Addict Mentality: How People with Substance Use Disorders Think Differently
Have you ever wondered why people with substance use disorders (SUDs) make decisions that, to many of us, seem irrational and incomprehensible? In this article, we’re inviting you to take a deeper look into an addict’s mind. We will look at how addiction can impact the brain as well as the mental state, how this can lead to an “addict mentality,” and what can be done to prevent or manage it.
This is an important topic—one that often gets overlooked when talking about the addict mentality. Luna Recovery Services in Houston, Texas provides recovery resources and treatment programs to help people with various types of addictions learn how to manage their conditions effectively and recover.
What is Addiction and What is an Addict Mentality?
You may have heard the term “addiction” before and wondered what it meant. Addiction, in a mental health context, is a persistent behavior issue or pattern of behavior that continues despite negative consequences. It could be related to drugs or alcohol, but it can also be related to other things like gambling and certain activities. But addiction doesn’t just happen overnight; this disease has its roots.
When it comes to substance use, an addict’s mentality is often distinguished by a distorted way of thinking. This type of thinking frequently prioritizes short-term benefits over long-term effects. It creates a kind of “instant gratification” mentality that convinces users to believe that the benefits of their addiction are always greater than any potential long-term consequences.
Such ways of thinking include engaging in risky behavior despite being aware of the risks, feeling helpless to quit despite being aware of the consequences, and being unable or unwilling to recognize or accept help from supportive family and friends attempting to help them break their addiction cycle.
How an Addict’s Brain Differs from a Normal Brain
In terms of structure and function, the brain of a person with a substance use disorder is very similar to the normal brain. Yet, there are internal changes that occur in a person’s brain when they get addicted to substances.
Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin play a role in regulating pleasure and emotions. In the addict’s brain, these neurotransmitters become altered due to repeated exposure to drugs or alcohol. This can lead to abnormal pleasure-seeking behaviors as well as increased reward-seeking behaviors.
The structure of an addict’s brain changes due to the continued use of drugs or alcohol. The connections between neurons in the frontal lobe become weakened due to drug use. This leads to impaired judgment and decision-making skills.
Drug or alcohol abuse can also lead to changes in how memories are formed and recalled in the addict’s brain. These changes can lead to difficulty concentrating on tasks, difficulty retrieving memories, and an overall decline in cognitive functioning.
Understanding these biochemical changes taking place inside your brain can help you effectively address challenges on your journey toward recovery.
The Daily Routine and Struggle Faced by Addicts
A drug addict’s daily routine can vary depending on the individual’s circumstances and drug of choice. Some common elements of a drug addict’s daily routine include getting the money for drugs, buying the drugs, using the drugs, and then repeating the process. Any interruptions to the cycle, such as those caused by work or family duties, are annoying and likely to irritate them.
While an addict keeps abusing the substances, their tolerance (or greater demand) for higher dosages increases, along with their cravings, despite knowing the risks. Addicts get more desperate to keep simulating highs. As a result, their mental health suffers, and they end up making bad choices about their behaviors and safety. In most cases, they also become dangerous to those around them. Other common struggles that an addict faces include the following:
People suffering from addiction often can’t accurately identify what rewards they should expect from their behavior or understand the consequences of their actions. This leads to more risk-taking behavior as well as an inability to effectively learn from their mistakes.
This mental issue often goes hand-in-hand with difficulty determining rewards and punishments. People with addiction have difficulty figuring out which decisions will be more beneficial in the present or future. This is due to their simplistic way of thinking, which involves instantly assessing every circumstance in terms of how it will benefit them right away.
It’s no secret that addicts often act without considering consequences first; this is because they lack impulse control, which causes them to act without thinking. Addicts may also have trouble exercising self-control when making choices that could compromise their long-term health or safety.
Drug use can harm one’s physical well-being and cause ailments including liver damage, lung disease, or heart disease. It can also worsen or result in serious mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Unfortunately, social stigma and discrimination are common experiences for people with addiction. Addiction is still often seen as a moral failing or a lack of willpower, rather than a complex health condition. This can lead to negative attitudes and beliefs about people with addiction, which can cause stigma and discrimination.
Relationship Dynamics and Addicts’ Behavior Habits
Addiction can cause dramatic changes in an individual’s relationship dynamics and behaviors, including
- Black-or-white thinking
- Prioritizing addiction over other important things in life such as work, family time, social events, etc,
- Experiencing strong cravings and urges,
- Repeating thoughts and actions and developing manipulative or secretive tendencies.
- Lying or making excuses to cover up their use
- Keeping a distance from their loved ones so they won’t interfere with their use
- Manipulating people or situations to get what they want
- Engaging in risky behaviors or dangerous activities that may cause a harmful effect
An addict may also feel guilt, shame, and denial about what they’re doing at the same time, which, in reality, only keeps them trapped in the addiction cycle longer. They would attempt to convince themselves that the situation was not serious or that it was not the real problem.
Treatment Programs for Addiction and the Road to Recovery
When it comes to treatment for addiction and addict mentality, there are multiple paths to choose from. The most effective approach may vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances. However, it is important to note that addiction differs significantly from other problems: it’s a chronic condition. Addiction can’t be cured, but it can be managed, and the symptoms can be controlled.
With proper treatment and a committed effort, recovery is still possible. Here are the best seven treatment options to consider:
- Medical Detoxification: This is the first step in treating drug addiction, and it involves removing the drug from the person’s system. Detoxification can be done in a hospital or a specialized facility. It is usually medically supervised to manage withdrawal symptoms.
- Counseling. Talking to a counselor or therapist can help you explore new behaviors, work on your emotional issues, and healthily release your stress. The key is to talk about the underlying causes of your drug use. It is also ideal to explore new coping skills in recognizing the triggers of substance abuse. Your counselor or therapist can help you build an individualized plan for sustainable recovery.
- Behavioral Therapies: These therapies help individuals change their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use. Examples of behavioral therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and contingency management.
- Medications: There are medications available that can help reduce cravings while working through treatments like counseling. This is especially important if withdrawal symptoms have become an issue due to heavy drug abuse. Medications can also be used to treat co-occurring mental health disorders that may contribute to drug addiction.
- Support Groups: Support groups provide invaluable resources for recovering addicts by creating a safe space for them to share their experiences and learn from each other as part of their healing process. Some popular support groups include 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery meetings, which promote evidence-based approaches to treating addiction.
- Residential Treatment: This involves living in a residential facility for some time to receive intensive treatment and support.
- Outpatient Treatment: This involves attending treatment sessions on an outpatient basis, typically for a few hours a week. Outpatient treatment can be a good option for people who have completed residential treatment or have a less severe addiction.
No matter what path you take in recovery from substance use disorders, it will take a lot of effort and commitment. With the right combination of treatments—whether that includes one or all of the options mentioned above—long-lasting sobriety can be achieved with time, patience, and self-care.
Receive Help from Luna Recovery Services
Helping someone with a substance use disorder or addict mentality is incredibly difficult, especially for family members. It’s essential to understand that the person you’re trying to assist is dealing with a mental health issue.
They would need your full compassion, support, and understanding. Addicts shouldn’t be stigmatized or shamed because addiction is not a choice. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, seeking professional help is highly recommended.
Beat addiction with Luna Recovery! Our team of addiction treatment professionals is experienced and compassionate. We provide the best quality of care to help individuals heal and get better. Contact us today to learn how you can achieve long-term recovery!
Dr. Allaire received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, as Valedictorian of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and his Medical Doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as Chief Resident. He is the medical monitor for the Physician Counseling Committee of the Harris County Medical Society and the Medical Director of Serenity House Detox. Dr. Allaire specializes in medically assisted detox cases, treating patients in recovery from addiction or other mental health disorders, the medical assessment and monitoring of patients with addictive disorders, medical care related to eating disorders and the medical treatment of patients with mental health conditions.