A big question when it comes to recovery methods and programs is “Is long-term maintenance required in recovery?” The answer is entirely dependent on the person, the severity of his or her addiction, and how he or she goes about treatment.
“In a very small percentage of time, I think a long-term maintenance program is necessary.” Says John Grab, a Business Development and Outreach coordinator for A Better Today Recovery Services. What he’s talking about here is long-term use of medications that help to maintain the urges and quiet the voice in our heads telling us to use drugs.
Treatment for an opiate addiction can be a miserable experience, even without the physical harm and medical danger they can make you wish you were dying. As such there are very successful drugs, like Vivitrol and Naltrexone, that can be used to help reduce the cravings for opiates and they have shown to even be somewhat successful with alcohol withdrawal.
Rewiring Our Rewired Brains
One of the reasons addiction is classified as a disease is because of the way narcotics and alcohol dependency rewires our brain. The brain becomes conditioned to go back to the substance we’re addicted to when we have a bad day or are over-stressed as a result of repeated use of the substance.
As a result of long term substance abuse our minds go back to wanting to get high for almost any instance: celebration, depression, anxiety, any reason that used to cause you to want to use can now be a trigger for relapse. This is why drugs like Vivitrol and Naltrexone (which is simply an oral version of Vivitrol) can be so effective because they can quiet the voice that’s telling you to go and get high.
Withdrawals are a result of our brain being wired to believe it is in need of a certain substance and that substance is no longer being regularly supplied. Alcohol withdrawals can cause physical harm and put you in “medical danger” whereas withdrawals from opiates may not be physically harmful, but it can do a great deal of harm against your mind and emotions.
The Voice in Your Head
Drug and alcohol addiction can be, in some ways, compared to having a song stuck in your head. At first the song starts up and all you have to do is sing, hum, or whistle another tune for a minute to get the song out, but eventually the song comes back. Every time the song returns it becomes increasingly harder and harder to kick it out of your head, and it’s no longer easy to remove the annoying tune.
“Imagine trying to focus on … unresolved stuff when your head won’t shut off about wanting to get high … Then imagine there’s this drug I can take that will turn the volume down on my head. Why wouldn’t we use that option?”
These drugs can minimize the withdrawal symptoms and help us to bring our brain back to where it was before we rewired it with substance abuse. This is important because we absolutely should be using these methods in certain situations, they are “absolutely invaluable methods of helping them through that process.”