Yes, addiction is a treatable disease. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed. Treatment can enable you to counteract addiction’s disruptive effects on your thinking and your behaviour in order to regain control of your life. This is what we mean by recovery.
No, addiction is a chronic disease, so relapse is not only possible but probable. Relapse rates for addiction are similar to those for illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Treating addiction means you have to change thoughts and behaviours deeply embedded in you, and this is rarely easy or quick. Relapses indicate that your treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted and that you may have further to go in changing yourself.
For most clients, medical intervention combined with behavioural therapy and total abstinence from alcohol is the best way of ensuring success. Your treatment must be tailored to take account of your own pattern of drinking or drug use, as well as any medical, psychiatric or social problems you may be experiencing.
Treating Withdrawal. When you stop using alcohol or drugs, you will usually experience withdrawal symptoms, including restlessness, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Certain medications can help to reduce these symptoms and make it easier for you to cope.
Staying in Rehab. Certain medications help your body adapt to the absence of the substance on which it has become dependent. They can alleviate cravings, calm your body, and allow you to focus on your treatment programme.
Preventing Relapse. The most common triggers for relapse are stress, exposure to alcohol or drugs, and cues linked to your own experiences of drinking and drug-use (people, places, things, moods). Certain medications are being developed to lessen or interrupt the effects of these triggers and help you maintain your recovery.
Behavioural therapies, such as CBT, help you change negative attitudes and destructive patterns of behaviour. They also help you develop new life-skills to cope with stressful situations and the cues which trigger cravings. Behavioural therapies are well known to enhance the effectiveness of medications and help addicts maintain their recovery.
Because addiction can affect so many aspects of your life, the best treatment programmes blend together a variety of rehab services. Stopping drinking or using drugs is only one part of the recovery process. The compulsion to get hold of alcohol or drugs, and to drink or use, has probably dominated all of your thinking for months or even years. No doubt, addiction has disrupted how you function at home and work and made you more likely to suffer from other illnesses. There is no one way to free you from all these entanglements.