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Controlled use is often a goal for someone with an addiction. We are, however, talking about drugs with a high addictive potential. Once these have been taken in excess there is still a “footprint” in the brain (the so-called reward circuits) that is reactivated by each new use. This is why it is not advisable to take even a small dose, since it is very likely that this will result in relapse.
No-one chooses to have an addiction. It is the result of how our brains function, in very specific areas that are affected by chronic drug use. Drugs produce physical and chemical changes in the brain.
Social factors put people in contact with drugs and other substances, but it is individual factors that determine someone’s vulnerability to addiction. Only some people exposed to addictive substances will develop an addiction: a family history of addiction (genetic load) and the presence of other psychological illnesses are two of the best-known factors influencing vulnerability.
In principle, no. If a person with an addiction is abstinent and is correctly treated, their illness will remain stable. For this reason they can do any kind of job. Even so, there are jobs that are less suitable, especially those involving high levels of stress, constant exposure to high-risk situations, or which involve very irregular timetables (such as night life-related jobs).
Stimulant drinks containing caffeine, like coffee, colas and energy drinks can cause anxiety and affect sleep quality as well as the numbers of hours slept. For this reason, although you can drink coffee you should monitor your dose. You should not have more than a couple of drinks containing caffeine each day, bearing in mind that its effect lasts 8 hours and, therefore, these should not be drunk after 4 pm.
It is important to correctly follow the medication guidelines indicated by the psychiatrist, since we are talking about a chronic disorder. Sometimes, even though you “feel good”, you should be careful because this disorder fluctuates quite a lot and this thought can make us act recklessly. In addition, we are talking about drugs that have effects on the brain. Therefore, stopping suddenly could involve unwanted rebound effects. Whenever you have doubts about your medication, the best thing to do is to discuss it with your medical team, to work out the best alternative.
Situations, people and places associated with previous use are the most dangerous, as the brain remembers that this is where it used to consume the substance and the craving may appear. For example, for a person with an alcohol addiction, going to the bar where they used to drink or going out with the group of friends they used to drink with can be situations involving a high risk of relapse. In fact, studies show that avoiding high-risk situations is more effective than making a big effort and facing these situations with a lot of willpower.
Watching and listening to oneself is important to prevent these situations.
Ask yourself how you feel, what stage of recovery you are in, and what strength you have. For example, it is not the same to go years without taking the substance, bearing in mind different tools and coping skills, as it is when you are still in the detoxification period.
Avoiding dangerous situations is a safe alternative. When you cannot or do not want to avoid this, you can look for coping mechanisms. For example, ask a family member to go with you, tell other people that you are being treated for an addiction. If in doubt, say to yourself: “I'm not going this time, maybe next time I'll be better prepared”.
The likelihood of people with addictions committing suicide is much higher than in the normal population. It is important to understand that suicidal thoughts may appear in certain phases of the disorder, especially relapse stages where the person often feels bad and has little hope of succeeding. When a person or their relatives detect these thoughts, it is important to alert the patient’s health team so that they can take the necessary steps. We must remember that, no matter how much discomfort and despair a person feels at any given moment, especially during relapses, it is always temporary and will, sooner or later, get better. In contrast, the consequences of suicide are irreversible.
Moderate physical exercise is highly recommended for mental and physical health. Doing sport or walking for a minimum of 30 minutes a day can help us be less tense and anxious, feel more energetic, and increase our sense of well-being. If you have other health problems or are detoxifying, you should consult a health professional before you exercise.
Addiction is a chronic and recurrent disorder. For this reason, the treatment is long and prolonged follow-up is very important. However, individual circumstances must be taken into account. As a general rule, however, one should assume that the treatment will be temporary, although sometimes it may be better to continue it indefinitely.
However, it is not advisable to set yourself the goal of not taking medication. Your main objective must be your health and the prevention of relapses, regardless of whether it is necessary to take medication or not.
This is a medication prescribed to treat alcohol dependence, as part of a detoxification programme. The person must be motivated, so the treatment is carried out with the voluntary cooperation of the patient. It is important to have the social and family support that predisposes a person to quit alcohol. Antabuse causes a reaction that appears after drinking alcohol and involves a series of unpleasant physical effects. Antabuse helps sufferers increase their control so they do not drink impulsively.
It is always a good idea to have the help of healthcare professionals. Pharmaceuticals are used to aid detoxification (to prevent abstinence syndrome), although in some cases it is enough to isolate the toxic substance and wait for it to be completely eliminated, without the need for pharmacological treatment.
The first thing family members should do is to find out about the disease. They should adopt a sincere and responsible attitude towards the patient, through open conversation. Although the healthcare team can report on general addiction-related concepts, they will not discuss individual aspects of the disease with family members unless this has been directly authorised.
Both friends and family can play a key role in motivating people with drug problems to enter and stay in treatment programmes. If the patient’s family members or partner gets involved in their treatment, it can reinforce this and expand its benefits.
At home, the family and friends should avoid overprotection and hypervigilance, and excessively critical positions are not advisable. It is important to show sincere interest and support during the process. Good communication at home can, at various times throughout the disorder, help the person ask for help and support from their family.
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Substantiated information by:
Antoni Gual SoléHead of the Addictive Behavior Unit
Clara Oliveras Salvà
Hugo López Pelayo
Magalí AndreuPsychologistAddictive Behaviours Unit
Mireia Graell Gabriel
Pablo Barrio Giménez
Silvia MondónPsychiatristAddictive Behaviours Unit
Published: 16 September 2019
Updated: 16 September 2019
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