Once an Addict, Always an Addict? How Long Does Addiction Last?

once an addict

If you’ve struggled with addiction, you are certainly not alone. In fact, recent statistics indicate that 10% of American adults have dealt with addiction at some point in their lives.

But many former addicts in recovery deal with a burning question. If a person was once an addict, are they always considered an addict, even if they’re no longer using?

Let’s take a closer look at how addiction works, and what it means to be in recovery.

What Does it Mean to Be an Addict?

First, let’s take a moment to understand what addiction is. The American Psychiatric Association describes addiction as compulsive substance use. This type of substance abuse persists despite negative consequences.

For instance, someone who is not addicted to alcohol may occasionally drink to excess. The difference is they would typically moderate their behavior based on the consequences. For instance, they may choose to drink only when they do not have responsibilities the next day, or only when they have a designated driver.

A person with alcohol dependence, however, would drink consistently. This would be regardless of whether it meant showing up to work hungover.

it is believed that people who are prone to substance abuse have their brain wired in such a way that creates intense cravings for the addictive substance. This hypothesis is supported by evidence that a genetic link exists for addiction.

What Does Recovery Look Like for An Addicted Person?

Depending on the type and severity of a person’s addiction, a variety of behavioral and medication-based treatments may be used to help the patient combat their dependence. These treatments are designed to wean the person off of their compulsive need for the substance.

Even once a person has completed treatment and is no longer abusing a substance, however, their brain remains wired in the way that caused the addiction in the first place. This means that certain activities that are safe for non-addicted people may not be safe for the person in recovery.

For example, say an individual has an addiction to opiates. After they recover, it may be recommended that they request non-opiate pain medication after any future surgeries.

Even though the medication would be prescribed by a doctor, taking opiates could trigger the addictive behavior in the individual’s brain. Despite being in recovery, the person’s brain chemistry is still susceptible to addiction.

Once An Addict, Always an Addict?

In some ways, whether you subscribe to the belief of “once an addict, always an addict,” is a matter of semantics.

Some people in recovery choose to still identify as addicts to acknowledge the fact that they live with a disease. Others prefer to identify as former addicts to emphasize what they have overcome.

At the end of the day, what’s important is getting into recovery. If you or someone you love needs help with an addiction problem, contact us today to learn about your treatment options.