Looking beyond Addiction
September is Recovery Month, sponsored by SAMHSA, hoping to educate others about the disease of addiction and celebrate those that are battling and winning by staying in recovery.
Looking beyond Addiction
September is Recovery Month, sponsored by SAMHSA, hoping to educate others about the disease of addiction and celebrate those that are battling and winning by staying in recovery. However, the reality is the recovery most often eludes people suffering from the disease and puts them in an endless loop of substance misuse, treatment, relapse, followed by more treatment. In prior articles, we explored the chronic nature of the disease and the need for longer-term treatment options.
It’s time to consider that because addiction is a brain disorder, other brain-related conditions are very likely to be present in the addict. Only treating the substance misuse and addiction without considering other coexisting issues is a recipe for poor outcomes, short recovery and repeated relapse. Here are some common issues that often come with addiction that require treatment as potential chronic conditions that compromise recovery.
Addiction is a disease that crushes your self-esteem, estranges you from your family, ruins your finances, and causes episodes of extreme shame. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and tends to trigger depression symptoms like lethargy, sadness and hopelessness. Depressed individuals reach for drugs or alcohol as a way to lift their spirits or to numb painful thoughts. As a result, depression and substance abuse feed into each other, and one condition will often make the other worse.
About 20 percent of people with an anxiety disorder have an alcohol or other substance use disorder, with the reverse also being true. In an effort to cope with their symptoms, it is not uncommon for people with anxiety disorders to misuse alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drug use can worsen the psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety, reinforcing the need to use more of these substances in order to function normally. The result is a cycle of substance abuse that can lead to chemical dependence and addiction.
People that abuse drugs may have done so because they have experienced event that made them fear for their safety, witness or experience violence or suffer through intense pain. The very act of acquiring and misusing drugs may be the events that caused trauma and the resulting PTSD. Some people struggling to manage the effects of trauma in their lives may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate
Those afflicted with bipolar disorder have a higher rate of relationship problems, economic instability, accidental injuries and suicide than the general population. They are also significantly more likely to develop and maintain an addiction to drugs or alcohol. The emotional instability of the highs and lows of bipolar disorder can interfere with your recovery program, making it difficult to comply with the guidelines of a treatment plan.
When a person can’t properly regulate their emotions, it is likely that he or she will resort to certain techniques that are less adaptive or healthy. Substance abuse is a common reaction to emotional stimulation when an individual is ill-equipped to regulate those emotions.
As my daughter Laura battled addiction for 15 years, she also battled anxiety, depression and struggled to control her impulses. She expressed thoughts about being traumatized by the experiences she had in seeking out and using drugs and certainly expressed signs of PTSD. Although she entered multiple treatment centers, there was not enough time spent on managing those mental disorders that kept her struggling. Ultimately her lack of impulse control lead to a fatal decision where she relapses, overdosed and died in 2017.
Addiction is like many other diseases in that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum and a return to health requires an understanding and management of all the issues that come along with it.