What is Addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite adverse consequences.  It is considered a brain disorder because it causes fundamental changes to the brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. 

But while there are millions of people in the United States who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, many people still don’t know a lot about addiction in general.  Below, we tackle the most common questions people have pertaining to addiction.

Is Addiction a Disease?

While some people view addiction as a choice that an individual makes or as a behavior that can be stopped willingly at any time, addiction is considered a disease – a chronic, progressive one that rewires the brain’s response to drugs and alcohol.  It is a lot like other diseases, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes, in that it disrupts the normal, healthy functioning of an organ in the body and has serious harmful effects.  And just like other diseases, addiction is treatable, yet requires ongoing care in order to prevent relapse from occurring.  If left untreated over time, addiction becomes more severe, disabling and life threatening.

Is Addiction Genetic?

Studies have shown that a person’s family history can predict a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction.  In fact, the NIDA estimates that 40 to 60 percent of an individual’s susceptibility to addiction can be linked back to his or her genetic makeup.  Compared with those who have no family history of addiction, a person whose relatives struggled with addiction is generally more likely to develop an addiction, as well. 

But genes aren’t the only factor that play a role in developing an addiction.  An individual’s environment can be responsible, as well.  External factors, such as support from family, where an individual was raised and the group of friends that person chooses to hang around with, can all affect his or her likelihood of developing an addiction. 

Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

Yes, according to the NIDA.  Addiction changes the brain in fundamental ways, changing a person’s normal desires and priorities.  Seeking out and using drugs becomes that person’s number one priority, much to the detriment of that person and his or her family and friends.  This results in compulsive behaviors that weaken the ability to control impulses, which is similar to hallmarks of other mental illnesses. 

What Causes Addiction?

Contrary to what some may believe, addiction does not occur because of moral weakness, a lack of willpower or an unwillingness to stop using.  It occurs because the regular use of drugs and/or alcohol causes physical changes in the way the brain understands pleasure and rewards. 

Most addictive substances cause the brain to release high levels of certain chemicals (i.e. dopamine) that are associated with pleasure or reward.  This causes extreme feelings of euphoria that highly motivates individuals to want to take the drug again.  Over time, continued release of these chemicals causes fundamental changes in the brain systems involved in reward, motivation and memory, which drives a person’s uncontrollable and compulsive drug use.   

Once this happens, individuals will experience intense desires or cravings for the addictive substance and will continue to use, despite the harmful or dangerous consequences. 

How Do You Break an Addiction?

Although there is no “cure” for addiction, there are various medications, support groups and therapies that can help people recover.  In recent years, medical assistance – in terms of helping people deal with withdrawal symptoms and the psychological effects of addiction – has become more accessible to millions of Americans. 

However, a good number of addicted individuals are dealing with co-occurring disorders, meaning that that person is battling another mental illness in addition to a substance use disorder.  When this is the case, drug counseling and therapy are essential.  In order to combat addiction, the root causes must be addressed; treating only its symptoms won’t be enough.    

In addition, actions on the part of the user also play a big role in breaking the addiction.  Those in recovery are urged to cut off contact with all people, places and things related to past drug use.  These can keep a person trapped in addiction, forcing him or her to relive the old days when they were actively using.  Other tactics, such as identifying addictive thinking patterns before acting upon them, as well as implementing self-care, also help in battling this insidious disease.

Though breaking the routine of drinking and drug abuse can be a challenge, it IS possible.  Long-term recovery requires hard work and commitment to change for one’s journey into a clean and sober life to be a successful one. 

If you are ready to take the next step and learn how to recover alongside others click here to connect with one of our team members. Arise Recovery Centers is an Intensive Outpatient Program that is conveniently located in Dallas, Fort Worth, McKinney and Southlake. We offer individual, family, and group therapy to help those suffering from addiction recover and grow.

What is DBT and How Can It Help Me Recover from Addiction?

by: Nick Overbeck MS, LPC, LCDC

“It is hard to be happy without a life worth living. This is a fundamental tenet of DBT. Of course, all lives are worth living in reality. No life is not worth living. But what is important is that you experience your life as worth living—one that is satisfying, and one that brings happiness.” 
― Marsha M. Linehan, Creator of DBT

Emotions, feelings, beliefs, and sensations can sometimes be overwhelming, tiresome, or downright annoying. Sometimes, we may think we would be better off turning them off, maybe we even have learned to break away from them, or even stuff them down and not deal with them. The problem with this, as research suggests, is that if we persistently ignore or suppress our emotions they often come back much stronger or, for many, manifest into mental/physical illness or even addiction. For example, as many that have experienced intense rage before know, ignoring and bottling up our anger for a long time eventually causes many people to explode sometimes without warning just like a coke bottle that has been shaken up until the lid comes off.

So how can we learn to deal our feelings before they deal with us? 

Of course, there are countless ways to work through our emotions including writing about them, exercise, talking about them with others, therapy, meditation, communicating effectively with others, meditations, etc. When it comes to addiction, learning to be aware of and skillfully deal with our feelings is a key skill to staying sober.

The core concept of DBT is based in the first word, dialectic, which is all about understanding how to balance and compare things, thoughts, beliefs, and/or emotions that may appear very different or even contradictory. The basis behind DBT, also known as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, is integrating a large variety of skills that we can use to become aware of, accept, communicate, and work through our emotions.

In DBT, individuals learn that there is a balance between change and acceptance. Utilizing skills taught in DBT helps us to learn to work on changing the behaviors in our lives that are creating suffering for you and the lives around you and loved ones while simultaneously also accepting yourself the way you are. This concept might seem conflicting, but it’s a key component of DBT. Dialectical behavior therapy focuses on acceptance and change, not acceptance or change. For example, if you are or know someone that struggles with addiction it is very likely at some point they have thought both “I am so glad I am sober, because I’m a better person when I am” and “I would really like to get wasted right now”. Another example is if you’ve ever felt really sad even though you had a great day or maybe you love someone very much and that person has brought up feelings of hatred or rage after hurting you.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in Dallas Fort Worth TX

Thinking two opposing thoughts, beliefs, or feeling opposing emotions can be scary, confusing, and frustrating. DBT teaches us to accept where we are in life and to build skills around working through them. The foundation of DBT relies on four core principles of Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance, and Emotional Regulation to help people work through their issues. In layman’s terms, DBT helps us to focus on being present and aware of ourselves and our surroundings, communicate with others in a healthier manner, identify and work through emotions instead of pushing them down, and teaches us skills to tolerate stress and crises in our lives.

Although DBT has been primarily known for treatment of self-harm, suicidality, and Borderline Personality Disorder, the skills involved can be used to help across a wide variety of settings and issues. However, research is beginning to show that DBT has also been used successfully to treat people struggling with addiction, PTSD, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder. Arise Recovery Centers utilizes DBT in all of their therapy groups to help individuals trying to get sober gain healthy coping skills to use instead of unhealthy coping skills in the past such as alcohol, drugs, overeating, violence, and so on.

10 Healthy Coping Strategies

If you are ready to take the next step and learn how to recover alongside others click here to connect with one of our team members Arise Recovery Centers is an Intensive Outpatient Program that is conveniently located in Dallas, Fort Worth, McKinney and Southlake. We offer individual, family, and group therapy to help those suffering from addiction recover and grow.