Change Can be Hard Regarding Drugs and Alcohol

Change can be Hard with Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction to drugs or alcohol are serious problems that are associated with relapse. These stubborn problems have plagued millions of people throughout the years. Lately, scientists have gained a new understanding of one of the reasons why addiction is such a hard habit to break. Apparently, addiction causes long-lasting changes in brain function, which is hard to reverse. This means many addicts have altered brains, including 15 million alcoholics, 1 million cocaine addicts, and 2 million heroin addicts in the U.S. alone.

Why the Brain prefers Opium to Tomato Juice

Change is hard for people with drug and alcohol addiction, and there is no simple solution for stopping. However, we know more now about addiction than we did 20 years ago, which is helping with diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. So, why does the brain prefer opium to tomato juice? The answer involves a cluster of nerves cells in the brain called the nucleus accumbens. In humans, these cells release dopamine in response to an action that fulfills a desire. By releasing dopamine, a potent neurotransmitter, pleasure is felt, and dopamine signals an action that promotes survival.

Called the reward pathway, dopamine makes us feel good, and the brain records a pleasant experience so that same feeling will be sought after again. Damage to the nucleus accumbens blocks dopamine, and makes certain things less rewarding. Addictive drugs cause much dopamine to be released, so in the person who gets addicted to a substance, the reward system becomes reduced over time. However, the need persists. The substance is the only way to fulfill the reward, and the brain loses access to other less powerful sources of reward. Over time, the brain’s reward system works as a machine that no longer functions without the fuel that is the drug.

Reasons Why People Fail

The majority of individuals who try to quit using a substance fail, and many of these people relapse within the first day or two of quitting. It usually takes many attempts at stopping before a person can break free of drugs and/or alcohol abuse. There are many reasons why people fail. Understanding these reasons helps the addict enter sobriety and avoid relapse. Common reasons include:

  • Denial – Denying the problem is the main reason people do not quit substance abuse.
  • Ambivalence – People see how quitting addiction could benefit their life, but still hold on to the idea that there is some pleasure in using drugs and/or alcohol.
  • No help – Some people are incapable of seeking help or finding help. The person almost always needs help to recover.
  • Fear – Addicts fear dealing with withdrawal symptoms, and often use this as an excuse to continue substance use/abuse.
  • Environment – If the addict does not break away from the environment where drugs/alcohol are plentiful, he/she will continue to use.
  • Lack of confidence – Addicts often have low self-esteem, so they underestimate their abilities and value.
  • Motivation – Many addicts are motivated to quit, but lose motivation over time. This is where continued support comes in.

Dangers of Substance Abuse

A person who continues to abuse drugs and/or alcohol are in danger because:

  • The longer the person is addicted, the more his family and friends suffer.
  • Addiction causes a downward spiral, and over time, the addict’s situation deteriorates.
  • The longer the individual is addiction, the more he/she will lose.
  • Addiction is a waste of time, and an addicted person is never able to reach his or her full potential.
  • Drugs and alcohol are toxins that harm the body organs and brain. The longer the addiction persists, the more likely permanent brain or body damage will occur.