Substance use disorder (SUD) is a mental disorder. It can feel like substances have a short length of effect, which is one reason people use them throughout their day. However, substances affect a person's brain and body for an extended time after substance use is stopped.
Treatment for SUD does not only focus on the abuse of substances but focuses on healing the mind, body, and spirit for a sustainable recovery. However, can you recover from the effects of SUD without treatment? Can a strong will and desire for sobriety be enough to get you on the path of recovery?
A person's brain is like a computer. It has wires that connect and communicate like a computer, called neurons. Neurons send messages, called neurotransmitters, that are received through a receptor. Like a computer's modem, the brain is the central place where all information is obtained, processed, translated, and acted on.
From the brain, messages are sent to the nerves throughout the body. For example, when you step on something sharp, your brain sends signals to your foot that there is pain and you need to move. This is why you subconsciously and immediately jump off something painful after stepping on it.
When someone abuses substances, the way their brain sends neurotransmitters between neurons and neuron receptors gets altered. Intoxicants will do one of two things. They will either mimic the chemical structure of natural neurotransmitters, which causes abnormal messages throughout the brain and body. Or substances can cause large amounts of neurotransmitters to be released, interfering with the way the body communicates.
After long-term abuse of substances, the neurons in the brain will be disrupted and cannot function normally. Because of this, it may be necessary to try a treatment program.
Treatment and recovery sound similar, but they are not the same thing. Diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart disease, and other illnesses take a lifetime to manage symptoms. A disease like diabetes requires monitoring and insulin shots to keep a person's insulin levels balanced and their body processing correctly. Fibromyalgia involves a lifetime of pain management. Like these other diseases, SUD requires monitoring for the rest of a person's life. With any disease, the process of long-term management is called recovery.
At Pathways Wellness Center, we understand that treatment teaches a person how to manage their emotions, as well as understand what triggers their SUD. We also understand that recovery is the lifelong process of managing the disorder.
Pathways Wellness Center believes that a person should not be discouraged by hearing that recovery is for life. Recovery is possible, especially if a person is equipped with the right skills from treatment.
Three areas of the brain are majorly affected by substance abuse: the basal ganglia, the extended amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex. All three parts of the brain contribute to the body's functioning.
The prefrontal cortex is where decisions are made and impulses are controlled. The basal ganglia is the area where people feel pleasure. When this is overloaded with intoxicants, it is hard for a person to feel pleasure or enjoyment from anything besides drugs or alcohol. Lastly, the extended amygdala plays a role in stress feelings. When this area is overloaded, it becomes more sensitive, prompting increased irritability and anxiety. This leads to further substance abuse to relieve the stressful feelings rather than to get high.
Due to how the brain is affected and what is affected by substance abuse, a person needs help to heal. Since the literal chemicals of the brain change, a person with a SUD needs assistance to manage the intense emotional and physical symptoms from not using. It can be challenging for someone to heal without a treatment program.
Recovery takes a lifetime, just as any other disease will require management. When a person chooses sobriety, they must first detox from the substances in their body and allow the chemicals in their brain to start functioning and transmitting normally again. Depending on the intoxicants a person is addicted to, it can take days or weeks for them to leave a person's system.
That is why treatment has four goals:
Giving people time with healthy support and safety allows them to heal without worrying about their basic needs, such as a place to live. Treatment is a time to heal while having the time to figure out the rest of life's needs.
As reviewed, treatment can be necessary for one of two reasons. First, treatment is needed if a person needs medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for more harmful and addictive substances, such as opioids and long-term alcohol abuse. The second reason is if someone does not have a safe and supportive environment with people willing to help them through the first months of learning to manage their disorder.
However, needing treatment is never a bad thing. Some people need more support or do not have that safety at home. That is not abnormal, and there are treatment facilities with experienced staff who care and can be there to help through the beginning stages of recovery.
Have you been through treatment before and you found it did not help? Were you treated like a number and did not feel accepted in your program? At Pathways Wellness Center, your health and recovery are our priority. With individualized treatment plans, various levels of care, and a sober and comfortable community, we hope to help you succeed in reaching sobriety. Treatment programs can help you recover from a substance use disorder if find the right place that fits you and your needs. Contact us at (888) 771-0966 to start the conversation. The right place may be with us, where we can help you start creating and planning for the life you have always envisioned for yourself.