“You’re not alone.” These words are often found on signs posted at support group meetings, and the message is an important one. A substance use disorder can bring even the strongest among us to their knees, and getting support is the best way to fight back against addiction and get back on your feet.
To give you an idea about the pitfalls of going it alone when you’re battling addiction, the team here at Northshore Health pulled together a few points to consider. Whether you’re struggling with an alcohol use disorder, an opioid use disorder, or any other substance use disorder, addiction is an extremely tough obstacle to overcome.
The addicted brain
The first point we want to make is that when you’re addicted, the way your brain functions has been altered. Your brain operates with an extensive network of neurons that communicate with each other using neurotransmitters and receptors. This is a basic explanation of a very complex process, but we find it’s sufficient in explaining how addiction alters your brain.
When you have a use disorder, the substance disrupts how your neurons communicate, and you’re left with abnormal messaging. For example, this dysfunctional messaging can overstimulate your basal ganglia, which is your reward center. It's this overstimulation that leads to the uncontrollable cravings and the inability to stop using that are the hallmarks of addiction.
The imbalance in neurotransmitters also reinforces the behaviors that are associated with your addiction by releasing feel-good hormones like dopamine when you engage in or anticipate these behaviors.
The alterations in your brain run deeper than these simple explanations, but our point is that your brain is wired to do everything in its power to keep you from stopping using or quitting drinking. So, if you want to rely on your will to battle addiction, your will and the addiction wage a fight in your brain, and addiction has the upper hand.
Withdrawal — a huge challenge
Further cementing your brain’s preference for continuing the addiction, your body and brain can react badly to stopping drugs or alcohol, creating withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are tough and range from muscle aches to tremors and a host of other unpleasant side effects.
All too often, these symptoms, combined with the cravings in your brain, are enough to send you back to using or drinking in short order.
The huge benefits of getting help
What addiction specialists like us offer is a much kinder and gentler path toward sobriety than going it alone. First, we offer medically supervised detoxes to help you overcome the first challenge of getting clean — dependence.
From there, we offer a number of different medication-assisted treatments that tackle addiction, as these medications help to create healthier neural pathways and block problematic ones.
To support these critical medical services, we offer recovery support services, which provide (or point you toward) mental health care, support groups, and nutrition counseling.
By availing yourself of these important aids, your chances of taking charge of your life again are much higher than if you try to do it on your own.
To enlist the help you need to overcome addiction, please contact our office in Bothell, Washington, to set up a consultation.