taking of drugs or alcohol, as a person becomes dependent on these substances, the voluntary element disappears and a chemical dependency develops. The person will become consumed with finding and taking drugs until it is no longer a choice for them. This results from a change in brain-behavior. Addiction impacts the brain circuits, causing changes to the regions governing:
- Behavior Control
Addiction is an extremely complex issue. Studies have shown that up to half an individual’s risk for addiction can be determined by heredity, which obviously is not something any of us can control. These biological factors may not become apparent until someone is in the throes of addiction.
Is There a Cure for Addiction?
In the very strictest definition of the word cure, the answer is no. There is no pill that can be taken to eliminate drug addiction altogether. There is no radiation treatment that will remove all traces of addiction from a person’s body. Every solution involves hard work and difficult choices. There has been a lot of research into this area. Of course, it would make treatment for how to stop using drugs and alcohol so much easier if there was a tidy solution, a cure that would be available to anyone. However, researchers have been pursuing this topic for years with little luck. Though they have learned a lot more about the properties that make people more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, they have not found a distinct cure for addiction. However, addiction can be treated. It can go into remission, so to speak, much the way cancer goes into remission and new growths stop appearing. Addiction is somewhat like diabetes. It requires vigilance but when treated properly, it can be managed and the individual suffering from addiction can live a healthy, productive life.
The Only True “Cure” for Addiction
Treatment is the only way to help someone overcome the stronghold of drug and alcohol addiction. Not all treatment is the same, because addiction is a very individual disease. Different individuals become addicted to different substances, so there are also differences in treatment depending on the person’s personality. No one responds the same way to the same treatment, and it takes vigilance and dedication to craft a treatment program that works for the individual. Here are examples of treatments that can be effective for those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Closely monitored detoxification
Every person requires an individualized approach to treatment. This increases the odds that the cure for addiction will stick for years and years, which is the goal. Not every initial treatment is successful. Some people find they must return to rehab to recommit to sober living. This is because even within a treatment program, brain chemistry cannot be changed.
Once a person has become an addict, their brain has been forever changed, and there is no switching off that propensity for addiction. It is more accurate to say that addiction can be controlled rather than cured. There are a number of long-term solutions for drug and alcohol abuse that can be employed by treatment centers. Addiction is very treatable. While there is a social stigma on people who relapse into using drugs or alcohol again after going to rehab, professionals note that this is simply part of fighting a disease. Many people with cancer, too, unfortunately, come out of remission and are forced to battle the disease a second or third time. The long-term effectiveness of entering a drug or alcohol treatment program can help in the quest for how to cure addiction. Just as you would trust a doctor to treat your cancer, you can rely on the experience and expertise of the staff at a rehab facility to help you learn how to stop using drugs and alcohol. More than half of drug addicts and up to 70 percent of alcoholics can successfully overcome their addiction if they remain in treatment. Those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction are often encouraged to take one day at a time. It can be scary to think of a life without using drugs or alcohol, but considering one day without popping a pill or taking a drink is much less daunting. By pushing short-term solutions that can develop into long-term approaches, those struggling with addiction can come as close to a cure as possible.
How to Stop Using Drugs
The best way to treat drug addiction is going to rehab. Drug rehabilitation programs that help treat the root causes of abuse, including emotional struggles and mental health disorders, are the most effective treatments for those struggling with how to stop using drugs. The best program begins with a medically assisted detoxification. During this period, illicit drugs are removed from the system, while the proper levels of medication to maintain mental health are determined. The detox period can be difficult but it is a key part of ending drug use.
Learn How To Cope Without Drugs
Once the physical task of detoxing the body has been accomplished, it is time to switch attention to the emotional and mental side of things. Those struggling with addiction engage in counseling sessions and explore the reasons behind their addiction. They learn how to cope with life without drugs. They focus on shedding the need for chemical substances, instead of worrying about those around them or fearing what others are thinking. The single-minded focus on recovery is what makes rehab centers so effective. It is very difficult to kick a drug habit without the assistance of a rehab program. That is because ending drug dependency is not just an issue of willpower, as many perceive it to be. There are medical issues that need to be addressed as well, and how to cure addiction goes beyond just the mental side of things to physical as well. You must also acknowledge and treat the changes in the brain. If you choose to try to battle your addiction on your own, you will not have the support that you need. Rehab gives you the tools you will need to draw on in the long term. Like anything else having to do with addiction, rehab is not a cure, but it is the most effective way to kick drug abuse.
New Research Into Addiction
Many researchers have been trying to find a cure for addiction and a simpler way to combat the disease. Their goal is to discover what leads to addiction in the brain and find ways to treat the changes that occur in the brain over an addict’s lifetime. Abusing drugs and alcohol leads to changes in the brain that spark anxious and tense feelings. These feelings can only be soothed by taking more drugs or drinking more alcohol. With that in mind, scientists are now focusing on producing drugs that address anxiety to help those struggling with addiction kick the habit. In the future, there will no doubt be even more research into this area. This latest breakthrough is clearly a sign that we have not fully plumbed the depths of addiction and all there is to understand about it. While it does not answer the question “is there a cure for addiction,” it does provide hope of finding more ways to complement treatment options.
Long-Term Management of Drug and Alcohol Addiction
The goal of a treatment program is to help people learn to manage their disease in the long term. You should not expect someone who has struggled with addiction to be cured after treatment. It requires a lifetime of dedication to remain sober.
Here are some strategies that can help with the long-term management of drug and alcohol addiction:
Developing Coping Strategies. For example, the individual might decide to avoid socializing with certain people who make alcohol a central part of every celebration.Continuing Outpatient Counseling. It is important to emphasize the same sort of treatment the patient received as an inpatient. This allows the individual to feel more control over their treatment and recovery.Utilize Friends and Family. A great support system helps you remember you are not in this alone.Finding New Ways to De-Stress. Incorporate new ways to let off steam in your life, whether that is exercising or indulging in a new hobby or practicing meditation.Avoiding Old Haunts and Drug Buddies. If you frequently went to the same places to feed your addiction and did it with the same people, drop them all like a bad habit.Distracting Yourself. When the urge strikes, try to distract yourself from the craving or the desire. Call a friend, go to a movie or hop on your bike.Building a New Life. A life without addiction offers the opportunity for you to enjoy things you may not have considered as important before, such as family, a fulfilling job and devoted friends. Find your passion and pursue it.Checking In. Even years into your newly sober life, there is no shame in checking in to a rehab facility to tweak or manage your sobriety. Recovery is a lifelong process.
Making Lifelong Sobriety Last
There is no one cure for addiction. The secret to managing the disease is to treat it and monitor it going forward. Recovery is a process that will last an entire lifetime. At The Ranch PA, we understand the desire for finding a cure for addiction. Our empathetic and qualified staff can help treat you or a loved one’s addiction and help them find the tools needed for a lifetime of sobriety. There may not be a cure for addiction, but there are smart ways to treat and manage it, and The Ranch PA is here to show the way. Call us today at 717.969.9126. Note: The pictures in this content are being used for illustrative purposes only; and any person depicted in the content, if any, is a model.