How To Effectively Recover From Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse has long been a problem that has plagued the general population since time immemorial. The lethal effects of using such substances have done nothing to alleviate its use and misuse. One such lethal consequence of the use of such substances is an addiction problem and dependency. In other words, the user is unable to function properly without using the particular substance.
As time continues to progress, the users of drugs and alcohol are indicated to start earlier. More specifically, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, children between the ages of 12-13 are already engaging in drug and alcohol abuse. They continue to state that users of such substances are likely to get younger.
People can either suffer from drug abuse, or alcoholism or both. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 12.5 % of people were found to be suffering from both drug use disorder and alcohol abuse. Please note that this survey was conducted in the year 2014, indicating that the numbers may have increased significantly since then.
For the purposes of this article, we shall be focusing on how to live a clean and sober life from the use of these substances. However, is essential that we first start by understanding the problem of drug and alcohol use and addiction.
What Is Drug and Alcohol Abuse?
Drugs and alcohol are substances can be defined as chemical substances, that once consumed, have the ability to influence our behavior. These substances have the ability to change the way you think and feel, impacting your overall behaviour. In essence, these substances are both powerful and dangerous.
Drugs come in different types and forms. They include tobacco, cocaine, Marijuana (Cannabis), MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly), Methamphetamine, Opioids and over the counter drugs just to name a few.
Notice that some of the above-mentioned drugs are prescriptions or over the counter drugs. The drug does not necessarily have to be illegal for its use to be termed as substance abuse. Substance abuse also involves simply using a certain drug, prescribed or otherwise, in the wrong way and for the wrong purpose.
Stages of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Every drug and alcohol user and addict started from somewhere and for a number of reasons as well. However, before we look into the reasons, let us first discuss the stages of drug and alcohol abuse. The five stages include:
Abstinence is often the first stage before one starts using drugs or alcohol. Often, most remain abstinence is due to the lack of exposure. Others, regardless of being exposed to drugs and alcohol, choose to abstain out of fear or knowledge. Whichever the case, abstinence is the best decision one can ever make.
Of course, there are numerous other factors that people abstain from drug and alcohol abuse.
Many users and drug addicts often started out of general curiosity, peer pressure or as a way of escape. This is where the user voluntarily chooses to use the drug and engage in substance abuse. Normally, at this stage, there are no social or legal consequences whatsoever.
However, this stage impacts individual users differently. Some remain unaffected by the drug, while others may end up developing an addiction. When the user becomes addicted, he/she can rarely go a day without having to access the drug.
At this stage, some, if not most users have the ability to stop. However, if they choose not to, they move on to the next stage: regular use.
- Regular use
The more an individual uses a drug, the more he or she is likely to develop an addiction. How does this happen? A drug, once consumed, has the ability to alter chemicals released by the brain. Most drugs often target and affect the reward system of the brain, by increasing the release of dopamine.
Dopamine is a chemical substance or hormone that is in charge of our emotions and feelings of pleasure just to name a few. The Drugs often lead to an overproduction of this hormone, leading to euphoric effects. Soon, the user will get addicted to the feeling that comes with dopamine production. He or she will want to use the drug more regularly so as to experience the pleasure that comes with the overproduction of dopamine.
The user is likely to start experiences negative symptoms such as mood swings, aggression, and even depression.
There is a very thin lime between drug abuse and drug addiction. When an individual starts abusing a drug, it means that they are using it in the wrong way, or for the wrong purpose. Moreover, it also means that the individual is using the drug more frequently than he or she should.
It is very easy to get used to the feeling that comes with overproduction of the dopamine hormone. People may start using the drug more regularly just to experience that temporary high and forget all their problems, but it could lead to much more.
When the person the becomes addicted, he or she can hardly go a day without the drug. If they try, they are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms often involve headaches, shaking, sweating, anxiety, agitation, panic disorders and seizures just to name a few.
Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the type of drug an individual is using. Some are often severe, others are often mild yet still consequential. Such symptoms make it difficult for a person to stop using the drugs and alcohol, even if they wanted to.
Causes of Drug And Alcohol Abuse
There are a number of factors that lead people to engage in drug and alcohol abuse. Below, are some of the causes.
- Genetic vulnerability
- Cultural and societal norms and values
- Peer pressure
- Curiosity and experimentation
- Legality and availability
- The use of prescription drugs
Consequences of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
As previously mentioned, drugs and alcohol have the ability to influence how we think, feel and behave. By using them, we compromise our ability to discern our actions. As a result, many users end up engaging in such actions that are unruly and dangerous. In essence, the consequences of using such substances are undeniably negative physically, mentally, socially and emotionally.
Let us take a more detailed look at the consequences that come with Drug and alcohol abuse.
- Neurological Effects
Drugs and alcohol, as we’ve already established, impact our ability to think, feel and behave. This would lead us to conclude that the chemicals found in these harmful substances have a direct impact on the chemical produced by the brain. By altering said chemicals, our brain is unable to function as normal.
As a result, users are likely to engage in acts such as assault, rape, aggression, depression, and anxiety. Some cases of depression due to the use of drugs and/or alcohol have been known to lead to an untimely death. The causes of death often involve suicide or a road accident.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, drug and alcohol abuse is responsible for 50% of deaths involving homicides, suicides and accidents. They continue to state that the above statistics include a huge percentage of individuals between the ages of 15-24.
Below, is an outline of some of the neurological effects that come with the use of Drug and alcohol use and abuse.
- Memory Loss
- Low Creativity
Studies have shown that people who engage in long-term drug abuse, they impede their memory as well as their problem- solving skills. The drugs tend to slow down the mind of an individual, making it hard for him/her to think and react. Such an effect can have an overall impact on your future in a negative way.
- Health Effects
The moment you consume a substance that is both harmful and dangerous, your health is at risk. These substances can potentially harm any part of your body. Below, are some of the health effects that one is likely to suffer from as a result of substance abuse.
- Organ damage and failures such as Kidneys and lungs
- Collapsed veins
- Infected Heart failure
- Hormonal imbalance
- Fertility Problems
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Hepatitis B and C
- Weak immune system
- Social Effects
Research reveals that a generous number of individuals, especially the younger population, engage in drugs to deal with social anxiety. Moreover, most end up using them due to peer pressure. While at first the drugs and alcohol may come in handy in certain social situations, ultimately, they will destroy your ability to socialize.
People that engage in substance use are likely to withdraw from social environments, and people overall. Marriages, relationships with friends and family are often shaky or not- existent. Moreover, they are less likely to maintain a job for an extended period of time. If the individual is much younger, they often have a hard time keeping up with their academic responsibilities.
- Financial Effects
The use of drugs and alcohol can drain your finances and drive into an insurmountable amount of debt. Users who are already addicted or dependent on the drug may end up resulting in theft. A last and desperate result to purchasing the drugs and alcohol that the user can hardly live without.
Staying Clean and Sober
So far, we’ve seen that the abuse of drugs and alcohol has detrimental effects. Not only are you likely to suffer from physical and emotional health, but mental and social health as well. Once a person gets addicted to a drug substance, they seem to experience a downward spiral of recklessness and carelessness.
However, drug and alcohol addiction is something that can be treated. For years, many medical institutions and psychological research organizations have been trying to determine and categorize drug and alcohol addiction. The question: is drug and alcohol addiction a disease or a lifestyle choice?
One thing is for sure, substance addiction is definitely a problem. According to projectknow.com, substance addiction is recognized as a brain disorder. A disorder that can be treated quite effectively depending on how the patient responds. Just like any other disorder can be treated, so can substance addiction.
The first step to living a substance-free life is by making a realizing that you actually need help. It is always better to start treatment during the early stages of your addiction to drugs and alcohol. However, regardless of whatever stage you are in, treatment is still recommended and quite effective.
Types of Treatment Centres
Once you’ve realized that you need help, don’t hesitate in letting your family and friends intervene. The next step is for one to willingly and voluntarily joining a treatment or rehab centre. Once you’ve chosen a treatment centre, you can decide on either inpatient or outpatient treatment. Let us take a look at each in detail.
Inpatient method of treatment often involves serious cases of substance addiction. The patients are required to reside within premises of the treatment centre. Such recovery centres exhibit a relaxed and agreeable atmosphere, which s necessary for proper treatment. Needless to say, such an atmosphere helps the patient feel more relaxing, increasing the effectiveness of the treatment.
Inpatient residential treatment centres often encourage the patients to involve themselves in physical and recreational activities. From sports and exercise to music and art, these treatment centres work to keep their patients active at all times. Such activities can aid in alleviating the social, emotional, physical and mental damage the drugs may have already caused.
Medical and the trained personnel often stipulate the required length of stay at the treatment centre. Length of stay often depends on how serious the case of addiction is. Most treatment centres have their inpatients remain for at least a period of ninety days.
Outpatient treatment is the direct opposite of the inpatient treatment. Instead of the patient getting treatment while he resides in the residential centre, he/she will be visiting the centre. The patient undergoes various counselling sessions at a certified office or clinic.
When one decides to join a rehabilitation centre, whether inpatient or outpatient, below are some of the things he/she should expect.
The detoxification process is often the first method of treatment. This process aims to remove whatever traces of drugs that may be present within the body. Once implemented, it is designed to reduce the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms considerably. This, of course, makes it easier for the patients to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
The substances used in the detoxification process often imitate the effects of the drug substances. However, the substances used as a substitute are safe and have no physical effects at all. In other words, they are not addictive. The drugs for detoxifications are continually used until the physical effects of the harmful and addictive substances have been alleviated.
After the detoxification process, the medical personnel will have you undergo an assessment. This is where the medical personnel and professional start their counselling sessions with you. Their main is to psychological, social and personal matters with the patient. By understanding the patient’s social background and personal issues, they are able to determine the cause of the drug and alcohol addiction.
After assessing and determining the causes that led to substance abuse, the medical practitioner is able to treat the patient effectively. Therapy allows the patient to deal with the underlying causes of effective treatment.
This step often requires the rehab centres to engage the patients in nonmedical programs and services. This is where the patient is involved in social support by joining various al groups. Often, these groups are made up of people trying to stay sober as well. Support systems designed to encourage the patient, as well as motivate them to keep moving forward.
Individuals trying to recover from substance addiction are also encouraged to live in a stable environment. They should avoid old friends that may cause them to relapse. Also, they are encouraged to avoid environments that may cause them to compromise their progress.
Tips On How To Stay Sober and Clean From Alcohol and Drug Addiction
Now that you’ve made a conscious decision to stay away from substance abuse, you also need to make conscious efforts to keep it that way. Regardless of the treatment that you may have undergone, chances of a relapse are likely. Research confirms that over 90% of individuals who pursue long-term sobriety relapse at least once.
That said, what are the few things that you should implement to avoid a sudden relapse? Below, we take a detailed look at some of the tips that would help you stay clean and sober long- term.
Go Easy On Yourself
The period after leaving the treatment centre is often the hardest for most recovering addicts. They are no longer in the safe and controlled environment of the treatment centre. More often than not, this is a scary experience for any recovering addict trying to stay clean and sober.
The most important thing to do at this stage is to give your self some time to transition. Instead of panicking or being too hard on yourself, just focus on getting used the change in environment. While you’re at it, be sure to practice the skills that you learned during the treatment.
Ensure that you practice what you learned at the treatment centre every day until they become a habit.
Make Some Necessary Changes
It is imperative that you change your lifestyle if you are looking to remain sober for the long haul. Everything that was part of your previous lifestyle needs has to be cut out without hesitation. Your old habits, friends and the places you used to hang out at should no longer be part of your lifestyle.
Instead, spend more time with your family. Do not hesitate to participate in family events and occasions, as well as participating in said activities as well. Try forging new friendships that are healthy and will not impact your progress considerably.
Engage in Physical Activity
This point cannot be overemphasized. Long-term use of various drugs and alcohol can impact your health significantly. Use of such harmful substances can also encourage a sedentary lifestyle leading to an increase in weight.
Exercising has been proven to improve a person’s health. According to research, regular exercise can help treat and prevent the development of diseases such as diabetes type 2, cancer and heart disease. Moreover, it can contribute to significant weight loss while simultaneously strengthening an individuals muscles and bones.
Physical activity also encourages the releases of happy hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. These hormones are known to improve mood and lower stress levels.
Have A Support System
Not being under the protection and care of the counsellors that were part of the treatment, can make staying sober difficult. The support group that you were once a part of at the centre is no longer there to keep you accountable. Needless to say, for one to stay sober, accountability and encouragement go a long way.
Treatment centres often recommend that recovering addicts continue participating in the 12 step support groups. Moreover, you can forge your own support group comprising of family and friends that can help you stay accountable. Support is an important factor towards long-term sobriety.
Develop A Schedule
Developing a schedule helps you organize your time more effectively. That way, you can stay busy throughout the day. Simply create a schedule reflecting your short and long-term goals to keep you motivated. Also, have somebody to keep you accountable and motivated as you work to achieve your goals.
In conclusion, choosing to stay sober is a choice that can tremendously impact your life positively. Remaining sober, however; requires more than just willpower. For one to stay sober and clean long- term, you also need to seek support and make necessary lifestyle changes. Each step and decision you make towards sobriety is another step closer to a brighter future.