Many people believe that relapse while trying to detox is purely a result of physical addiction to drugs or alcohol. On the other hand, if detox was all it took for a person to stay sober, we’d have more sober people. The biggest issue with relapse is that people don’t overcome the psychological addiction to drugs or alcohol. This type of substance dependence is something that embeds into your basic human survival instincts.

Understanding the Psychological Addiction

psychological addictionHumans and many animals have context-dependent memory. This type of memory teaches our brain to help us seek out what brings us pleasure. Without this type of memory, we would forget that we need to eat food when we’re feeling hungry. We would also forget to drink water when we’re thirsty, and we may even stop reproducing.

This type of memory breaks down into three very basic parts:

  • Trigger
  • Behavior
  • Reward

For example, the trigger is hunger, the behavior is eating and the reward is no longer being hungry. On a neurological level, the reward comes from a spritz of dopamine in the brain that gives us pleasure. Alcohol and drugs are so pleasurable because they release an excess amount of dopamine. The problem is that psychological addiction develops when individuals begin developing habits surrounding alcohol or drugs.

While people may start out drinking or using to have fun, the memory eventually trains the brain to think that if it wants to have fun at all, it requires drugs or alcohol. The brain is always trying to figure out new solutions, so eventually you get a new trigger like sadness or anxiety. The brain reminds you that alcohol or drugs give you a sense of pleasure, so they should help with whatever is upsetting you. Each time you reinforce this habit, it gets stronger and stronger. Eventually, it can lead to a substance abuse issue.

Breaking the Psychological Addiction

When you attend treatment at 1st Step Behavioral Health, our primary goal is to help you break this cycle. Early recovery is extremely difficult because when you experience a trigger, your brain reacts by telling you to drink or use. Since this becomes a part of your survival instincts, you need to be in a safe place where you can work through cravings. As you go through an addiction treatment program, you’ll learn new tools and techniques to heal the brain.

At 1st Step Behavioral Health is because, there’s a strong focus on changing behaviors. Through talk therapy as well as other treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, you’ll begin to change your ways of thinking. Therapists will help you learn to acknowledge your triggers and begin replacing the behaviors of drinking or using with healthy coping mechanisms. Every time you replace that old behavior, your brain begins changing its context-dependent memory.

Dealing with Mental Illness

Another benefit of seeking help from 1st Behavioral Health is receiving treatment for co-occurring disorders. Individuals struggling with a mental illness as well as addiction require a different approach to recovery. It’s much more difficult to change your behaviors when your trigger is linked to your mental illness. You need to work on both concurrently to begin true healing.

1st Step Behavioral Health provides a long-term recovery program to give clients time to heal their minds. Find out how 1st Step Behavioral Health can help with your alcohol or drug addiction by calling 866-319-6126 today.