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Overcoming Addiction: How Therapy Can Help You Break the Cycle

Posted by On 11-05-2023
Overcoming addiction: How therapy can help you break the cycle

Are you finding breaking the cycle of addiction difficult, if not impossible? You will have challenging days, times when you are tempted, and setbacks. While discouraging, this is normal.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go through these struggles alone. Ontario addiction treatment centres are there to assist you in your journey by providing therapy tailored to your situation.

Why is it so hard?

Most people think that breaking an addiction is a simple matter of willpower. However, it isn’t that simple. Addictions interfere with the brain’s functions by releasing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine will reinforce the brain’s association between substances and pleasure. Therefore, it drives a desire to search for this feeling again in the near future.

Additionally, dopamine is responsible for interacting with glutamate, taking over the brain’s system for reward-related learning. Dopamine creates that “rush” you receive when you engage in addictions. Substances that release large amounts of this neurotransmitter make the experience last longer by preventing dopamine’s reabsorption into the system.

Once it wears off, the brain finds it difficult to regain the proper chemical balance. This results in withdrawal from the substance you were using. Withdrawal side effects can include anxiety, irritability, vomiting, and nausea. The desire to feel that high again prompts people to retake more of the substance to feel good.

Over time, people develop a tolerance and need more of the substance to receive the same euphoric feelings. Since the brain eventually adapts to high dopamine levels, the changes initially become less pleasurable. More of the drug is needed to feel normal. Further withdrawal leads to physical dependency, making it challenging to break the cycle of addiction.

How does therapy work?

Addictions are classified as a disease and can be effectively managed. This is a chronic issue, and occasional relapses do occur. As such, short-term treatments are ineffective. Many addicts know that recovery involves several interventions and frequent monitoring. Therefore, this is a long-term endeavour.

The Types of Therapy

Many therapies can be used to treat addiction, and not all will be successful. For some, one type of treatment will be the most beneficial, while others may need a combination to break the cycle. Every person and situation is unique, so using a combination of therapies is perfectly normal. The main goal is to seek relief from your struggle.


For most people, it is recommended that the first step they take is to go for a physical exam and to discuss your situation with your doctor. Addictions can be a complicated process to resolve.

Many mental health issues precipitate substance abuse. For example, a person might become an alcoholic to deal with feelings of depression. In this case, the depression must be addressed before treatment begins. This is known as a co-occurring dual diagnosis.

Additionally, physical complications can be present. The doctor will need to treat these as well for treatment to be successful. It is not uncommon for people to require a combination of medication and therapy in treating addictions.

Addiction treatment can also begin with medically assisted detoxification. This manages acute withdrawal symptoms and is essential for treatment. However, it will not help with long-term abuse. Even after a successful detox, relapse can occur since the brain is affected by repeated use. Detoxification is merely the first step in learning how to battle cravings.

Psychosocial Treatments

This type of treatment promotes behavioural change. It is the most commonly used and can better facilitate change over the long term. The following reasons are why it is so widely used:

  • It motivates patients to participate in treatments and provides coping strategies to manage cravings.
  • It illustrates methods to prevent relapses and assists in dealing with a relapse if it happens.
  • Therapists assist clients in working through unresolved issues that may trigger substance abuse.
  • Psychotherapy encourages clients to develop better communication skills by removing the fear of judgment.
  • Therapists can assist addicts in improving damaged relationships.

As mentioned earlier, many people who experience substance abuse may have underlying conditions like bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. A therapist will assist you in managing a co-occurring situation.

Family Therapy

Part of therapy may involve family members to assist in obtaining a deeper understanding of the substance abuse disorder. A family may be instrumental in providing a good support structure and can improve the overall dynamic of relationships.

This therapy is most helpful with young adults and teens by strengthening their recovery. It also lowers the rate of relapse.

Contingency Management

Contingency management consists of an evidence-based treatment based on behaviour modification principles. Studies demonstrate that interventions based on these principles are better at promoting abstinence from stimulants, drugs, alcohol, opioids, nicotine, and marijuana.

This therapy involves using tangible incentives to reinforce positive behaviour and encourage clients to refrain from substance abuse. Rewards include monetary incentives, clinical privileges, or vouchers for clean drug tests. Even though the rewards may appear nominal, research indicates that a carefully constructed program is effective in helping people remain clean.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapies

This therapy focuses on change and acceptance. Clients are taught to regulate emotions to reduce destructive behaviours that arise from intense, extreme feelings. It focuses on distress tolerance, emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness.

Dialectical behaviour therapy assists in reducing cravings while avoiding situations that may generate a relapse. Clients discover emotional balance through this therapy and find healthy coping methods. In therapy sessions, clients learn to dwell in the present, not the past. They learn how to manage their feelings in a healthy manner and engage in open communication.

Who do I turn to for help?

Ontario addiction treatment centres are the best source of help when overcoming addictions. People can receive either individual or group therapy, as each has its advantages and disadvantages. They will assist you in finding the underlying reasons for the addiction, provide coping techniques, and help you manage triggers/cravings. This is done in an inpatient or outpatient setting that’s tailored to your situation and circumstances.

If you need help and don’t know where to turn, contact the Private Addiction Placement and Assessment Services (PAPAS) toll-free at 888-831-1604 or contact us here. We will assist you every step of the way in your journey to recovery.

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