Alcohol and other Drug (AOD) Addiction is a chronic brain disease, often characterized by relapse, which causes compulsive AOD seeking and use/abuse, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her. Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for many people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs, regardless of the initial reason the person started drinking or using.
Fortunately, treatments are available to help people counter powerful disruptive effects often present in AOD addiction. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications with Cognitive/behavioral therapy (CBT) is a positive method to ensure success for most patients. Treatment approaches that are tailored to each patient’s drug abuse patterns (and drug preferences, since some are stronger and some are weaker) and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a meaning, purposeful life, without AOD.
Similar to other chronic, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, drug addiction can be managed successfully. As with other chronic diseases, it is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin using/abusing AOD again. Relapse DOES NOT; however, signal treatment failure—rather, relapse many times indicates that a treatment plan should be reassessed and that an alternative treatment intervention/level of care change is needed to help the addict sustain recovery.