One of the concerns for those breaking free of an addiction to alcohol or drugs is that they are going to be at risk of developing substitute addictions. The idea is that there are aspects of their behaviour that put them more at risk of this type of behaviour. Now a new study from Columbia University Medical Center has produced a surprising result – according to this research, those who were once addicted have a lower risk of developing future addictions.
The study by Columbia University Medical Center is based on data that was collected between 2001 and 2004. Information was collected on about 35,000 people regarding drug behaviour. There were 3,275 people in the study who had previously had an addiction problem. The researchers found that those who were former addicts had almost half the risk of developing addiction problems than those who had never been addicted. This is a surprising result that it is very encouraging for those who are dealing with substance abuse problems.
One of the reasons many people fail to break free of addiction is a cynical attitude that can include thinking such as ‘it’s just the way I am’. There is a popular view in society that individuals cannot really change and this kind of thinking is summed up in the cliché ‘a leopard can’t change its spots’. This leads to thinking that if people give up alcohol or drugs, they are just going to end up turning to new maladaptive behaviours. The person who is dealing with substance abuse can use this rationalisation to justify not making a change to their life.
It is common for those caught up in addiction to claim to have an ‘addictive personality’. It is true that those falling into this type of behaviour tend to share certain character traits, but this does not mean these people are destined to always move from one addiction to another. The reality is that individuals do change all the time, although these changes are not always in a positive direction. Addiction is the perfect example of how individuals can change in a negative way.
When those caught up in addiction claim they cannot change, what they are really saying is that they do not feel they are able to change in a positive way. Addiction is said to involve a downward spiral, so the individual is likely to become more depressed, less optimistic, and have ever decreasing self-esteem – it is easy to see how this type of change is possible.
The reason positive change can seem so impossible is that it requires effort and commitment. If people are ambivalent about recovery, they will probably not be able to put in the sufficient commitment to make this change happen. Those individuals willing to do whatever it takes to get sober will make it happen and can avoid falling into new addictive behaviours in the future.
One of the ways that people begin to change is by chipping away at the characteristics that make them more prone to substance abuse. By doing this, the individual becomes the type of person who does not easily become addicted. This is a process that takes time, but by becoming a different kind of person, the individual is steadily strengthening his or her sobriety.
The research from Columbia University Medical Center is encouraging, but there are still plenty of examples of people breaking free of addiction only to walk into a new one. This can happen, so it is important to be prepared for the possibility. The way to prevent it is by remaining fully committed to sobriety and the process of change. Doing this means being far less likely to develop new addiction problems.