Psychoactive substances are the source of drug and alcohol abuse. They change a person’s response to the world by altering brain mechanisms that normally regulate functions of mood, thought, and motivation.
Psychoactive substances cause substantial changes in cerebral neurotransmitters, transforming the brain’s normal chemistry affecting cognitive-response. Behaviorally and psychologically, addicts maintain ongoing substance use despite significant problems stemming from abuse and dependence.
Treatment revolves around helping the addict recognize his substance dependence.
Personal Response to Substance Abuse
The conflict inherent in controlling these behaviors is heightened because of conflicting messages from various sources in the social environment. Moderation is prescribed by society for addictive behaviors, because of their adverse consequences to the individual’s physical well-being, and psychological/social status.
Yet, the addict is confronted by inconsistent rules of conduct. Specific laws regulate access to illegal substances; the abuser, therefore, often engages in unlawful activities to sustain his addiction.
Various compelling social settings, cultural rituals, and peer/social aspirational needs increase the addict’s struggle. Conflicting external messages may override their own internal feedback clues for guidance regarding substance use. Most therapies for treating substance abuse, therefore, tend to emphasize strengthening the self-regulatory elements of the abuser’s personality, to create and maintain a method for adequate control.
Admitting Abuse, Seeking Treatment
It is imperative that the substance abuser understands his body has become reliant on the drug. Under these circumstances, treatment is very difficult for both the afflicted and their caregivers. Relapses are common for many addicts, and treatment gains tend to be short-lived.
Relapse-prevention programs attempt to provide clients with coping mechanisms for high-risk situations. The objective is to improve self-efficacy, yet the results have been mixed at best. Given these effects, it is not surprising that suicide rates among heroin addicts are high.
Substance Abuse Treatment
For any effective substance abuse treatment to begin, it is essential that the user recognize the extent to which repeated drug exposure activates a correlating association of drug-reward, resulting in the attribution of motivational value to drug use.
The fact that these conditions produce pleasurable sensations for the user is the departure point for addiction. Compulsive substance abuse possesses the addict, physiologically as well as emotionally.
In addition to training in coping skills, substance abuse treatment programs designed to better meet the needs of diverse populations might focus on social support, leisure activities, or resource acquisition, in ways specific to each population. Poorer treatment outcome is suggested for all who lack social support for recovery. Prevention programs should also establish general life skills training, as well as the developing the capacity to resist drug use, and energize personal attitudes and commitments against substance use in all its forms.
While no single intervention can be prescribed for all abusers across the board, the success of each depends upon helping the addict accept his substance abuse.