WHAT IS ADDICTION?
Understanding addiction may help you decide whether or not you'd like to seek treatment. Understanding is also the first step in being supportive of someone who is suffering from addiction and needs a supportive ally on their journey to recovery.
The current consensus, medically and scientifically, supports the theory that addiction is a chronic medical illness and like other chronic diseases requires treatment that may last a lifetime.
Many people don't understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.
To learn more about the science of addiction read the following publications from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
WHAT IS RECOVERY?
Hope, the belief that these challenges and conditions can be overcome, is the foundation of recovery. A person’s recovery is built on his or her strengths, talents, coping abilities, resources, and inherent values. It is holistic, addresses the whole person and their community, and is supported by peers, friends, and family members.
The process of recovery is highly personal and occurs via many pathways. It may include clinical treatment, medications, faith-based approaches, peer support, family support, self-care, and other approaches. Recovery is characterized by continual growth and improvement in one’s health and wellness and managing setbacks. Because setbacks are a natural part of life, resilience becomes a key component of recovery.
Read more about recovery and recovery support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) here:
UNDERSTANDING RELAPSE AND OVERDOSE
The chronic nature of addiction means that for some people relapse, or a return to drug use after an attempt to stop, can be part of the process, but newer treatments are designed to help with relapse prevention. Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are likely to relapse.
Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment.
While relapse is a normal part of recovery, for some drugs, it can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person uses as much of the drug as they did before quitting, they can easily overdose because their bodies are no longer adapted to their previous level of drug exposure. An overdose happens when the person uses enough of a drug to produce uncomfortable feelings, life-threatening symptoms, or death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths remain a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States and the majority of overdose deaths involve opioids.
To learn more about drug overdose and overdose prevention visit the CDC's website on the topic below:
English: Drug Overdose (CDC)
Spanish: Opioides (CDC)
RESPONDING TO AN OPIOID OVERDOSE
With the advent of the Opioid Epidemic Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is becoming widely available. Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist. This means that it attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids. Naloxone can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if their breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose.
To learn more about naloxone, and how to administer it, check out the following links:
English: Naloxone DrugFacts (NIDA)
Spanish: Naloxona Drug Facts (NIDA)
The Naloxone Project - Features videos in English and Spanish on how and when to administer Narcan.