What Happens When an Addict Stops Taking Drugs?
When a person is struggling with substance use disorder, also known as addiction, they have lost the ability to control their drug use. They will continue to use drugs or alcohol despite adverse health, economic, social, or legal consequences. The lack of control is not their fault nor because they are of weak moral character. It is a result of how their emotions and minds are affected by the euphoria that drugs and or alcohol cause. Their unique life histories predispose them to like the effects of substances more than others leading them to become addicted.
What is Physical Addiction to Drugs?
When a person uses drugs that cause physical addiction such as opioids like heroin, prescription pain killers, fentanyl, alcohol, or benzodiazepines like Xanax, their bodies must maintain a constant intake of the drug for them to function. Physical withdrawal symptoms from these addicting substances can become life-threatening. Alcohol and benzodiazepine addiction can cause seizures or dangerous heart conditions. Opioid addiction can cause dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea and other severe medical conditions.
Fortunately, most physical withdrawal symptoms from these types of drugs can be reversed with safe and effective medications. Opioid addiction is now effectively treated with buprenorphine that has proven to help millions of addicts get and remain clean from opioids. Alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms rely on other safe medicines to help the person get through their detox symptoms for them to achieve sobriety.
However, even with the most effective medications to help someone recover, addiction is still a disease of the mind and emotions that stem from multiple influencers. A successful treatment program that offers Medication-Assisted Treatment, known as MAT, as in the case of when buprenorphine is used to treat opioid addiction, that program will also provide substance abuse treatment programs to address the mental and emotional facets of why addiction occurred. Without a reliable plan for recovery that relies on advanced substance abuse treatment methods that are evidence-based even with the help of medications from MAT, a person is not likely to achieve lasting recovery.
Changes That Occur When You Stop Abusing Drugs
It is essential to specify what addiction is when explaining what happens to an addicted individual when they stop taking their drug of choice. Addiction is a result of numerous influencers: Early childhood experiences that included abuse, neglect or trauma; family histories of addiction that indicate a genetic component or environmental exposure to addiction; and whether or not the individual was introduced to drugs and alcohol from peers in their early or late teenage years. Any or all of these influencers can cause a person to become addicted to a substance. Once this person uses a substance, and they experience relief from their painful emotions or mental anguish, their brain and body tell them to seek it out again.
However, many people can drink a glass of wine to relieve them of the stress from a long hard day at work. Or others may eat a bowl of ice cream when they are feeling a little down. These same people may use these things repeatedly. But, if the glass of wine causes an individual to wreck their car or miss work the next day and get fired, they will never drink wine again, similarly, for the person who uses ice cream to feel better. If that ice cream causes them to develop diabetes or gain too much weight, they will give it up. These people will stop using the agent that threatens them to go thru a negative consequence.
For people who become addicted to the wine or the ice cream, they will not stop using it despite the problems it is causing. Years of expert and science-based research on why addiction happens has concluded that the reason some continue to use a substance even when facing prison, death, or economic destruction is that their brains react differently to substances. The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health, write how this occurs:
As an individual move from being a “user” to “abuser” and then to “addicted,” a shift occurs from positive reinforcement driving the motivated behavior to negative reinforcement driving the motivated behavior. The progression of drug addiction involves alterations in normal brain circuitry that result in long-lasting drug-induced neuroplastic changes. Several brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, and others underlie the pathological changes at each of these stages. (NCBI)
With all of these neurotransmitters listed above, the brain’s reward center is stimulated. The brain’s reward center instructs the person to continue with whatever has increased pleasure or reduce pain. When someone has experienced abuse or trauma, their emotions and minds are existing in a state of fear, depression, or anxiety. For these individuals, their brain’s reward center is very seldom stimulated. Once they use a drug powerful enough to trigger the release of a neurotransmitter, their brain’s reward center tells them, ‘no matter what, keep using that substance because it makes you feel better.’
Professional substance abuse treatment programs now understand the disease of addiction more accurately than ever before. The available programs rely on evidence-based forms of therapy. The two types of evidence-based treatment that are most effective for drug addiction is pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapy methods.
Get Professional Help If You’re Addicted
Pharmacotherapies rely on medicines to help a person remain clean and sober by assisting them in maintaining a more peaceful and restful state of mind without causing addiction. Behavioral therapy methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy focus on helping a person learn to manage their mind and emotions by changing how they react to others and themselves. The ideal treatment for any addiction is for the person to be admitted into a long-term treatment program that incorporates MAT, evidence-based treatment methods, and one that provides them enough time and ongoing aftercare for them to heal their emotions and be willing to change successfully.