Once you’ve completed a 12-step program, you may wonder why you are expected to continue attending meetings. Does addiction last a lifetime, or does rehab offer a way to conquer it? Most experts view addiction as a chronic disease that requires lifelong maintenance, similar to other chronic illnesses like diabetes or asthma. For more information about addiction treatment, call The Bluffs at 850.374.5331.
Why Does Addiction Last a Lifetime?
Addiction is not caused by poor morals or a lack of willpower. It affects people from all walks of life, including all religions and all political and socioeconomic backgrounds. Addiction is a complex brain disease that has no actual “cure.”
Many people use and even occasionally misuse drugs or alcohol, but not everyone becomes addicted. There are many factors that affect an individual’s risk of developing substance use disorders. These factors include:
- Co-occurring mental illness
Addiction is often defined as continuing a behavior despite experiencing the negative consequences it causes. Substance use disorder comes at a high cost. People can lose relationships, careers, financial stability, health, freedom, and self-esteem due to addiction. Many people also lose their life.
Few people, if any, would choose addiction in the face of all the emotionally and physically painful consequences it brings. Addiction may be a disease that lasts a lifetime, but fortunately, with the right care and support, recovery can also be lifelong.
Addiction and the Brain
When a person uses drugs or alcohol, the brain’s reward center is stimulated and floods the system with “feel good” chemicals, such as dopamine. When the behavior is repeated, it takes more frequent or higher doses to achieve the same levels of pleasure. This is what’s known as tolerance. Once a person has built a tolerance to a substance, they experience severe cravings, pain, and illness when they don’t have it.
Depending on the substance being used, damage to the brain can happen relatively quickly. Some of the brain functions that are affected include:
- Short- and long-term memory
- Mood regulation
- Learning, cognitive skills
The part of the brain that oversees impulse control can also become damaged, making it more difficult for the person to control any aspect of their behavior. Some of the brain damage caused by addiction can be repaired, but not all of it. The lingering effects of addiction are another reason why it is considered to be a chronic disease.
Does Addiction Treatment Work?
Treatment for substance use disorders is available and effective. Most treatment programs offer a variety of therapies, including individual counseling, nutritional therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and other modalities that are found to be especially helpful for substance use disorder.
Getting treatment for any co-occurring mental health disorders can increase your chances of remaining sober and help you pursue your goals after treatment.
Aftercare and relapse prevention programs are important parts of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. It may be helpful to view maintaining sobriety in the same way a person with diabetes must maintain their blood sugar levels. The disease might not ever go away, but it can be managed, and further damage can be prevented.
Managing Addiction for a Lifetime with The Bluffs
The Bluffs offers a comprehensive addiction treatment program that provides all the tools needed to manage addiction long-term. We understand that the thought of living with a chronic disease is difficult to accept.
However, with the right tools and the support of our compassionate recovery team, you can enjoy life to the fullest, free from drugs or alcohol. Call The Bluffs at 850.374.5331 if you or a loved one needs professional recovery support.