The Different Challenges of Quitting Alcohol Versus Drugs

The Different Challenges of Quitting Alcohol Versus Drugs

Different substances result in different challenges when it comes to stopping drug or alcohol addiction

The struggle against drug and alcohol addiction is as individual as the substances themselves. Each addicted person has a different journey to take, and that journey is impacted by a variety of factors. An individual’s genetic make-up, family or personal history of addiction, age of first use, size and emotional well-being all factor into the struggle to become clean and sober. The challenges of quitting either drugs or alcohol are as unique as the addictions themselves. Although treatment procedures for both types of addiction are similar, getting a program designed for your unique situation is the best way to begin a life of sobriety.

Addiction Treatment Basics

Addiction treatment programs typically begin with medically supervised detox. Ridding the body of the toxins of the drug before treatment begins greatly increases the chances of a successful recovery. Some substances, such as heroin and opiates, require medications to counteract withdrawal symptoms. These medications help stabilize the patient. In the case of alcohol and other drugs, 24-hour medical monitoring helps keep patients comfortable as they move through the detox process. Once detox ends, a proper diagnosis helps addiction professional determine the best course of treatment.

Many who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction have undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. Dual Diagnosis facilities offer simultaneous treatment for both conditions. Research shows that those with a Dual Diagnosis are more likely to recover when treated for both disorders simultaneously.

Once a diagnosis is reached, treatment begins. Rehab treatment for both drug addiction and alcoholism is a combination of individual and group therapy sessions. Individual sessions include cognitive behavioral therapy as counselors work to help the patient change negative thought patterns into positive ones. Group sessions give individuals in treatment the opportunity to learn valuable communication skills and discover that they are not alone in their struggles to become clean and sober. After treatment ends, ongoing support is crucial for continued success. Support groups provide a safe place for those in recovery to share their feelings and emotions, successes and failures. Support groups also provide an important social outlet for those on the journey to a drug-free life.

Finding Appropriate Treatment

When it comes to finding appropriate treatment for addiction, getting the right information from trusted sources is important.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the following principles as the basis for effective treatment programs: [1]

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  • No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
  • Treatment needs to be readily available.
  • Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.
  • Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical.
  • Counseling—individual and/or group—and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment.
  • Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.
  • An individual’s treatment and services plan must be assessed continually and modified as necessary to ensure that it meets his or her changing needs.
  • Many drug-addicted individuals also have other mental disorders.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse.
  • Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur.
  • Treatment programs should assess patients for the presence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as provide targeted risk-reduction counseling to help patients modify or change behaviors that place them at risk of contracting or spreading infectious diseases.

These principles are an appropriate starting point when searching for the right addiction treatment program for your unique situation.

The Differences Between Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

One of the biggest differences between a person who abuses drugs and one who is addicted to alcohol is in his or her substance of choice. Addiction is addiction, no matter the substance, and the journey to a life free from drugs and alcohol begins when the person struggling admits that he or she has a problem. Psychology Today defines addiction as “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health.”[ii] No matter the substance the core issues involved in addiction are the same. However, each person’s treatment experience and recovery journey are unique. No two people begin abusing drugs in the same way under the same circumstances, so no two people will have the same rehab experience. The most important thing to remember is that the sooner you or a loved one asks for help and seeks treatment, the sooner you can being your journey to a drug-free life.

Finding Help for Addiction

If you or your loved one struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.


[1] National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Effective Treatment.” Accessed January 3, 2016.  http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

[ii] Psychology Today. “What is Addiction?” Accessed on January 3, 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/addiction