How Science Can Help Your Loved One Overcome Substance Abuse

Posted: Feb 23 2018, 2:09pm CST | by , Updated: Mar 1 2018, 8:48am CST, in News | Latest Science News

How Science Can Help Your Loved One Overcome Substance Abuse
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If you have a friend or loved one who is dealing with substance abuse problems, you should know that they are not alone and can get the help that they need. There are a variety of drug detox centers and other proven methods for overcoming the tragedy of addiction or reliance upon unhealthy and illegal substances, and many of them utilize the science of addiction to help them treat people in their care. As a friend or family member, you are probably looking for ways in which you can be supportive and helpful while the person that you care about is working on overcoming their substance abuse problems. By learning and understanding the science that surrounds addiction, you too can help your loved one overcome their dependency and get their life back on track.

The issue of substance abuse is one that continues to grow every day, even as individuals work hard to overcome it. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as of 2007, the use of illicit drugs costs the United States 193 billion dollars every year, with only 11 billion dollars of that going to health care. That's because drug use affects all areas of life, not just medical or physical. Drug abuse takes a toll on one's ability to work and pay bills as well as making it more likely that one will end up in the criminal justice system. Now that the United States is facing an opioid epidemic, the numbers have gotten even more shocking. By 2013, abuse of prescription drugs alone cost the United States another 26 billion on health care costs and another 78.5 billion dollars on other costs, such as prison, treatment centers, law enforcement, lost wages, and other expenses.

What does science say about substance abuse? First of all, the science behind drug abuse makes it clear that drugs bring about real, physical, and lasting changes to the human body. While drugs do damage to a great deal of the body, including the heart, liver, kidneys, stomach, and skin, the worst damage of substance abuse is done inside the human brain. This is especially true for individuals who are dependent on opioids, whether from legal prescription given to them by their doctor or from illicit opiates. The science behind overcoming drug addiction and dependency is based on understanding how these drugs affect the brain and how individuals, in concert with medical and treatment professionals, can heal themselves neurologically. Fortunately, it can be done.

No matter what drug is causing addiction, one of the key elements to overcome is the brain's creation of dopamine. All addiction starts when a substance is used that increases the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. This neurotransmitter is responsible for the experience of pleasure, which is normally associated with the "reward" area of our brains. For example, if your favorite sports team wins a game, your brain naturally produces a small amount of dopamine when you experience happiness. What drugs do is artificially stimulate the production of dopamine, which not only overwhelms your ability to experience pleasure from non-drug activities but also lowers your brain's ability to make its own dopamine over time. For this reason, people struggling with substance abuse are often depressed and need time to relearn the basics of living without their drug of choice.

When in treatment, your loved one may be given medication to help them through their detoxification process. This medication may be used in the short term to help them overcome their physical dependences and lessen the trauma of going through withdrawal. After the detoxification process has been completed, they may be removed from medication entirely. In some cases, however, medication is used long-term to help to treat underlying mental and psychological issues that may have led to the initial addiction. For example, depression can lead to alcoholism or substance abuse in many people. In fact, one study found that 27 percent of people suffering from depression also struggle with substance abuse. This is referred to as a "dual diagnosis" and it's crucial that people be given the treatment they need for their underlying psychological condition if they ever hope to remain drug-free.

Addiction treatment has come a long way in the last decades. The new science surrounding the brain, addiction, and mental health now makes it easier than ever to fight back against the scourge of addiction. With help, your loved one can succeed.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Manfred "Luigi" Lugmayr () is the founding Chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 25 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets, tech and online shopping. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology news and tech and toy shopping hub.
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