ADDICTION AND THE PATH TO RECOVERY

7 min


So, addiction is a really common term. Be it in any sense. We use it in our day to day lives. Addiction could be either good or bad. If we are keen on developing and gravitate towards constructive ideas and habits, addiction could prove good. A bad one is a real problem and the path of recovery from this type of addiction is not a bed of roses either. This could prove to be a real problem. Further, if the person does not take any action to recover from his addiction it could prove even more dangerous to him and the people around him.

No one really falls into a habit purposely. It might be circumstances that force a person or the mere curiosity to try things out might turn out disastrous. But, it’s human nature to try out and absorb bad things than good ones. The mechanism of how the brain falls into addiction is fascinating.

Is it an addiction or just an unhealthy habit?

So the margin between these two is really slim. But, a better understanding of the differences between these 2 habits can make a huge difference. Firstly, a major and obvious difference between an addiction and an unhealthy habit is the amount of time and effort you put into getting out of that routine. If it’s really easy to stop that routine or the habit requires minimal effort, then it’s just a habit. If the person in an attempt to stop the habit faces a set of physical symptoms and extreme mental trauma, stress or depression, then it is an addiction.

Further, addiction is difficult to stop by mere human willpower at the initial stages. But, with proper help and support the person might be able to stop the habit and lead a healthy life. Addiction by itself does not come alone it co-exists with other mental problems too. This not only causes harm to the individual but also the person’s family as a whole.

DIAGNOSING ADDICTION:

Though we speak about addiction in general in this article, let’s focus on one common entity of addiction for a better understanding. For instance, let’s focus on alcoholism. There’s a very popular saying when it comes to alcohol addiction. Most of us would be very familiar with this. It goes like, ‘alcoholism is a self-diagnosed disease’. Though its nature tends to be self diagnosable, certain common factors and a set of symptoms set apart a person as an alcoholic. Further, this saying also has another in-depth meaning in the sense, that alcoholism as a disease needs acceptance from the side of the person completely. Only by completely acknowledging that you are an alcoholic, you will be able to take the next step towards deaddiction.

So coming to the symptoms, an alcoholic while trying to get rid of his addiction might face a condition termed as ‘alcohol withdrawal syndrome’. When it comes to alcohol withdrawal, not all people with alcohol withdrawal show the same set of symptoms. It varies heavily from person to person. For instance, heavy chronic alcoholics can observe the following,

MINOR WITHDRAWAL:

Firstly, these are a vague group of symptoms consisting of anxiety, headache, mild tremors or continued movement exhibited in the hands etc., increased heart rate with palpitations and excessive sweating. This typically occurs six to twenty-four hours after the person has consumed the last drink and might last up to a week. It is rare and hard for them to stay sober for more than two to three days at a stretch.

ALCOHOLIC HALLUCINOSIS:

This is relatively rare in alcoholics. In these, the patient might experience visual and tactile hallucinations. For example, the person might feel like insects crawling over them. Further, in this case, the patients will know that these sensations are just tactile and due to the alcohol and are not quite threatened by this. This phenomenon is known as Colusa gnosis and can occur as early as 12 hours after the last drink. But, 24-36 hours is more common.

ALCOHOLIC WITHDRAWAL SEIZURES:

These are usually brief with a short postictal period. In this type prolonged fits are uncommon. In case of prolonged seizure, the cause might not be due to withdrawal.

DELIRIUM TREMENS:

This is luckily uncommon in most patients. It is dangerous to the person. This condition is characterized by a severe increase in the heartbeat and also an excessive drop in the core body temperature. The autonomic nervous system of these patients is highly unstable. DT or delirium tremens have the potential of making alcohol withdrawal a life-threatening event. Probably this is the last event of alcohol withdrawal. The onset is usually 48- 96 hours after the last drink.

From all the above steps we can infer one thing in particular. The transition from one stage to another is very gradual and by the time the person reaches delirium tremens, the symptoms can be easily identified.

Further, the PAUSE system can be used to assess the severity and the stage of the withdrawal the patient is facing. PAUSE stands for Prediction of alcohol withdrawal severity scale. It consists of asking the patient a set of questions that go on like if he or she has consumed alcohol in the last thirty days. Further, verifying and checking for alcohol levels in the blood. Moreover, if the person is found positive for the first two questions the treatment or the rehab is started again on account of relapse. The total score is about ten. Scoring is done depending on the level of addiction. For instance, if the person has just relapsed with alcohol or if the person has relapsed with alcohol along with the use of other substances etc.

This scale and the above-mentioned set of symptoms would fit perfectly for an alcoholic.

PROGRAMS FOR RECOVERY:

Recovery or de-addiction is a very important part of waving a huge goodbye to alcoholism. But, before heading straight into those rehabs and de-addiction centres there are a few points to remember and consider.

  • Select a rehab or a program that is compatible with your personality and needs. These rehabs should address your specific needs.
  • Check to that whether your rehabs have qualified nurses, doctors, counsellors and staff that are qualified and have experience with helping you overcome your specific addiction.
  • Check whether the support provided is 24/7 and around the clock.
  • Talk with them to know about the method of treatment they provide. The kind of detox you recieve and whether you have to solely depend on medications or they provide other methods. Be very clear and have your treatment plan customized.
  • Also check with them to know how they can handle any medical emergencies or if your existing health condition needs care. Further, take into account your co-morbidities.
  • Further, check for individual or group counsellings provided by the rehab. Be informed about the extra-curricular activities, family therapies etc.
  • Another important factor to consider is if your medical insurance can cover the cost and expenses of therapy and prescription drugs. Also, make sure that the program provides enough out-patient support.
  • Read about their success stories and if possible try connecting with people who were successful in their recovery process.

REHABS AND ALCOHOL ANONYMOUS (AA’s):

Keep all these points in mind before getting into rehab. The recovery from any kind of addiction could be a long and tiring process. But remember, it is all worth it in the end. The reward is a healthy life and a gifted future. This also ensures that the people around you are happy and safe. Further, there are AA meetings and groups that can help addicts to maintain their sobriety.

This is a planned program and consisting of sharing your happiness and sorrows among fellow addicts. This way you feel heard and also satisfied by helping others. They follow a systematic approach and you can select meetings flexible with your timings. These AA meetings are available in almost every city across the country and even worldwide. Once out of rehab it’s very important to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse. Apart from AA’s and other rehabs, there are also other programs tailored to meet your needs.

To sum up, a healthy mind and body is a gift that needs to be cherished and honoured. When it comes to overcoming addiction, taking one day at a time and worrying minimally can help a lot. Spoiling and disrespecting the body that works for your wellness tirelessly is lunacy. It’s is never late to step aside from that addiction that has been in your life all these years. Quit the habit and start a happy and healthy life.


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Dr Kavitha M

I am an undergraduate degree holder in dentistry. I have a great interest in music and reading. I am a linguaphile. My areas of interest lie in psychology, medical imaging, diagnostics, and oncology. I am a person who focuses more on the emerging areas of forensics.

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