How to Get Out of Addiction: A Guide to Overcoming Addiction

Discover how to break free from addiction. Find professional support, treatment options, and strategies for long-term recovery.

Leora BH Staff
June 05, 2024

Understanding Addiction

Addiction is now recognized as a disease that affects the brain, rather than being seen as a personal failing or choice. While many people associate addiction with substance use, it's important to note that there are various types of addiction [1]. Addiction can be both physical and behavioral, and often these two aspects are intertwined. It is not limited to substances like alcohol and tobacco; there are numerous medically and scientifically recognized addictions [2].

Addiction as a Disease

Addiction is now classified as a disease that impacts the brain. It is not simply a matter of willpower or moral character. Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of addiction. These factors influence the decisions and circumstances that ultimately lead to addiction. It is crucial to understand that addiction is a complex condition that affects individuals physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Types of Addiction

While substance use is commonly associated with addiction, there are numerous other types of addiction recognized in the medical and scientific communities. Addiction can manifest in various behaviors, and a person can become addicted to behaviors just as seriously as they can to substances like alcohol or drugs.

Here are some examples of medically and scientifically recognized addictions:

Types of Addictions:

  • Substance Addiction: Addiction to things like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and more.
  • Behavioral Addiction: Addiction to activities such as gambling, gaming, shopping, and using the internet.
  • Food Addiction: Addiction to certain foods or eating too much.
  • Sex Addiction: Being obsessed with and doing too much sexual stuff.
  • Work Addiction: Being too focused on work and struggling to take breaks or have a balance.
  • Exercise Addiction: Exercising too much to the point it affects your daily life.

These are just a few examples, and there are many other recognized types of addiction. It's important to understand that addiction can affect individuals differently and that each person's journey to recovery is unique.

Recognizing and understanding addiction as a disease is crucial for promoting empathy, reducing stigma, and encouraging individuals to seek help. Recovery is possible, and there are various treatment options available to support individuals on their journey towards a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Effects of Addiction

Addiction can have profound effects on various aspects of an individual's life, including their brain function and behavioral patterns. Understanding these effects is crucial in comprehending the complexity of addiction and its impact on individuals struggling with it.

Impact on Brain Function

Addiction interferes with normal brain function, particularly in the reward system. When a person engages in activities or consumes substances they find enjoyable, such as spending time with loved ones, drinking alcohol, or using drugs, the brain's reward system releases dopamine and other chemicals that create feelings of pleasure and reward. This surge of dopamine reinforces the behavior and creates a desire to repeat it.

Over time, the brain adapts to the constant presence of dopamine and other chemicals, leading to tolerance. This means that individuals may require larger amounts of the substance or engagement in the behavior to achieve the same pleasurable effects. As tolerance develops, the brain's reward system becomes less responsive, diminishing the joy derived from everyday activities and increasing the cravings for the addictive substance or behavior.

The desire to experience euphoria and the need to alleviate withdrawal symptoms can trigger intense cravings for the addictive substance or behavior. These cravings often serve as the first sign of addiction and can be triggered by encountering familiar cues associated with the addiction.

Behavioral Changes

Addiction can lead to significant behavioral changes in individuals. The desire to satisfy cravings and maintain the addiction becomes a primary focus, often overshadowing other important aspects of life. Individuals may exhibit behaviors such as lying, stealing, or engaging in risky activities to obtain the substance or engage in the addictive behavior.

Dependency, which is often a precursor to addiction, occurs when a person needs the substance or behavior to function normally. Dependency is accompanied by increased tolerance, meaning the individual requires larger amounts of the substance or engagement in the behavior to achieve the desired effect. Additionally, symptoms of withdrawal may occur when the addictive substance or behavior is no longer present.

Addiction can encompass both physical and behavioral aspects. While substances like alcohol and tobacco are commonly recognized types of addiction, there are numerous other medically and scientifically recognized addictions. The behavioral changes associated with addiction can disrupt relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life.

It is important to understand that addiction is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. These factors play a role in the decisions and circumstances that lead to addiction. Addiction is a challenging and complex journey, not only for the person experiencing it but also for their friends and family members.

Recognizing the impact of addiction on brain function and behavior is essential in addressing and overcoming addiction. Seeking professional help and exploring available treatment options are crucial steps in the journey towards recovery.

Seeking Help for Addiction

When it comes to addiction, seeking professional support is crucial for individuals looking to break free from its grip. Professional help provides the necessary guidance, expertise, and resources to navigate the recovery process effectively.

Importance of Professional Support

It is often challenging to quit or control substance use alone without support from a trained professional. For certain forms of substance use disorder, the first step of treatment typically involves medically supervised detoxification. This process helps individuals safely withdraw from substances while managing any potential withdrawal symptoms under the care of medical professionals [1].

Seeking help from a healthcare provider or mental health professional who specializes in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor can be beneficial if drug use is causing problems. These professionals have the knowledge and experience to assess the severity of addiction, provide appropriate interventions, and create tailored treatment plans to address individual needs [4].

Treatment Options Available

Effective treatment for addiction often involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support. The specific treatment options vary depending on the type of addiction and individual circumstances. Here are some commonly utilized approaches:

Treatment Options

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Medications are used first to treat addictions to substances like opioids, alcohol, and nicotine. Medications help reduce cravings, prevent relapse, and support recovery.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Therapy is important in addiction recovery. Approaches like talking with a counselor, changing negative thoughts, committing to change, earning rewards for positive behaviors, and getting support from the community are commonly used to help people overcome addiction challenges.
  • Support Groups: Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer a place to connect with others who understand and give encouragement and guidance during recovery.
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation: These programs provide intense treatment in a residential setting. They offer structure, around-the-clock medical and therapeutic support, and various services to help individuals beat addiction.
  • Outpatient Programs: These programs provide treatment and support while letting individuals stay at home. They offer flexibility for attending therapy, counseling, and support groups while keeping up with daily life.

It's important to note that the most effective treatment approach may vary depending on individual needs and the nature of the addiction. Consulting with a healthcare professional specializing in addiction treatment can help determine the most appropriate course of action.

By seeking professional support and exploring the available treatment options, individuals struggling with addiction can pave the way for recovery and a healthier, more fulfilling life. Remember, recovery is a journey that requires commitment, perseverance, and support, but it is absolutely possible to overcome addiction with the right help.

Recovery Process

Recovering from addiction is a challenging journey that requires determination, commitment, and support. The recovery process involves various stages, including managing relapse and implementing strategies for long-term recovery.

Managing Relapse

Relapse, or a return to substance use after a period of abstinence, is often considered a part of the addiction recovery process. It does not mean that treatment has failed, as addiction is a chronic condition. Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. Recognizing and understanding the stages of relapse can help individuals intervene early and implement preventative measures.

Stages of Relapse

Relapse is typically viewed as a process rather than an event, with distinct stages. These stages include:

  1. Emotional Relapse: During this stage, individuals may not be actively thinking about using substances, but their emotions and behaviors can set the stage for a potential relapse. Signs of emotional relapse include isolation, bottling up emotions, and neglecting self-care.
  2. Mental Relapse: In the mental relapse stage, individuals may experience conflicting thoughts about using substances. They may romanticize past substance use and begin to consider using again. Cravings and triggers become more prominent during this stage.
  3. Physical Relapse: Physical relapse refers to the actual act of using substances. It is the final stage of the relapse process. However, it's important to note that relapse can be prevented or interrupted at any stage.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms at each stage of relapse is crucial for early intervention and relapse prevention. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, therapists, and support groups can provide the necessary guidance and tools to navigate through the challenges of relapse.

Strategies for Long-Term Recovery

Long-term recovery from addiction requires ongoing commitment and the implementation of strategies to support a healthy and substance-free lifestyle. Here are some strategies that can aid in long-term recovery:

  1. Therapy: Therapy plays a significant role in addiction recovery. Approaches such as motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy, contingency management, and community reinforcement approaches are commonly used to help individuals overcome addiction challenges. Therapy provides a safe space to explore underlying issues, develop coping mechanisms, and learn new skills to prevent relapse.
  2. Medication-Assisted Treatment: Various medications are utilized to aid in addiction recovery. Medications like disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate are used for alcohol use disorders, while methadone and buprenorphine are utilized in opioid dependence treatment. These medications help prevent relapses, reduce cravings, and support individuals in their recovery journey [5].
  3. Support Systems: Building a strong support system is essential for long-term recovery. This includes seeking support from family, friends, and support groups. Peer support programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide a supportive community where individuals can share experiences, gain encouragement, and learn from others who have successfully overcome addiction challenges.
  4. Lifestyle Changes: Making positive lifestyle changes can contribute to long-term recovery. This includes adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, practicing stress management techniques (such as meditation or yoga), and finding healthy outlets for emotions and stress.

Remember, recovery is a personal journey, and each individual's path may be unique. It's important to find the strategies and approaches that work best for you. With the right support, treatment, and determination, long-term recovery from addiction is possible.

Support Systems in Recovery

When it comes to overcoming addiction, having a strong support system is vital for successful recovery. Support can come in many forms, including social support and participation in peer support programs. These support systems play a crucial role in helping individuals navigate the challenges of addiction and maintain their recovery.

Role of Social Support

Social support has been identified as a critical factor in sustained recovery for individuals with substance use disorders. Research shows that those with stronger social support networks tend to remain in treatment longer and have better recovery outcomes, with a decreased likelihood of returning to substance use.

Supportive family relationships have a significant impact on recovery. Families that encourage reduced substance use are associated with a decreased risk of recurrence of substance use following treatment. Family support that is focused on abstinence predicts greater abstinence from substances like cocaine.

Close friends and peer groups also play a crucial role in addiction recovery. Networks that support abstinence are more likely to yield better treatment outcomes compared to those that support continued substance use. It's important for individuals in recovery to surround themselves with friends and peers who encourage a healthy, substance-free lifestyle. Maintaining friendships with individuals engaged in negative behaviors can increase the risk of relapse.

Peer Support Programs

Participating in peer support programs can provide individuals with addiction an additional layer of support. Mutual aid groups, such as 12-Step groups, have been shown to be beneficial for individuals in recovery. These groups provide abstinence-specific support and are associated with short- and long-term abstinence outcomes. Attendance at 12-Step groups has been shown to increase treatment engagement and improve overall substance use disorder outcomes.

Peer support programs offer a sense of community and understanding, as individuals can share their experiences, challenges, and successes with others who have gone through similar struggles. Being part of a supportive community can provide individuals with a sense of belonging and encouragement, which can be instrumental in maintaining long-term recovery.

By tapping into social support networks and participating in peer support programs, individuals in recovery can enhance their chances of successful and sustained recovery. These support systems provide a foundation of understanding, encouragement, and accountability that can make a significant difference in the journey toward overcoming addiction.

Resources for Recovery

When it comes to overcoming addiction, access to appropriate resources and support systems is crucial. In the journey towards recovery, individuals can benefit from a range of helplines, services, and online support groups. These resources provide essential assistance, guidance, and a sense of community during challenging times.

Helplines and Services

In Canada, there are various helplines and services available to individuals struggling with substance use. These resources can be accessed nationwide and provide invaluable support. The following helpline numbers are available for anyone, anywhere in the country:

  • 1-800-668-6868: A helpline providing assistance for a wide range of substance use issues.
  • 1-855-562-2262: A helpline dedicated to providing support for substance use.

Additionally, other contact methods, such as online forms, emails, texts, chats, and calls to different helplines, pharmacies, and support services, are available to ensure individuals can reach out in a manner that suits their needs and preferences.

These helplines and services offer valuable information, crisis intervention, counseling, and referrals to appropriate resources. They serve as a lifeline for individuals seeking help and guidance on their path to recovery.

Online Support Groups

Online support groups are another valuable resource for individuals in addiction recovery. These groups provide a sense of community, connection, and understanding, particularly during times when in-person support may be challenging or unavailable. Many online support groups exist, catering to various types of addiction and recovery journeys.

Engaging in online support groups offers individuals the opportunity to connect with others who have experienced similar challenges. Sharing experiences, insights, and coping strategies can be immensely beneficial. These groups can be particularly helpful for individuals who are seeking a supportive community while making lifestyle changes and forging new friendships.

Online support groups are accessible 24/7, allowing individuals to seek and provide support whenever they need it. They can be a valuable complement to other forms of support, providing additional encouragement and motivation throughout the recovery process.

By utilizing helplines, services, and online support groups, individuals can access the necessary guidance and support to navigate their journey towards recovery. These resources play a crucial role in providing assistance, fostering a sense of belonging, and empowering individuals in their pursuit of a healthier and addiction-free life.


Contact Us

Leora Behavioral Health offers a comprehensive addiction treatment program to help you get your life back on track. Our trained professionals will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, reach out to Leora Behavioral Health today.

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