Drug addiction is a serious disease characterized by uncontrollable drug seeking and use despite the consequences. The changes in the brain caused by addiction lead to harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapse disease, meaning that sometimes users return to drug use after an attempt to stop.
Addiction begins with the act of taking drugs. Over time, the ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised. Obtaining and using the drug becomes uncontrollable. The compulsive drug-seeking is mostly due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function.
Addiction affects the parts of the brain involved in:
- Reward & motivation
- Learning and memory
Both the brain and behavior are affected by addiction.
Can drug addiction be treated?
Simply put, yes. Drug addiction can be treated, but because it’s such a complex and serious disease, people can’t just stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Long-term and repeated care is usually what patients need to make a complete recovery from addiction.
Successful addiction treatment will help the person do the following:
- Stop using drugs
- Stay drug-free
- Be a productive member in the family, at work, and in society
According to drugabuse.gov the following are principles of an effective addiction treatment program:
- Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
- No single treatment is right for everyone.
- People need to have quick access to treatment.
- Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug use.
- Staying in treatment long enough is critical.
- Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment.
- Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.
- Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
- Treatment should address other possible mental disorders.
- Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.
- Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
- Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously.
- Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as teach them about steps they can take to reduce their risk of these illnesses.
How is drug addiction treated?
Effective treatment has several steps:
- Behavioral counseling
- Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues
- Long-term follow-up
Comprehensive care with a custom treatment program and follow-up options can be the difference between success and failure. Medical and mental health services should be available as needed. Recovery groups like AA are the most common types of follow-up care, but family-based support systems work well too.