Understanding the roadblocks in addiction recovery isn’t just the responsibility of the care provider. While highly-trained professionals are able to recognize the signs of addiction and help those suffering from the disease find their way to recovery, beating the addiction battle that’s plaguing our communities must be a group effort.
From the families affected to the groups who don’t understand the struggle of addiction and play into the barrier of stigma, it takes understanding and a willingness to engage in education to thoroughly understand the challenges of those fighting to recover.
The idea that drug addiction is a choice is simply untrue. It’s myths like this that keep many suffering from addiction from seeking the help they need. A number of factors can make certain people more susceptible to chronic drug use, like bad behavior, mental health issues, and a person’s environment. If we want to create communities free from addiction, we must first consider these outlying factors and understand how they play into drug addiction.
How Triggers Plays into Drug Addiction
Similar to how a sedentary lifestyle can lead to severe health complications like obesity or diabetes, the same is true of drug use. It’s often a trigger that continues over a period of time that leads to drug addiction.
A minor injury that leads to an opioid prescription can quickly become an addiction if the person begins to take more than prescribed or feels symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking them. Stress from work or the financial anguish of unemployment can also lead to a dependency for relief.
Unhealthy choices – lack of exercise, poor diet, and ignoring medical advice – leads to more than 800,000 cardiovascular disease-related deaths each year in the United States. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of American adults, and yet, it remains a no-fault disease. Just as those receiving treatment for coronary heart disease, stroke, or heart failure aren’t placed under a stigma of shame for seeking health, so should be the case for those desiring treatment for drug addiction.
More than 70,200 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2017. Recognizing these triggers like increased stress, financial instability, and seclusion from others can help communities and health professionals lower that number.
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Mental Health Issues and Drug Addiction
About half of people who experience a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa. Understanding how mental illness like depression and anxiety can create a drug addiction is key in breaking down the stigmas and ridding our communities of the disease. Research suggest that those diagnosed with a mental illness are more likely to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Ongoing drug use is also likely to make present mental illnesses more severe and make a person more likely to develop another mental illness.
The two health challenges go hand-in-hand, making it crucial for families who have loved ones diagnosed with a mental illness to ensure their loved one continues the proper medical treatment and be aware of any personality or behavioral changes. It’s also important to make doctors and drug addiction counselors aware of any medication the addict is taking. Treatment for co-morbid illnesses must consider the substance use disorder and mental illness together, rather than treating the two as separate issues.
By looking at drug addiction as an ongoing disease rather than a one-time sickness and cure, people in recovery are less likely to relapse.
Consider this: when a cancer patient goes through treatment and is considered cancer-free at the end of their journey, neither the doctors nor the patient considers that the end of the disease. The patient continues to return for routine checkups and tests to ensure the cancer stays in remission. Similarly, a drug addict isn’t cured after a month or year of being sober. The roadblocks in addiction recovery are numerous, and ongoing treatment is necessary to ensure the patient continues on a drug-free path.
Environment Creates Roadblocks in Addiction Recovery
A person’s environment can not only predispose them to drug addiction, but it can also serve as a hindrance to building a drug-free life. A person’s family and friends, general quality of life, and economic status influence that person’s decisions and actions. Traumatic experiences like physical or sexual abuse can cause a person to withdraw from their friends and normal activities, leaving them seeking a release from the fear or pain.
Early exposure to drugs, whether from use in the home or peers at school also affect a person’s likelihood of drug use and addiction. In addition, when parents or guardians fail to get children the proper medical help needed when signs of anxiety disorders and impulse-control disorders, such as ADHD, arise, the child is at increased risk for substance abuse later in life.
Poverty and living in a home with high stress levels also make an individual more susceptible to drug use and addiction. It’s important to look for risk factors that could lead to a dependency. For parents, teachers, and counselors, understanding that a child’s life experiences can greatly influence their later years can help reduce the risk of drug addiction in vulnerable individuals.
It Takes A Village
The war against drug addiction will not be won in rehabilitation clinics alone. Therapists, emergency room doctors, counselors, and primary care physicians need to be educated on how to identify drug use and probable co-morbidity with substance addiction. Early detection and treatment, as with many diseases, allows for the best possible care and outcome with addiction. Recognizing the warning signs in children, teens, and adults will increase their chances of successful treatment.
Drug addiction is a disease that changes the brain. When we as medical professionals, families, and communities begin to view substance abuse as a no-fault, ongoing disease, we’ll break down the stigmas and begin treating the patient rather than judging them.
If you or a loved one is battling a drug addiction, know that you have somewhere to go. The caring, professional staff at Ocean Hills Recovery is waiting to walk with you through recovery and ensure you enjoy life outside the confines of dependency.