You might wonder why you have trouble quitting drugs or alcohol, or why your loved one can’t stop. The reason is that drugs and alcohol can actually change the brain, making it more difficult to quit. Drugs affect the reward system in the brain, so drug use is rewarded and encouraged by the brain. Quitting is not just a matter of will, and many people need some form of help to be successful.
Some people are more likely than others to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. It might have to do with genetics or lifestyle. For example, a history of addiction in your family can make you more likely to become addicted yourself. Using pain pills because of an injury or health condition can boost the risk of addiction, since these drugs are so highly addictive. Also, working too hard, feeling fatigued, being overweight, having low self-esteem, or experiencing depression or poverty can all cause someone to turn to drugs to cope with life.You might not be sure whether you’re really addicted, or whether your loved one is. After all, many people drink, right? Many people use certain drugs once in a while, right? You were prescribed that pain medication, so how can it be an addiction? How do you know when drug or alcohol use becomes an addiction?
In general, it becomes an addiction when you can’t cope with your life and you use drugs or alcohol as a crutch to help you deal. If you can’t go without using drugs or alcohol, or thinking about using them, then you’re most likely addicted. Also, if you can’t stop using drugs, or you experience symptoms when you try to stop, you are probably addicted.The next step is to figure out whether or not you need rehab to deal with an addiction. For some people, the awareness of an addiction is enough to work on quitting. In these cases, trying to find new coping strategies or attending a 12-step program and support group might help. Other people need more assistance, with detox, counseling and sometimes medically-supervised drugs, to quit. It doesn’t mean you’re weak if you need to attend a rehab program. It all depends on your situation, the type of drug you are using and how long you’ve been using it. Getting over an addiction is individual to each person, just as the addiction and the reasons for using the drugs are different for everyone.
The Power of Cravings
Drug cravings are not a simple thing to ignore, as you know if you experience them. A December 2010 study in the journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice confirms this. The study found that the same parts of the brain that are used in addiction are involved with memory, learning, reasoning and similar brain functions. Because of this, your brain remembers the effects of the drug and learns to want it. The brain becomes conditioned to use the drug, and it becomes very difficult to stop using it. Cravings become an automatic response that you don’t even think about.
You might need help getting over these cravings. Fortunately, a 2012 study showed promise for the ability to beat drug cravings. The study was led by Dr. Kevin N. Ochsner from Columbia University. It showed that changes to thinking actually changed brain activity so the participants didn’t experience as many cravings for cigarettes. In the study, the participants focused on the negative effects of smoking instead of the positive ones. MRI brain scans showed that their brain activity changed with this change in focus.
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