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September is National Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Awareness Month

Understanding Drug Addiction and How to Help

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Whether navigating treatment options, lending a caring ear or picking up the broken pieces after a relapse, helping someone cope with a drug addiction can be a scary and frustrating challenge. Here’s a look at what to do to help take care of yourself and your loved one.

Drug addiction may cause your loved one to be compulsive and difficult to control, even if they are fully aware of how their actions bring harmful consequences. Drug addiction is a complicated disease. Quitting takes more than good intentions or willpower. Since drugs change how the brain works, quitting is very difficult, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Understanding how drug abuse works means understanding how the brain works. We all have a “reward circuit” in the brain that encourages us to keep doing actions that make us happy, like eating, getting physical activity or enjoying time with family. However, when a person takes drugs, their “reward circuit” is hit with a chemical messenger called dopamine, which plays a role in how we feel pleasure. Everyone makes dopamine naturally in the body but when a person does drugs, they feel a surge of dopamine.

The good news is that drug addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. Common treatments for drug abuse involve:

  • Psychotherapy;
  • Medication; and
  • Support groups.

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Since there are so many options for services, calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357) is recommended. This free, confidential, 24/7 information service number (available in both English and Spanish) provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations in your area.

Your loved one’s addiction may take a toll on your mental health and finances. To help avoid burning out, you should build your support system. Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk to someone;
  • Practice self-care; and
  • Find a financial advisor.

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. However it is treatable when the proper care is obtained.

For information about understanding drug use and addiction, visit here

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