It’s no secret that addiction can often become a lifelong problem and condition—especially when you don’t seek treatment for it. Addiction is a debilitating disease that can make you feel hopeless and as though there is no effective solution. As a result, you may believe that your addiction is permanent and can never be effectively treated or cured, which can lead to long-term suffering if you think you can’t be helped.
The good news is that addiction is completely treatable, and you don’t have to live with it.
Here’s a closer look at how addiction works and what you can do to prevent this condition from becoming permanent.
What Does it Truly Mean to Be “Addicted” to Something?
Addiction can be loosely defined as not having control over doing something to the point it can be harmful to your livelihood. Some people joke about being addicted to things like eating chocolate or using social media—meaning they may find these things irresistible and have a difficult time avoiding them when presented with the opportunity to do them. However, a serious addiction is when you are unable to truly control your urges to do these things, and it causes other areas of your life to suffer.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. It adds that more specifically, addiction is a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.” It means that your body is perceiving drugs or alcohol as a brain reward, which is affecting your behavior in ways that cause you to prioritize drug use over basic life needs and vital responsibilities.
The key word to pay attention to in the NIDA’s definition of addiction is “chronic.” Chronic means long-lasting, but it does not mean “permanent.” Addiction is indeed a chronic disease, but it doesn’t need to be permanent as long as you commit to seeking treatment and making a series of positive changes in your life.
Is There Such a Thing as Having an Addictive Personality?
You may have heard some people say they have an “addictive personality,” especially those who are regularly approached about their excessive drinking behavior or who may have behavioral addictions related to activities like gambling, shopping, or playing video games.
The perception of having an addictive personality can be extremely harmful, as it gives the impression that addiction cannot be controlled or changed because it is embedded in a person’s genetics or personality.
Some people use this term to justify or excuse their addiction or their harmful behaviors and attitudes about addiction. In reality, an addictive personality is just another term for addiction itself which is characterized by a set of compulsive behaviors as mentioned by the NIDA. As long as you can change those behaviors, the “addictive personality” can also be changed.
Are Some People Doomed to Suffer From Addiction Due to Family History?
Genetics and family history are risk factors for many physical and behavioral health conditions—including addiction and substance use disorders. However, genetics and family history are ONLY risk factors and don’t mean you are destined to suffer from addiction on behalf of these factors. Though you may be predisposed or at higher risk for developing an addiction due to genetics, you can avoid addiction as long as you remain aware and educated about it, and practice healthy behaviors that reduce your risk.
Examples of addiction risk factors related to family history include a history of mental illness, parental neglect, early exposure, and child abuse, reports SAMHSA.
For instance, if you grew up watching your parents use drugs and alcohol regularly, you may form the impression that this behavior is normal and adopt this behavior yourself. Or, if bipolar disorder or depression runs in your family, you may be more likely to use drugs and alcohol to tame your symptoms, which is a common practice among those with mental health disorders.
Is Addiction Permanent if it Happens to You?
Addiction is not permanent and never has to be permanent, even if you grew up using drugs and alcohol or have been using these substances for a long period. Addiction is completely treatable, but it’s up to you to seek treatment and make the decision to become healthier.
Addiction treatment is more widely accessible today than it ever was before and is also covered by many health insurance plans. Even if you don’t have health insurance, there are many services, resources, and financing options available that can help you get treatment.
Everyone recovers from addiction at their own pace and in their own time. Some people need many years to recover from addiction, making it seem like addiction is permanent and cannot be helped. In some cases, the wrong treatments or inappropriate treatments can fail to treat addiction, which can also make it seem permanent.
The NIDA says that relapse is normal and extremely common among those who suffer from addiction. Research shows that relapse rates for addiction are between 40% and 60%, which is higher than relapse rates for high blood pressure and asthma, between 50% and 70%. However, relapsing doesn’t mean that your addiction can’t be treated—it just means that you need different treatments or that you need to restart treatment.
To prevent your addiction from becoming “permanent,” find addiction treatment centers devoted to helping you recover in full using detox and behavioral therapy. Detox helps you overcome physical dependency on drugs and alcohol, while behavioral therapy helps you change harmful behaviors and attitudes causing your addiction.
Can a Mental Health Disorder Prevent You From Recovering From Addiction?
About half of all people with a mental health disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa says the NIDA. This is because many people with mental health disorders will use alcohol or drugs to control or reduce unpleasant symptoms like sadness, paranoia, and nightmares. At the same time, chronic drug or alcohol abuse can lead to mental illness due to the way these substances change brain chemistry to cause depression, anxiety, etc.
Having a mental health disorder will not prevent you from recovering from addiction. It just means you will need specialized treatment that helps you recover from both disorders at the same time. This treatment is known as dual diagnosis therapy or co-occurring disorders therapy.
Many drug and alcohol rehab centers offer dual diagnosis therapy given how common it is for addiction and mental illnesses to co-exist. If you have a mental health disorder that is causing your addiction or preventing you from recovering from addiction, dual diagnosis therapy can teach you how to manage and live with a mental illness without resorting to drug and alcohol use.
What Are the Best Treatment Programs for Substance Abuse?
If you’re a person who has a long-term history of addiction, or you think you have a permanent addiction or an addictive personality, mention these things to your health care provider or an addiction center right away.
Be completely honest and upfront about how severely and how long your addiction has affected you. This will help your doctors understand how serious your addiction may be and give them a better idea of how to treat it.
Also, it may help to know that your doctors and therapists at rehab will perform a medical assessment and evaluation to learn more about your addiction. This helps them develop a customized treatment plan for you based on your unique situation. For example, if you become addicted to alcohol after suffering a childhood trauma, one of the therapies you may receive is trauma-focused therapy. This therapy can help you face and overcome your trauma so you can finally experience long-term recovery from addiction.
Drug and alcohol detox is another important treatment you’ll need. Detox helps you withdraw from drugs and alcohol in the safest, most comfortable way possible and reduces your risk of dangerous complications like malnutrition and seizures. Your doctors will most likely give you medications that can reduce some or all your withdrawal symptoms.
Detox only helps you overcome physical dependence on drugs and alcohol. It does not help you change harmful behaviors related to addiction. After your detox treatment has ended, you can start receiving behavioral therapy in a residential or outpatient rehab program. The behavioral therapies you receive will depend on the nature of your addiction. Support group therapy, family therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and dual diagnosis therapy are common therapies used in rehab.
How to Contact The Haven for Addiction Recovery
At The Haven, we offer a wide variety of detox treatments and behavioral therapies for those who need help recovering from addiction. If you have a long-term history of addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, we’ll be more than happy to discuss all your available treatment options and develop a customized addiction treatment plan, just for you.