Maintaining Hope and Health During Drug Abuse Recovery

The physical aspects of opioid dependency improve after detox. But psychological addiction, temptation, and craving can last for years, even a lifetime. The truth is, most people will relapse on their way to full recovery from prescription drug addiction.

Staying on the path to health takes patience, loving relationships, and emotional resilience. People in drug abuse recovery need all the help they can get. Fortunately, tools and resources are available to help someone stay straight and to pick them up if they stumble

Stress and Prescription Drug Addiction

Understanding the deep connections between stress and drug addiction is essential to drug abuse recovery. People who experienced stress, such as child abuse, early in life are more likely to become addicted to drugs. Stressful mental health conditions like depression and anxiety also increase the risk for opioid addiction. People with a prescription drug addiction often say stress was a reason they began abusing pain pills.

Making the situation worse, opioid addiction itself causes lasting changes in the parts of the brain that deal with stress. People with opioid addiction have a persistent overactive response to stress, even years after completing detox.

Stress is a major stimulus for drug craving, according to people with opioid addiction. Not surprisingly, life stress is one of the main reasons people give for relapsing into prescription drug abuse. For all these reasons, learning methods to better cope with stress are an essential part of drug abuse recovery.

Family, Friends, and Addiction Recovery

One of the primary causes of relapse in pain pill addiction is an inability to develop intimate relationships. No one recovers from prescription drug addiction alone.

Rebuilding close connections with family and friends is essential to successful drug abuse recovery. This often requires the addicted person to recognize and make amends for the damage caused by past behavior.

At the same time, the addicted person's family will be going through its own recovery process. Re-establishing trust and mutual respect can take months or even years. Nothing can replace the healing properties of time spent together with loved ones.

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Addiction Recovery Support Groups

Experts believe group therapy is superior to individual therapy for people recovering from prescription drug abuse. The group setting allows peers to both support and challenge each other, and creates a sense of shared community.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an international network of community-based meetings for those recovering from drug addiction. Modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), NA is an abstinence-based 12-step program with a defined process for overcoming addiction. More than 58,000 NA meetings take place every week worldwide.

Methadone Anonymous is a similar 12-step program that acknowledges the value of maintenance therapy with methadone or Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) for recovery.

Family members often have their own emotional problems that come from coping with their loved one's addiction. They can often benefit from attending their own support group, sharing their stories and experiences with other families. Nar-Anon, an offshoot of Narcotics Anonymous, is the most well-known.

Exercise and Addiction Recovery

Drug addiction takes a toll on the body, along with the mind and soul. Exercise hasn't been studied for drug abuse recovery. However, exercise releases natural endorphins, feel-good chemicals that relax the brain and body and reduce stress.

Besides improving overall health, exercise improves mood and builds self-esteem, key areas in drug abuse recovery. Thirty minutes of daily physical activity, like brisk walking, will bring overall health benefits. Exercising with a group will also enhance interpersonal relationships and help develop connections outside the world of addiction.

Meditation During Addiction Recovery

The central principle of all forms of meditation is to focus attention on the present moment, the "now." Some experts believe addictions result in part from an attempt to escape psychological pain. Meditation can help an addict face painful feelings and understand how these feelings contribute to craving. This can potentially help the person discover healthy ways of coping with bad feelings, without using drugs.

Spirituality, Service, and Addiction Treatment

Many people in drug abuse recovery say their spirituality is important in staying clean and sober. Attending religious services, regular community service, and daily prayer are examples of activities that have helped many who believe a higher power is essential to their continued recovery. Reaching out to a local church ministry, or contacting the United Way in your area, can get you started.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on October 20, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:
Narcotics Anonymous.
AltMD.com: "Meditation for Addiction."
The Meditation Spot: "Meditation for Addiction Recovery."
Social Work Today: "Meditation -- The Less Traveled Road to Recovery."
Cleck, J.N. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2008.
University of Pennsylvania Health System: "Addiction and the Family."
Harvard Mental Health Letter: "Treating opiate addiction, part II: Alternatives to maintenance," January 2005.

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