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Addiction Therapy

 What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a mental and physical illness that is widely recognized by medical professionals as a disease. It does not happen instantly, but over time, with consistent exposure to drugs and/or alcohol. The larger the doses of substances taken and more potent the drug, the more quickly that addiction tends to develop.

Addiction usually develops by hijacking the part of the brain that produces feelings of pleasure and well-being. The brain releases various chemicals to help modulate behavior, and these circulate temporarily before returning to receptors. Drugs block these receptors, allowing pleasure chemicals to pile up and stay active longer than they should. The problem with this is that over time, the receptors lose their function, and the body comes to see the drugs or alcohol as necessary for survival.

In Massachusetts, the Bureau of Substance Abuse reports that heroin addiction is by far the biggest challenge the state faces. Alcohol and opiate pain pills are next, with cocaine and marijuana addiction not far behind. Abuse of stimulants other than cocaine is still relatively rare in Massachusetts, but a small spike in the use of meth has been seen in certain areas.

Addiction therapy is a vital component of the recovery process, and some form of it will be necessary to achieve lasting sobriety. There are a number of different types of therapy, but individuals going through a recovery program will generally engage in some mix of one-on-one counseling with a mental health professional and group meetings with peers.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment

The basic overall structure of treatment can be broken up into two groups: inpatient and outpatient. These basically just determine where the patient resides during their recovery program. Inpatient treatment means they are living at a treatment facility, while outpatient treatment means they live at their normal home while continuing to attend appointments and meetings.

Inpatient treatment is usually more appropriate for serious addictions and for the early stages of recovery. The advantage of inpatient treatment is that the patient can focus entirely on their recovery without distraction in an environment that reduces their triggers as much as possible. The disadvantage is that it carries a significant cost, sometimes out of the patient’s reach if they do not have insurance.

Outpatient treatment is best to transition to when the patient has been in successful recovery for some time and feels they have control of their cravings. They can continue to attend medical and counseling appointments if needed while living a more normalized life. Patients also often continue with group meetings for years even during outpatient treatment.

The Components of Addiction Therapy

All therapy begins with an initial period of detox. This lasts up to a week, and during this time the patient is overseen 24/7 by medical staff who intervene when necessary to get them through their withdrawal symptoms and cravings. After detox, patients may enter into one or more programs of therapy.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is another term for counseling or psychotherapy. The patient meets privately with a mental health professional to talk about their lives, their emotions and their challenges. The goal is to help the patient come to a realization of what the root causes of their addiction are. With a better knowledge of themselves, patients can make an inventory of triggers, influences and situations that contribute to their substance use so that they can avoid them. Patients also learn techniques to manage negative emotions such as stress and anger.

Group Therapy

In group therapy, a small group of clients meet with a mental health professional. These meetings provide patients with the opportunity for peer support, and also may contain activities that can help them work through their issues.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is similar to group therapy, except that group members are all family and loved ones of the patient. While family therapy can help the family to cope with fallout from the patient’s substance abuse, the primary intent is to uncover interpersonal dynamics that may be contributing to and supporting the addiction.

Therapy is part of an ongoing strategy of relapse prevention that may also include medical treatments, such as regular doses of drugs that help to keep the patient from using.

Alternative Treatment Programs

Some patients are seeing success with neurofeedback, a therapy process in which an EEG machine is used to actually directly alter brain waves. Meditation and mindfulness practices are also popular among those in recovery. Another form of therapy that is growing in popularity is “pet therapy”, in which patients care for an animal to develop a bond with something outside of themselves. A very wide range of therapy options are available in Massachusetts.

What Happens After Addiction Therapy?

Recovery is a process and not an event. During a successful therapy program, patients learn a variety of tools helpful for maintaining long-term sobriety. Generally speaking, the first five years of recovery are the most difficult. If patients can stay sober for these years, their chances of avoiding relapse dramatically increases. Although, engaging in support groups and other aftercare programs is almost essential for continued success.