Overcoming an addiction

Overcoming an addiction is not easy. But it can be done. Treatment will take on different specifics depending on the particular habit or substance used. But all treatments share one characteristic: they must be long-term in nature. Wende Wood and Sam Waldner agree that an addiction is a chronic disorder and that there is no quick fix.

Wood emphasizes that there is a difference between "detox" and treatment - detox will clear the substance of use out of one's system, but it is ongoing treatment that is needed, including seeking group or individual counselling, learning new coping skills, and, if possible, changing one's social environment (e.g., changing friends or moving).

A medication called naltrexone (ReVia®) is not effective in reducing the long-term use of opioids even when it is combined with psychosocial support such as counselling or self-help groups. The use of methadone (Methadose®) or buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone®) to assist in treating addiction to opioids (e.g., heroin, codeine, or oxycodone) is by far the most effective therapy available. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health believes that it can be used safely in a supervised program. Nonetheless, replacement therapy with methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone is not a "cure" and, like all treatments for addiction, it requires a commitment from the person involved.

Waldner emphasizes that while addictions are chronic in nature, they are highly treatable. While the problem behaviour may cease with treatment, he explains, the underlying disease of addiction will remain and, as part of it, so will the denial around having the disease. Thus, the key to recovery is to continue to believe one needs help so that one will continue to seek help. Otherwise, one risks relapse. According to Waldner, in the scope of the 12-step model, this means "keep coming back" - that is, continue to attend meetings as part of ongoing treatment. He describes the situation as akin to that of a person with diabetes: while the condition may be brought under control with ongoing treatment, the disease does not go away and the person must actively maintain his or her recovery.

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