News of the opioid crisis is bombarding us through the media almost every day.  Addiction is on the rise. People are suffering. They are wasting their lives as slaves to a substance without understanding why.  Addiction is a serious problem, yet most people don’t understand it.  Sufferers feel misunderstood, rejected, and stigmatized by society and loved ones. Loved ones get confusing or contradicting advice on how to best support their loved one through their addiction.  They often wonder what can be done to help?

What is Addiction?

Addiction is complex and multifaceted.  In its simplest definition, addiction is returning to a destructive habit despite negative consequences.  If we look at brain chemistry, we can begin to understand the magnitude of the pull that addiction has over people.  Brain images show that when studying starvation and thirst the craving for food shows up as a ‘basketball’ size craving.  However, the brain scans of addicts register their addiction for drugs as the relative size of a baseball field. That is a huge difference in the size of craving, and it shows that it is unnatural.  Humans brains are not naturally wired to handle a craving that intense, which is why addictions are so difficult to overcome.   *For more information on the brain chemistry of addiction click here:

What drives addiction can not be whittled down to just one thing. Brain chemistry, past personal history, past or ongoing trauma, domestic violence, mental health disorders, family of origin issues,  emotional abuse and many many other factors can contribute to a person’s struggle with substance abuse.  Like most things in this world, addiction is complex and unique to the person experiencing it.  Treatment therefore, should be specifically tailored to each individual.  Integrative therapy approaches that combine the use of skills, insight, and EMDR therapy provide excellent results.

If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, you should consider these important things:

  1. Support system – Recovery cannot happen alone.  One needs a strong support system of sober individuals to call upon when in need.  Alcoholics anonymous, Narcotics anonymous, and hundreds of other support groups are available.  Simply google search for one in your area and ‘shop’ around to find the right one for you.
  2. Systems and Structure – When you are newly sober, now is not the time to change up your life drastically.  Instead, create systems and structured routines in order to keep you from the 3  habits of destruction – People, Places, and Things that remind you of substance use.  These reminder can increase your cravings and lead to relapse.
  3. Medication – There are many medications that can support you through the withdrawal and recovery process.  Seek help from a medical professional or an in-patient treatment program to help you through the initial withdrawal.  This will give you a greater chance of success.
  4.  Therapy- When you combine individual therapy with a strong support system and meetings, you have the best chance at a successful recovery.  Although people can and do recover without ALL three elements, research has shown that this is not only extremely rare, it can be downright impossible for most folks.  This is by far the most effective treatment combination for success.
  5. Give Yourself Time – It takes about two years of continued treatment (or more depending on the complexity of the factors contributing to the addiction) to fully kick an addiction. Even then, some people believe that they are never completely healed.  Be patient and give yourself and your loved ones to time to heal. Time is needed not only for your brain chemistry to come back to normal, but also to heal from the emotional trauma that follows addiction.

Do you live the Hanford or Visalia California area? Call me to set up a therapy appointment today!

Debra Schmitt, ACSW

Reno NV Therapist / California Teletherapy

Call: 559-697-5045

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Posted in Addiction, Mental Health, Substance abuse.

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