Addiction: recovery

What should you do if you have an alcohol or drug problem?

Most people are able to use alcohol or other drugs without problems. Excluding nicotine addiction, which affects over 20% of the population, between 10% and 20% of us will experience alcohol or other drug abuse or dependence. The majority of people who develop substance dependence, including nicotine addiction, quit on their own. But quitting alone can be tough. The success rate for each attempt to quit is relatively low. With some help, much higher rates of successful recovery may be attained. Since there is a wide variety of methods, and one size does not fit all; it helps to do some self-evaluation, or get some professional help in the form of an assessment to determine what would work best for you.

Stages of change

Changing health behavior depends, in part, on your current level of motivation. A model for determining your current stage of motivation or readiness to change, together with a series of counseling techniques, effectively addresses your needs at a given stage of change. If lack of sufficient motivation is the problem, it helps to perform a couple of exercises. First make two lists: in one write down the benefits you experience from your alcohol or other drug use, and in another, list all the consequences or negative effects you are able to think of that might be caused by your use of the drug.

Next, compare the benefits of changing (quitting or cutting down) to the consequences or problems you envision as the result of quitting. Before going further you might want to schedule an assessment with a counselor or physician skilled in treating addictions. This professional will help you determine if you are addicted, whether there are other medical or psychiatric problems that need attention, and help you choose the type and intensity of treatment best suited to your needs.

If you are preparing to change your behavior, anticipate the cues or triggers that might make you relapse. Decide on alternate behaviors to handle situations or feelings you now handle with your drink or drug. Identify coping skills you will need.

A final note about recovery from addictions

Addictions are complex, chronic disorders involving biological, psychological, and social problems. Chances are, there is no quick fix or magic bullet. A great many therapies have been tried: acupuncture, laser, nutrition, aversion therapy, drugs, different types of counseling, religious conversion reactions, and more. Recovery requires change. Since there are biopsychosocial problems, a good recovery program might combine medical or pharmacological help with psychological and educational therapy while establishing a network of social support and recovery activities. Many recovering people feel the greatest aid in their successful recovery has come from spiritual sources. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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