Addiction stigmas can discourage individuals that struggle with a substance use disorder from reaching out for help, which can be a major barrier to recovery. Although addiction progresses, meaning symptoms become worse until you receive substance abuse treatment, recovery is possible even when you have a severe or lengthy addiction.
Addiction causes changes to your brain chemistry, which can aggravate underlying mental health disorders or lead to cognitive impairments. Many substances, including alcohol and opiates, can cause fatal overdoses. Dealing with the consequences is not worth accepting the incorrect stigmas of addiction.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction occurs when you compulsively abuse your substance of choice despite having a strong desire to quit or encountering increasingly negative consequences because of your use. While addiction stigmas may include the belief that addiction is a choice, the truth is substance abuse disorders cause significant changes to your brain chemistry.
Drugs and alcohol are neurotransmitter inhibitors that force your brain to release more neurotransmitters than it should. The pleasurable rush of neurotransmitters is responsible for the positive effects you experience during intoxication. When you use drugs and alcohol, your brain associates the substance with pleasure.
Your pleasure and reward center then rewards your drug use by releasing neurotransmitters when you use and punishes abstinence by restricting the release of neurotransmitters when you do not use. Eventually, your brain becomes incapable of releasing neurotransmitters when you do not use your substance of choice, which results in a significant neurotransmitter imbalance.
When you have a depletion of neurotransmitters, you experience intense cravings that make it difficult to remain sober. Your brain associates your substance of choice, as well as everything that reminds you of it, with pleasure. This causes cravings to occur when you are exposed to triggers, which can be people, places, or things.
You can develop a physical dependency to certain substances that require specialized treatment programs, including:
- Alcohol addiction treatment program
- Opiate and opioid addiction treatment, including prescription opiates and heroin
- Benzodiazepine addiction treatment
- Meth addiction treatment program
When you struggle with a substance use disorder, addiction stigmas can make it more difficult to recover. Addiction stigmas, such as beliefs that you can not recover from a substance abuse disorder, can make it hard to view recovery as a possibility. Addiction stigmas can make it difficult to share your struggles with friends and family members, as you can fear that they will not accept you or will not support your recovery.
However, it is important to know that many harmful addiction stigmas, such as addiction being an indication of immorality, are untrue. Addiction is a complex and chronic condition, meaning that although addiction stigmas may include the belief that addiction is cured when you stop using, it can take time for your brain and body to fully recover from a substance abuse disorder.
Since addiction causes damage to neurotransmitter receptors, it can impair your mood and judgment. Your brain and body can heal from addiction, but it can take time. That makes it important to complete treatment and to abstain from psychoactive substances. Recovering from addiction requires an understanding of how to cope with triggers and cravings. Symptoms will continue throughout your lifetime, which is why understanding how to identify and change negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is essential to your sobriety.
Sobriety allows your brain to re-learn how to properly release neurotransmitters, which improves your mood. While addiction stigmas can seem like a barrier to treatment, recovery teaches you that addiction is a complex and chronic disease, not an indication of poor choices.
Reaching Out for Help
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, do not let negative addiction stigmas prevent you from reaching out for help. Treatment at Sunstone Recovery provides you with the tools, education, and support you need to learn how to cope with symptoms, such as cravings.
Our programs to promote lasting recovery include:
- Alcohol addiction treatment
- Drug addiction treatment
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Young adult rehab
- Anxiety and depression treatment