By Christa A. Banister
The struggle is very real for anyone who deals with addiction. Not only does it damage the mind, but it also wreaks havoc on the body, relationships and so many other facets of everyday life.
And while the person who deals with drug or alcohol abuse may want to kick the habit to the curb more than anything, it’s important to understand how the brain works because its unique chemistry isn’t always on someone’s side.
Why Is Relapsing So Common?
Between 40 to 60 percent of people who’ve gone through addiction treatment for alcohol and drug addiction relapse within a year, according to a recent study.1 While some mischaracterize this as simply a lack of willpower or personal resolve, brain chemistry helps explain the situation.
When someone uses drugs or alcohol, dopamine — the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating the brain’s reward and pleasure centers — is released. And because drug or alcohol use has become such a priority in this person’s life, using can feel synonymous with basic survival instincts, which explains why someone will go to great lengths to procure whatever makes them feel whole. Prolonged substance abuse also reconfigures the brain by eroding the prefrontal cortex, which interestingly enough is the section that recognizes problems and appropriate solutions.
In short, a body that’s been damaged by abuse doesn’t always comply with the person who is wanting to gain freedom from addiction, even if he’s been able to maintain recovery for an extended period of time. For Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Oscar-winning actor who accidentally overdosed from multiple substances in 2014, his relapse came after 23 years of sobriety.
Lending Support Every Step of the Way
Staying sober isn’t something that’s dealt with and moved on from quickly. It’s a lifelong journey that requires the consistent support of loving, trusted friends and family.
Sometimes the simplest of gestures can make the greatest impact. And for someone recovering from alcohol or drug use, acceptance without judgment is key. Instead of dwelling on the past, those difficult moments of struggle and regret, it’s important to celebrate the important steps made along the way.
Support can also be given on a practical level. In an effort to support a healthier lifestyle, you can cook a meal together, take a walk and enjoy nature, dig into a new hobby — pretty much anything that’s free of the vices that have entangled your loved one in the past and encourage positivity.
Actively listening, exercising patience and even suggesting a support group with others in recovery are also key components in the healing process. The best way to encourage sobriety is being there for your friend or family member and supporting a drug-free life.
Know someone struggling with alcohol or drug abuse and not sure what your next steps should be? Don’t hesitate to reach out to the staff of Peachford Hospital at 770-454-2302.
1 Castaneda, Ruben. Why Do Alcoholics and Addicts Relapse So Often?” U.S. News and World Report, April 24, 2017.
2 Williams, Sarah T. “What’s it Really Like to Withdraw From Heroin and Painkillers?” Minnpost, February 14, 2014.Share