Why Effective Treatment is Critical
Why has drug and alcohol addiction become a global epidemic? Theories abound:
- The technology explosion delivers more stimuli to the world than ever before. A person can access Information, both good and bad, on their phone at any time. And the flow of social media seems endless.
- The 24-hour news cycle provides a steady stream of depressing stories while constant updates keep the negative information coming.
- People today do not communicate with each other as they used to (i.e., face-to-face discussions and interactions).
By Kari Mackneer, Clinical Director
The key to recovery
Many in society seems to struggle in this new, faster paced world. And, while there are countless reasons for the increase in drug and alcohol addiction, our higher stress society may be a huge factor.
Whatever the reason, the drug and alcohol addiction problem is getting worse. And once a person is addicted, there is no way to effectively recover without effective treatment.
“Effective treatment” is the key phrase here. Going to a nice resort-type rehab facility for 30 days will do little besides clearing substances from the system. Rehab must be accompanied by powerful, focused treatment.
Reprogramming the brain
When a person is in active addiction, the part of the brain responsible for judgment is largely blocked. When this happens, the primitive brain takes over and is essentially running the show. This explains why the behavior of the suffering addict is frequently abhorrent.
The brain must be reprogrammed as it heals. This should begin as soon as the person is well enough physically to receive information in a group or in a one-on- one setting.
The healing process
Here’s what takes place as the person’s mind begins to heal. The part of the brain responsible for judgment begins to awaken. When it does, it tends to see first the damage done while in active addiction.
The guilt and shame are often overwhelming.
However, by starting clinical work early, the brain can begin the reprogramming process needed to get past this initial and intensive guilt and shame.
Treatment that works
Deep clinical work combined with a 12-step process tends to be a very effective process for reprogramming the brain.
- The clinical work helps individuals process what has taken place.
- Add a 12-step program, and these people can quickly get on track for “doing the next right thing.”
Healthy pathways emerge
Over time, the brain heals in a manner conducive to long term recovery. Skills necessary to deal with life on life’s terms are learned; new neuropathways are carved into the brain, and the old addictive pathways begin to shrink.
The part of the brain responsible for judgment regains the ability to look accurately at what has happened – the past wreckage was painful, while a new design for living is much more pleasurable. Eventually the brain begins to interpret this new manner of living as vastly superior to life in active addiction.
Destructive substances take over
Humans are designed essentially to want two things – dopamine and serotine. These “neurotransmitters” are the “feel good” chemicals in the brain.
But those in active addiction have lost the ability to produce these chemicals on their own. This is a huge hole. To fill it, the brain becomes reliant on outside substances such as opioids, cocaine and alcohol to generate an artificial influx of these chemicals.
Achieving pleasure through these substances has many consequences outside of simply becoming addicted.
The primitive brain can take the addict down
To say the brain of someone in active addiction is working improperly would be a vast understatement. As previously noted, the judgment areas of the brain are blocked, and the primitive areas of the brain are in control.
These primitive areas are only capable of the most basic thoughts, primarily flight or flight or live or die. The brain of someone in active addiction equates “using” these substances with living and “not using” them with dying.
A sick person who needs to get well
Often you will see people in active addiction do literally anything to keep using. The negative consequences of these actions can be unimaginably bad.
Therefore, it is very important to understand that the suffering addict is not a bad person trying to become good but a very sick person who desperately needs to get well.
What to avoid
Effective treatment does not involve demeaning or screaming at the suffering person. These people feel bad enough. Name calling and yelling at those in early recovery typically does nothing except increase the chances of relapse.
While it is important that the treatment staff not enable these individuals, it is also critical that these suffering people be treated with understanding and compassion.