Psychological treatment addresses underlying mental and emotional factors that can either lead to addictive behaviors or reinforce an already existing predisposition to addiction. Common psychological “issues” such as trauma, anxiety, depression, and ADHD often play an important role in addictive processes. Treatment options include:
By Dario Martinez
Before defining addiction, it might be useful to clear up some common misconceptions:
Addiction is NOT a lack of willpower, a moral issue or a character defect.
Instead, addiction is a “biopsychosocial” condition that causes people to engage in compulsive behaviors, even when these behaviors create negative consequences. The term "biopsychosocial" means that there are three primary factors that contribute to addictive behaviors:
1. “Bio” refers to a person's physical biology and genetics
2. “Psycho” highlights psychological factors
3. “Social” refers to the environment and social systems that people belong to.
All three components are interrelated, and each person has a unique biopsychosocial makeup. When someone decides that they want stop engaging in an addictive behavior, their biopsychosocial makeup becomes an important consideration because for some people, addiction has strong roots in their biology while other people may use substances primarily to manage psychological pain. Developing a deeper understanding of someone’s biopsychosocial makeup helps us determine how to focus treatment and which treatment options will be most effective.
Here is a brief description of treatment options available within each of the three components:
To address social factors, we identify and attempt to minimize contact with “social systems” that promote addictive behaviors while simultaneously joining new systems that support stated recovery goals. The word “systems” refers to the complex web of groups and organizations that people belong to. Systems can be very personal (immediate family, circle of friends and support networks) or much more broad (cultural identity, gender identity and nationality).
The systems that a person belongs to can be used to either promote or block addictive behaviors. A person’s social network is a common example of a system that often promotes addictive behavior. When people decide they want to change their behavior, they often realize that they need to create an entirely new circle of friends. The same can sometimes be said for family systems. Options to address problematic social systems include:
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Biological focused treatment addresses physical issues that contribute to addiction. This includes a wide range of considerations: everything from sleep and diet to body composition and brain chemistry. Biological treatment might also look at genetic predisposition to addiction and other health concerns like high blood pressure that can be aggravated by addiction. Treatment options include:
Changes in diet
Drug tapers (Slowly weaning off of a substance with the support of a medical professional)
Inpatient hospital treatment to monitor potentially fatal side effects of detoxing or going “cold turkey”
Medications to do the following four things:
Lessen severity of cravings (ex: Wellbutrin reduces cravings for Tobacco)
Manage uncomfortable side effects of detox process
Remove euphoric feelings or “high” that accompanies substance use (ex: Naltrexone for Alcohol and Opiates)
Produce uncomfortable side affects when substance is used (ex: Antabuse makes people feel nauseous when they consume alcohol)