Addiction is chronic disease that carries with it a high rate of relapse. What separates addiction from other brain diseases is the importance of environment and social context in regards to recovery. Recovery requires that one address physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of the disease, as well as social factors that may contribute to one’s addiction or make recovery more difficult. Environmental cues are external sressors that may cause one to develop cravings or strong thoughts about using substances again. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “Science has taught us that stress, cues linked to the drug experience (such as people, places, things, and moods), and exposure to drugs are the most common triggers for relapse.” The environment in which we were using drugs and drinking can bring back strong memories of substance use. A five-year study of environmental cues at Shanghai’s Fudan University’s School of Basic Medical Sciences and Institutes of Brain Science found just how strongly the environment can influence memories of addiction and withdrawal. Weida Li, in a GB Times article entitled Chinese Scientists Discover How Environmental Cues Can Trigger Drug Addiction Relapses, describes the study: “The research team’s work involved putting morphine-addicted mice into two boxes – one black and one white – and exposing them to different conditions. They rapidly withdrew the morphine from the mice in the black box, so that they would display withdrawal symptoms and therefore link their painful state of withdrawal to the black environment in which they had been placed. Later, when the mice were placed back in black box, the environmental factors surrounding them quickly reactivated their drug withdrawal memories. They would then attempt to flee by escaping to the white box.” The environment that we were in during addiction becomes so strongly tied in our minds with our substance abuse, that reexperiencing that same environment can cause those powerful thoughts to reoccur. Fortunately, we will not have to live our lives avoiding people, places, things, and situations that may inspire thoughts of substance use. Through recovery, we are able to change those deeply embedded behaviors and be placed in what Alcoholics Anonymous refers to as a “position of neutrality.” We no longer have to live in fear of anything external that may cause our thoughts to grow into overwhelming cravings. If we are committed to our recovery, we are rewarded with a life of peace and serenity. We can live happily without any temptation or desire for alcohol and drugs.
Your story can become one of happiness, joyousness, and freedom in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help now and embark upon the rewarding journey of recovery. Oceanfront Recovery, a treatment facility in beautiful Laguna Beach, is staffed with caring and compassionate professionals dedicated to helping you develop all the tools needed to achieve and maintain a fulfilling life in sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777