“What we’re proposing here is that there’s an association with reward and pleasure with the use of these drugs, even with just thinking about them… People get conditioned to producing these responses with drugs… It’s a primary response… They always want more, and they’re out of control.”
~Dr. Charles P. O’Brien, M.D., PhD, Vice Chair of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
One of the biggest reasons why people in recovery from an addictive disorder often relapse is because of their response to anything that they may have previously associated with drinking and/or drug use. Some examples might include:
- Bars/Liquor stores
- Empty alcohol bottles
- Drug paraphernalia
- Depictions of substance use in a movie or on TV
- Events where drinking is common—sporting events, parties, etc.
- Associating with old drinking and drug buddies
Such cues, or “triggers”, can invoke strong reactions from the recovering addict:
- Powerful cravings for drugs or alcohol
- Accelerated heart rate
- Increased skin conductance
- Decreased skin temperature
It’s important to understand that these responses are NOT by choice—most are in fact autonomic. This serves as evidence of how addiction causes changes within the brain. Because of these changes, a person is, in effect, “held hostage” by their addiction. The only way to escape is through prolonged abstinence, professional treatment and support, and dedicated lifestyle changes (see part 2).
Lasting Recovery is one of the most-respected outpatient drug and alcohol rehabs in San Diego. By addressing the disease of addiction on multiple levels, Lasting Recovery gives struggling substance abusers and their families the tools they need to craft a sober, safe, and stable life.