Detox Can Help You End Addiction for Good

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This is the final article of the four-part series What to Expect During Detox. Read part three, What to Expect from a Professional Detox Program.

According to the Principles of Effective Treatment outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, detox alone does little to treat an addiction—addiction is far more complex than dependence.(1) Willpower and good intentions are rarely enough to end addiction, which almost always requires professional help to overcome for the long-term.

Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol use despite the negative consequences it causes. People who are addicted have lost control over how much and for how long they use. A variety of issues almost always underlie an addiction, often including mental illness, chronic stress and a history of trauma.

Addiction is the result of changes in the structures and chemical functions in the learning, memory and reward centers of the brain. These complex changes lead the brain to equate liking a drug to needing it for survival. Intense cravings result, driven by the same mechanisms that lead us to eat food and procreate in order to survive.

These brain changes also affect your thoughts and actions. Dysfunctional patterns of thinking develop, and behaviors become more and more self-destructive. This leads to a multitude of problems in life, such as relationship, financial, legal, medical and mental health problems. Often, these problems in turn cause stress and other negative emotions that further perpetuate and reinforce the addiction.

A high-quality addiction treatment program will take a holistic approach to treatment that addresses issues of body, mind and spirit for whole-person healing. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that there is no single pathway to recovery. No one treatment works for every person who suffers from addiction. A holistic program will offer a variety of both traditional “talk” therapies and complementary therapies like art or nature therapy.

Through these therapies, people in recovery:

  • Develop a toolkit of skills and strategies to cope with stress, cravings and other triggers
  • Identify dysfunctional thought and behavior patterns and learn new, healthier ways of thinking and behaving
  • Address the various issues underlying the substance abuse
  • Address any co-occurring mental illnesses and medical problems
  • Repair relationships damaged by the addiction and restore function to the household
  • Find purpose and meaning in a life without drugs or alcohol

Research shows that treatment works for most people who engage with their treatment plan.

Detox doesn’t have to be miserable. Quite the opposite. It can, in fact, be a time of valuable self-reflection, motivation building, and well-being. Detox ends your physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, while treatment helps you end your drug abuse and improve your quality of life on many fronts. Together, detox followed by adequate time in treatment can help you end, once and for all, even a severe drug or alcohol addiction.

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