About Addiction and Recovery
What is addiction?
This term encompasses both dependence on and abuse of drugs usually taken voluntarily for the purpose of their effect on the central nervous system (usually referred to as intoxication or "high") or to prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms. These mental disorders form a subcategory of the substance-related disorders.
How do I know if I suffer from addiction?
There are many signs and symptoms of addiction – they can be emotional, physical, behavioral and spiritual. If you suspect you might have substance use disorder, you should see your physician for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
In addition, there are many people with a serious alcohol or other drug problem who are considered "high functioning" - often in denial because they continue to excel at work, have high status in the community or haven't had any legal or other serious problems. But there are often signs that something is not right. Read about the five tips for recognizing this problem in people who are still high functioning.
Am I addicted if I drink too much?
Not necessarily. Alcohol and other drug problems range greatly in severity, from mild problem drinking to severe, life-threatening chronic medical conditions. Many people with less serious problems are able to resolve them on their own, without professional help or recovery support groups. Those with more severe substance use disorders often have co-occurring conditions – other medical or psychiatric problems – and greater problem severity and complexity. (Source: W. White, Chronic Addiction and Recovery Management: Implications for Clinical Practice)
Why is addiction considered a chronic disease?
Medical experts have identified features of addiction that are common to other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. These include: (1) medical care can reduce the symptoms but cannot address the root cause of the disease; (2) lifestyle and behavioral changes are needed to maximize the treatment; and (3) ongoing care is needed to help prevent re-occurrence of symptoms.
Why is addiction called a brain disease?
Scientific research has found that addiction fundamentally changes the way a brain is wired – it’s structure and how it works. When the disease takes hold, changes in the brain erode a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, while sending highly intense impulses to take drugs. This helps explain the compulsive and destructive behavior around addiction.
What causes addiction?
Addiction is caused by a complex interaction of biological and environmental factors, and scientists are just beginning to understand the genetic variations that influence the development and progression of the disease. No single factor determines whether a person will develop an addiction.
How do you treat addiction?
Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be effectively treated and managed. Treatment approaches need to be tailored to each individual, given the wide variations in problem severity and related medical and psychiatric issues and social supports. There are many paths to recovery that can help individuals and families get well.
How can I decide on the best treatment for me or a family member?
You should visit with your physician or another health professional about the different options for treatment and recovery, including key issues to consider, and what might be appropriate for you or your loved one.
Do you have to go through a formal treatment program in order to recover?
Not always. Most people with an alcohol or other drug problem recover on their own, with the help of a personal support system or a 12 step program. However, individuals with more severe problems or additional medical issues may require an initial phase of formal treatment.
What is an assessment?
When someone seeks or is referred for help for a potential alcohol or drug problem, the first step is often an assessment by a professional, such as a health provider or social worker. An assessment is typically a standard set of questions, criteria or checklist that help the professional evaluate the person’s condition and determine the right level of treatment.
What is “detox”?
Some people with substance use disorder must go through an initial “detox” or detoxification phase before they can embark on a treatment plan. Detox is the process of getting alcohol or other drugs out of your system and becoming physically stable. This is almost always done under the care of a qualified medical professional.
What is a relapse?
A relapse is a return to alcohol or drug use after a drug-free period. Many people who suffer from substance use disorder will experience a relapse given the chronic nature of this disease. However, relapse is not inevitable.
Why do people relapse from addiction?
The chronic nature of addiction means that relapse is often possible. Relapse can be caused by a number of factors, including “reminder cues” that can trigger craving, emotional challenges and other issues. Vulnerability to relapse may depend on brain circuitry, social support systems and other factors.
However, relapse rates (how often symptoms recur) for addiction are similar to those for other chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma, which also have both physiological and behavioral components. (Source: NIDA)
Why can’t some people just stop using on their own?
For someone with substance use disorder, the urge to use alcohol or drugs can be as powerful as the need for air or water. The initial decision to take drugs or drink is mostly voluntary. However, when the disease takes hold, changes in the brain erode a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, while sending highly intense impulses to take drugs. This helps explain the compulsive and destructive behavior around addiction.
Do people have to “hit rock bottom” before they can successfully recover?
No. In fact, research shows that the sooner someone gets help, the more likely they are to have the tools and motivation to successfully recover.
What does it mean to “recover” from addiction?
Face It TOGETHER uses the definition of recovery that has been adopted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:"A process oof change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential."
What helps people stay in recovery?
This is a complex question and the answer depends in good part on the individual. Because of the chronic nature of substance use disorder, a key to sustaining recovery is ensuring you get ongoing support. This may include recovery check-ups, peer-based recovery groups, such as Twelve Step programs, or other recovery support services, such as coaching or telephone support.
“Recovery capital” also plays a major role in determining the success of someone’s recovery. Recovery capital includes the internal and external resources that someone can bring to bear on their recovery. It includes everything from physical resources, such as health insurance or housing, to human capital including education, problem-solving capabilities and social and family supports. Increases in recovery capital help sustain recovery and improve quality of life.
(Source: Recovery Capital: A Primer for Addiction Professionals, W.White and W. Cloud, 2008)
How can family members or friends help support someone in recovery?
Substance use disorder is a family disease. The disease often leaves families in chaos, with loved ones struggling to deal with many hardships. The most important thing you can do to help your loved one is focus on yourself. By getting yourself well, and learning about the disease, you can begin to provide the right support for your loved one.
Why are you “in recovery” from addiction and not “recovered”?
“In recovery” or “recovering” are often used within the recovery community because these terms reflect the nature of recovery as a dynamic process or journey. They also communicate the idea of progress and commitment. However, there are some people in the recovery community who advocate using the term “recovered” to describe those in long-term recovery.
Do 12-step programs help with recovery?
There are many paths to recovery, but research shows that 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, can be a powerful tool in helping to sustain recovery. This is true for a wide variety of people, including women and minorities. Twelve-step groups provide a strong support network for those in recovery from substance use disorder, as well as for family members.
What is the “Face It TOGETHER Model”?
Our model is an innovative approach to transforming the way communities deal with substance use disorder. The model is defined as a “world-class, private sector financed system of care that broadens the reach of and builds sustainability into traditional recovery models by delivering value propositions to the private sector and by eliminating psychological barriers.”
Face It TOGETHER is determined to become the national model for recovery awareness and system transformation, much like Susan G. Komen for the Cure has done so powerfully for breast cancer.
What are the benefits of the Face It TOGETHER Model?
The Face It TOGETHER model is focused on the goals of dramatically improving quality through system change and increasing reach through awareness. Because of the unique private-sector focus, the model builds long-term financial sustainability into the local recovery system. And because of the emphasis on eliminating stigma and shame through an awareness program, more people are empowered to get help.
Why does Face It TOGETHER use the term “addiction” and not alcoholism and/or other terms?
There are deeply embedded stigmas around addiction, often reinforced by the words we use to talk about and describe this disease. We are committed to avoiding labels and using language that emphasizes the person before the disorder. Check out Kevin Kirby's blog on the importance of language in the field of addiction and this disease.
Does Face It TOGETHER focus on all addictions?
Our primary focus is on substance use disorder as it relates to alcohol and other drugs, including illicit street drugs and prescription medications.
How can I get involved in the Face It TOGETHER movement?
There are many ways in join our movement – spread the word, donate or become an advocate for our model in your own community.
How can I get my employer involved in Face It TOGETHER?
If you are in one of our Affiliate communities, please contact the local organization to learn about getting your employer involved in our workplace program. Otherwise, contact us at the national organization for more information.
How is Face It TOGETHER funded?
Face It TOGETHER is primarily funded through private philanthropy, partnerships and private sector donations. Our Affiliate organizations may also have additional funding sources. Every dollar counts. Please DONATE now to Face It TOGETHER.
Doesn’t the Face It TOGETHER Awareness Program violate the tradition of anonymity in 12 step programs?
We are very supportive of the traditions of 12-step groups, and their role in helping millions of Americans stay in recovery. However, to help remove stigma and shame around substance use disorder, Face It TOGETHER is committed to bringing this disease out of the darkness and into the light. To do this, we believe it’s important to show that this disease affects real people from all walks of life.