First Responder Addiction Treatment

Understanding a Responder's Addiction


FRAT is guided clinically by the scientific consensus that drug or alcohol addiction is a disease. It has biological and/or genetic roots and can have behavioral, social, psychological and spiritual consequences. One doesn't decide to become addicted, and it's not about making choices or lack of will power.

Addiction affects just about anyone; a person's profession, income, education, race or family makeup or spirituality has nothing to do with it. However, research tells us some people are genetically inclined to be affected by the disease. When combined with the wrong environmental conditions and the introduction of the substance, it can lead more easily to addiction.

But how addiction challenges a person differs case-by-case.

The Components of Dependency

Alcoholism and drug addiction are dysfunctions, based on the body's overwhelming desire for the substance that it has become used to. It's much more than simply wanting "recreational drugs" on a social basis. Addiction is compulsive, marked by what can be uncontrollable craving. The human brain really can "insist" an addicted person should seek out the substances it craves (just as it does with food or water).

This craving continues even though the drinker may know full well that there are many undesirable consequences. He may realize that he has failing health, legal problems, troubles at work and eventual loss of a job, and many problems within the family – but having that "understanding" isn't enough to stop the compulsive behavior.

Generally, chemical dependency can be divided into four components: a craving to add the substance to the body; a physical dependency, in which the body must have the substance, and which will develop symptoms of withdrawal if the alcohol or drug intake is stopped; tolerance, in which the body demands ever-larger amounts of the drink or drug in order to feel the effects; and impairment, when thinking, decisions, the senses and reaction to external stimuli (everything from perceiving a doorbell to avoiding an accident) are interfered with.

If allowed to continue, addiction is eventually a fatal disease.

Choices, Fault and Other Factors

For centuries, people have believed that chronic drunkenness or other substance abuses were the product of the ill mind, the lack of willpower, a kind of laziness or disrespect for oneself. It was always thought curable - if only the alcoholic or addict would just make up his or her mind.

Now we understand that drug dependency, including alcoholism, is a disease. It has symptoms (medially, socially and spiritually) that get worse over time. It is a predictable, progressive illness that won't "just go away." A role is also played by genetics, family history and environment.

Every type of drug is open to abuse; even controlled, prescription painkillers have become a modern threat. It's the ones that provide a euphoric "high," a relief from problems or stress, or that make a person more comfortable than usual, that are most likely to lead to abuse and dependency. But whatever the drug, there are changes in the areas of the brain that affect mood, memory, motor skills and the "intangibles" such as judgment.

Typically, a person makes a voluntary choice to indulge in a drug; sometimes it's prescribed for relief of pain or other disorders. But more often, it's with those badly-named "recreational drugs." With some people, dependency kicks in quickly because at the molecular level they're receptive to these chemical compounds.

In time, continued use of addictive drugs changes a person in ways that are easy to feel and see, and also in ways that cannot be discerned at all. But one thing is sure - the brain is designed to want more of what it has become used to. Eventually, the drug becomes the single most powerful element in the abuser's life. He or she will do almost anything for the drug. Why can't people with drug and alcohol dependency quit on their own?

It's an error to think "will power" or some sort of macho attitude is all that's required to stop drinking or taking drugs. Or to think asking for and getting help is an admission of defeat. Despite a person's most sincere attempts to "just say no" and abstain, the compulsion will remain that pushes him or her to return to the safe (but dangerous) familiarity of the addiction. It's often a lifelong burden.

There are other components to a person's difficulty in maintaining abstinence without treatment. There can be psychological stress from the job, traumatic physical or emotional injury, family problems, legal or other issues. Then there are the cues that remind the individual of the pre-recovery life, such as people, locations or social situations from the past, even smells or sounds that were associated with drug use. These all interact with biological factors to "call back" the person to drug abuse and get in the way of sustained abstinence.

It is insufficient to depend on a short-term, one-time treatment. For many, treatment
is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and attempts at abstinence. It's
not easy.

Is there any good news? Of course! Research tells us that even severely-addicted people can make treatment work for them. But -

It takes a dedication to getting off the addiction, and the help of others, to make recovery both a daily and long-term result. Treatment does work for alcohol and drug addiction, although it can be a very tough thing to do. Most people coming into treatment are there not because they think it's a great idea, but because they are afraid of a great loss - of their health, the love of their family, the job, or their freedom. However, what's most important is not why a person gets into treatment, but that they've come.

FRAT's addiction treatment services can help - through a continuum of care. There is also a spiritual component to recovery from addiction.