Every once in a while, you’ll often hear someone claim that they “cured” themselves of an addiction. Whether it’s an addiction to heroin, gambling, nicotine, caffeine, or whatever else that we know is difficult to get off of, some people claim that they got off it, usually through a rehabilitation program, but sometimes through just sheer determination.
How accurate are these claims? To answer the question straight away- yes. Addiction, or as it’s more accurately called — substance use disorder — is a condition from which people have been cured. However, to get a more realistic understanding of substance treatment and rehab, we must first understand what being “cured” actually means.
You might have noticed that the word “cure” is not used very often in mainstream medical circles. This is because there is a small but distinct difference between recovering from an illness and getting cured of it.
The Merriam-Webster’s medical dictionary defines cure as stopping a disease or illness entirely. Recovery is somewhat ambiguous, and is defined as an “act of regaining or returning towards a normal or healthy state.”
In other words, to be cured means you are in a state where the disease does not affect you. Recovery, on the other hand, is where the condition still exists, but the patient has learned to cope and can lead a full life.
As far as illnesses go, complete cures are incredibly rare. Aside from a few key prominent diseases such as smallpox and polio, cures are far in between. What we could expect for most illnesses, including substance use disorder, is for them to be treated and controlled. In other words, we can expect people to recover from the disease.
Most people who claim to have been cured of a substance use disorder, in all likelihood, made a full recovery. Don’t get us wrong — people completely can and do get cured of this illness.
You probably know at least a few people who have quit cigarettes or even drugs and alcohol who, at least, claim they have no cravings anymore. However, you likely know more people who have stopped regularly using those substances who still crave them every once in a while.
As you might already know, substance use disorder is a condition that not only resists treatment but also compels the person affected by it to keep doing the thing that makes them ill. A large part of this is because of how the disease causes the brain to rewire itself so that not having the substance makes the individual uncomfortable.
The brain takes significantly longer than other parts of the body to heal. During the brain’s healing period, cravings will continue to be present, making sustained treatment and recovery an ongoing challenge. For some people, this only takes a few weeks or months before their cravings go away. For others, it may take an entire lifetime, or not at all.
This may be because the brain does not necessarily go back to how it was before the person started using the substance. Instead, it heals by creating new connections that bypass the ones created by substance use. Every person also heals differently, and some may have a much tougher time than others.
This difference may be down to genetics, how previous trauma has changed the brain, the type of therapeutic intervention a person receives in treatment, or all of these things in combination.
Virtually every case of substance use disorder, no matter how severe, could be treated to the point that it is not a major hindrance to someone’s life. If you are currently in recovery or are considering entering a rehab program, here are a few things that will improve your long-term outcomes.
1.) Appreciate small wins
People with substance use disorder can often feel pessimistic, especially early in the recovery process. While it’s difficult to choose how to feel about something in these circumstances, it’s still important to know that every small step is important. Even something as basic as understanding that one has a problem can be the thing that sets someone out on the road to recovery.
2.) Address your mental health holistically
Co-occurring mental health conditions are quite common among people with substance use disorder. Making sure that these are treated typically improves outcomes for the substance use disorder as well.
3.) Attend therapy regularly
Regularly attending group and individual therapy is a key predictor for positive outcomes for substance use disorder. Be sure to try out a selection of evidence-based therapeutic approaches when possible to have a better idea of what works best in your case.
4.) Try to avoid substance use triggers
Substance use triggers are experiences, people, objects, situations, and places that elicit cravings for one’s substance of choice. If your substance use triggers are too difficult to overcome, consider entering a residential program, joining a sober living community, or temporarily moving out of your hometown for outpatient treatment. Do these may reduce the triggers you encounter during the critical first few months off of your substances of choice.
While cures for “addiction” are by no means guaranteed, a full recovery is almost always possible, given the right program and support from loved ones. By understanding what is meant by “cure” and “recovery”, we can set our expectations better when we or a family member enters rehab.
If you or someone you love needs help recovering from substance use disorder, our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers is ready to help. Get in touch for a full listing of rehab and treatment centers in North Texas and beyond. Stay healthy and be well!