Can’t I Just Quit Drugs on My Own?

One of the most frequently-asked questions from someone new to recovery concerns the need for drug rehab. When faced with the necessity of attending a structured program, they ask “Can’t I quit drugs on my own?”

The answer to this question requires a more complete understanding of addiction as a disease, rather than a choice. Let’s take a closer look at why specialized professional care is your safest, best bet for successful recovery.

You Can’t Quit Drugs on Willpower Alone

Every single person who has ever gone to rehab has tried to quit before.  Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • I can do this if I just make up my mind.”
  • “All I need is a little willpower.”
  • “I am NEVER going to use drugs again.”
  • “This time I mean it.”
  • “I can stop any time I want.”

But addiction – properly called Substance Use Disorder – is a disease of the brain, not of the will. Chronic substance abuse hijacks the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control and decision-making. In a very real way, an active addict on their own is just along for the ride, because the disease is in complete control. By this point, choice isn’t much of a factor.

You Can’t Quit Drugs by Bargaining with Your Addiction

Some desperate people try to “manage” their drug habits by making deals with themselves:

  • “I’ll just do a little bit to unwind and take the edge off.”
  • “I still smoke pot, but at least I quit using heroin.”
  • I’ll only party on the weekends.”
  • “I won’t use when my children are awake.”

This kind of bargaining and limit setting might have worked early on, when recreational drug use was still a personal choice. But when regular use progresses to dependence and addiction, that choice is removed. Drug use becomes an irresistible compulsion.

Medication to Help You Quit Drugs Safely

Drugs of abuse affect the brain so profoundly that when they are discontinued, you experience uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Basically, your drug-dependent brain goes into a kind of shock because the accustomed drug isn’t available.

In most cases, drug withdrawal isn’t physically dangerous. However, symptoms can be so distressing as to push a person back into active use. Regardless of intent, a person in the painful throes of withdrawal will often resume use just to seek relief.

There are exceptions to this. Long-term and heavy abuse of alcohol or benzodiazepine tranquilizers such as Xanax or Valium can result in severe physical dependence. When these substances are discontinued abruptly or “cold turkey”, withdrawal is EXTREMELY dangerous. It can even be fatal.

Because of the pain and potential hazards of withdrawal, the safest way to quit drugs is under the close supervision of qualified and experienced medical personnel – at a residential detox facility, for example. Only specially-licensed medical doctors can prescribe FDA-approved medications that can ease cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

A lack of medication is one of the biggest drawbacks to attempting to quit drugs on your own.

A Dual Diagnosis Can Complicate Attempts to Quit Drugs

Up to two-thirds of people with SUD also struggle with another co-occurring mental condition—depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.. Left untreated, these illnesses can interfere with successful recovery from addiction. The best way to truly get better is to address both disorders simultaneously. Again, this is best accomplished within the framework or a structured treatment program.

If you are struggling with ANY addictive disorder, Chapman House Treatment Centers can help. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE. Since 1978, chapman House, located in Orange County, has been one of the most-trusted drug rehab programs in Southern California.

To get immediate help, contact Chapman House TODAY.

by Albert Fontenot