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When you’ve developed an addiction to drugs or alcohol it’s considered a chronic condition. That means it’s a health issue you’ll need to manage for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be visiting addiction treatment centers on a regular basis your entire life. But it does mean you’ll need to continuously practice self-care and may need to utilize therapy at times to prevent a relapse. 

What Makes Addiction a Chronic Disease

We are just beginning to realize the complexity of addiction. Research over the last few decades has revealed that alcohol and drug use has a profound impact on the brain. It’s so profound it changes the brain’s structure and how it functions. Because of this, addiction is a chronic disease. More specifically, it’s a chronic brain disease. 

Essentially, drug use affects neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine is the key element in our brain’s reward system. Drug use increases dopamine production, which encourages more drug use. This disruption in dopamine production intensifies with continued use to the point the brain isn’t able to generate dopamine without the presence of the drug being used. It creates a dependency that makes it near impossible for a person to control. Using drugs becomes a compulsive act fueled by the need to get more dopamine. 

Drug use also rewires brain connections, like those in the frontal lobe that influence judgment memory and decision making. This turns behaviors surrounding addiction into habits that are extremely hard to change on your own. 

It takes a long time for the brain to heal from a substance use disorder. Studies suggest that it can take years. One study involving methamphetamine found that it took at least nine months of abstinence for the brain to produce dopamine normally again. However, depending on the drug and the severity of the addiction, some brain changes could take much longer to improve or could be permanent. There are also hereditary factors for some people that make them more susceptible to addiction. 

With this in mind, it’s important for people to approach addiction recovery as a long-term process that is continuous. 

The Continuum of Care Concept in Addiction Recovery

At our Dallas addiction center we implement what’s called continuum of care. This is a concept that acknowledges addiction is a chronic disease and treatment will evolve over time. Right from the start, we create a treatment plan that meets the patient’s immediate needs but is designed to change and transition as they move through recovery. 

This is a logical way for an addiction recovery center to approach treatment given that most people need the most support and oversight early on. However, the end goal is for them to manage on their own and return to a fully functional life outside of an addiction treatment center. Continuum of care allows for the intensity of treatment to gradually decline while ensuring the individual still receives adequate care for where they are at in recovery. It’s vital follow-up care just as you’d receive with another chronic illness. 

How to Manage Addiction Recovery Over the Long Term

Addiction recovery involves being committed to sobriety for the long term. When a person isn’t in a Sober Living Home and is away from the treatment center, managing addiction is something they must do on their own. 

The long-term commitment is what makes addiction recovery difficult for many people. Making that commitment is easier if you try the following three strategies. 

Stay Connected to an Addiction Treatment Center

The most effective Dallas addiction centers don’t just treat you in the moment. They prepare you for the future by addressing underlying issues that lead to substance abuse, rebuilding life skills and teaching you how to manage stress that can trigger a relapse. In other words, they give you the tools that are necessary for keeping addiction under control as you recover. 

That said, there will be times when things get tough. You may face a difficult life event, become injured or be in the wrong environment. Staying connected with an addiction treatment center that offers continuum of care services is essential in these moments. It gives you a direct line to support and experts that can help you adjust your treatment plan to address any challenges. 

Surround Yourself With Positive People

Negativity is a huge trigger for addiction. Drug and alcohol addiction is partly driven by environment and behavior. If you are around supportive, positive people it’s an environment that is ideal for maintaining sobriety. And if those people participate in healthy behaviors you are more likely to participate in them as well. 

In addiction recovery, finding your tribe is important. That’s why group therapy is highly encouraged, even if you’ve been sober for years. Utilizing the help of a Recovery Coach is another way to maintain a positive support system even when times are hard. 

Don’t Put Yourself in Triggering Situations

One of the best ways of managing addiction is to know your triggers and avoid them as much as possible. That could mean you have to forgo family events that involve alcohol or where you’ll be around a family member that causes stress. It could mean that you need to move to another neighborhood, or you may need to find a new job. 

Avoiding triggers usually means making sacrifices and being mindful on a daily basis. Bu they’re sacrifices worth making when they keep you on the path of sobriety. 

If you would like to know more about Dallas addiction centers and continuum of care, please give us a call. We offer a free consultation with a trained professional to assess your needs and treatment options. 

Learn more about our services or contact us below to discover how Lighthouse can help you on your road to recovery today. Thank you for your trust.