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Prejudice or appropriate behaviour?

Estrangement from society is one of the biggest factors that individuals that struggle with substance abuse face when trying to integrate back into an ordinary or somewhat normal lifestyle post their addiction and rehabilitation treatment.

After an individual accepts and candidly admits their addiction to a substance they are often faced with reactions of distrust and scepticism from their loved ones and their community, these responses are expected as there is a primarily negative stigma attached to the disease of addiction.

Countless persons have a difficult and challenging time looking past the previous behaviours and habits of an alcoholic or drug addict.

Often substance abusers are regarded as being similar or on the same platform as criminals, entirely untrustworthy and they are often ostracized for their past transgressions.

The prejudice and stereotype attached to the disease makes it particularly difficult for a recovering addict to rebuild their life and move on from their past misconduct and prior substance-dependent lifestyle.

Substance abusers are incorrectly labelled addicts for life, and it can be nearly impossible to lift or change this stigma.

Of course, it is unfair to expect individuals to automatically shift their judgement from a negative to positive as the holistic process of addiction is a difficult and demanding one.

In most cases the popular belief that once an addict, always an addict, controls how individuals interact with the recovering addict.

Doubt about true recovery from the disease can play heavily on discouraging any person from a life of sobriety.

An indispensable element that is frequently disregarded is that substance abusers have been weakened by their experiences and choices; and therefore if they are treated like addicts, they will often fall into that role again.

The most important message that should be encouraged and endorsed throughout an addict’s road to recovery is that they are undeniably capable of returning to a life of sobriety, one which can be considered normal and comfortable.

It does take time for a recovering addict to find a full-time job and fully integrate back into society; this period often means that a lot of time is spent at home with not much to do.

This time can be the hardest or most testing, since it increases boredom and leaves an individual alone with their thoughts and their alter-ego “the addict”.

It is thus very important that those recovering from addiction try to adopt healthy schedules that include exercise or some type of work/activity and social interaction from both family and friends.

The more we can afford these opportunities to these individuals and support their ability to live a sober lifestyle, the easier it will be for them to integrate into society and play a vital role in the community.

Sheltering recovering substance users by restricting their interaction with outside “use stressor” variables that they would normally be faced with on a day to day basis is a noble yet a slightly misinformed method that is used regularly.

Intensive and behavioural modification treatments go hand in hand. One of the most common and effective therapies used for addictions is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

While the cognitive aspect addresses maladaptive thoughts and beliefs, the behavioural aspect focuses on habits and actions. CBT assists individuals in working through the thoughts and situations that usually trigger or influence their substance abuse.

Behavioural modification is a technique used which helps to equip and prepare an addict for the everyday problems they would face which before their recovery process began would typically encourage use of their substance of choice.

Behavioural modification can aid substance users in better handling situations of peer pressure and conflicts in relationships; these are two stressors that can make it difficult for individuals to abstain from drug use.

Behavioural therapy includes the systematic desensitization of typical substance use provoking situations; this approach helps individual’s deal with anxiety-inducing everyday activities and assists with the ease into the adjustments that substance abusers have to make in their lives.

Systematic desensitisation gradually introduces distressing stimuli. For example, a person who feels uneasy in crowds when not drinking or using could be flooded with feelings of temptation by sitting in a heavily crowded area all day.

In order to prevent a situation where an individual is suddenly faced with stimuli that they have been sheltered from or protected from Behavioural therapy could be implemented.

An individual who suffers from a drinking problem and who is not confident on their coping skills and staying sober when they find themselves in a large crowd could be desensitised by going for a relaxing non-alcoholic beverage for 20 minutes one day, and then 20 minutes a few days later, and as the individual starts to feel more comfortable and confident in themselves the time period may increase.

It is important for an individual suffering from addiction to be readily prepared in dealing with situations where they are confronted by their substance of choice; and therefore exposing themselves in controlled amounts to such situations can be beneficial and clarifying.

Relapse prevention is another aspect of behavioural therapy in substance addiction treatment. People are encouraged to consider the types of situations that may trigger a relapse, and then they practice managing those situations.

Individuals however are not put into these types of situations without having an appropriate amount of therapy, where they learn new coping and managing mechanisms prior to exposure. 



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