The decision whether or not to seek treatment for substance abuse can be a difficult one for you or someone you love. People considering treatment have many questions:
“Given how expensive it is, is it worth the cost?”
“Will it be helpful?”
“Will being in an environment with other drug users just make things worse?”
“Do I or my loved one really have an addiction?”
These, and others, are important questions to be asking. The decision to seek treatment is an intensely personal one, and it often must arise from the person seeking treatment realizing that he or she needs help.
Without treatment, a person who is abusing substances is at risk for experiencing many different negative consequences. Continued substance abuse can lead to poor job performance, demotion, and loss of one’s job. People who abuse drugs often find themselves unable to find work, and long-term unemployment can have serious, devastating effects of its own, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even bankruptcy or other severe financial consequences. Substance use also affects individuals’ relationships and, without proper care, it can force strained relationships towards a breaking point. Separation, divorce, loss of child custody, dissolution of friendships, and social isolation are all possible, and even likely, outcomes of continued substance abuse. Furthermore, drug abuse can negatively affect a person’s body. Depending on the substance or substances he or she is abusing, a person may experience liver or kidney damage, cardiovascular problems, tooth decay, brain damage, cognitive impairment, and an increased risk of seizure, stroke, or coma. People who abuse drugs intravenously are at a much higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and hepatitis C through sharing needles or using dirty needles. Furthermore, individuals are also at risk of injury due to drug related violence or as a result of activities undertaken while intoxicated, such as driving while drunk. With almost all substances of abuse, the risk of a potentially fatal overdose is always present.
Given the severe risks of leaving drug abuse untreated, it seems clear that treatment is the way to go. With prompt and effective professional treatment, it is possible for individuals to avoid or minimize many of the consequences listed above. However, in addition to escaping these detrimental effects of drug abuse, treatment can also offer a number of benefits. Some of these benefits can include:
Medically-monitored detoxification services
When a person abuses drugs for long period of time, his or her body becomes accustomed to the presence of those drugs such that if the person were to stop using those drugs, his or her body can experience something akin to shock as it readjusts to functioning without the presence of the drug. This readjustment period, known as withdrawal, often comes with a host of uncomfortable and painful symptoms. If a person has been using certain substances heavily for a long period of time, withdrawal can even be a dangerous and sometimes fatal process if it is not supervised by a qualified medical team. Many substance abuse treatment programs offer detoxification, or detox, services where a person can withdraw safely from substances of abuse under the supervision of an experienced medical team. The medical team can monitor the person’s progress through the withdrawal process, ensure his or her safety, and administer medications as necessary to alleviate certain symptoms of withdrawal.
Unfortunately, the quickest way to relieve symptoms of withdrawal is to simply take more of the drug that the person had been abusing. If the person tries to withdraw from substances without professional help, he or she is at a much higher risk for relapsing during withdrawal simply to relieve these painful symptoms. Within a residential treatment program, a person will not have access to drugs, and thus the temptation to relapse will not impair his or her ability to withdraw successfully from his or her drug of choice. Individuals with substance use disorders have often learned to use drugs to deal with stress, and during residential treatment, these individuals are in a drug-free environment. As a result, they are forced to learn new, healthier coping skills that can enable them to achieve lifelong sobriety.
While in treatment, individuals are under the care and supervision of highly trained professional treatment teams. These professionals have extensive specialized training in helping people overcome substance use disorders, and they often have years or decades of experience in treatment settings.
One of the factors that can trap individuals in cycles of substance abuse is the fact that the people with whom they spend time are also often abusing substances. The influence of one’s peers is powerful, and during substance abuse treatment, this peer influence can be used to encourage sobriety instead of drug use. During treatment, individuals are surrounded by others who are like-minded in their pursuit of health and lifelong sobriety, and this positive peer influence can reinforce a person’s desire and ability to gain long-term freedom from substance abuse.