A substance abuse disorder is a medical condition that creates changes in the brain, making it require drugs or alcohol for normal functionality. When we suddenly stop taking a substance, our brains and body enter a state of withdrawal, causing uncomfortable symptoms. While most go to professional treatment for this process, some wonder how to stop drug addiction without rehab.
Throughout this article, we’re going to discuss the process of recovery and what steps you’ll need to take in order to successfully quit drugs. From there, we’ll look into why professional treatment is so important for this process. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction (or a substance abuse disorder) occurs when one loses their ability to control the use of legal or illegal medication. Typically, the signs of drug addiction appear when you continue to use a substance despite it causing harm in your life. ¹
Addiction can start in a number of different ways. For example, one may initially experiment with recreational drugs in social situations. However, addiction doesn’t occur until the substance is used frequently and the brain and body have changed due to the substance’s impact.
The changes that occur vary from substance to substance. Yet, almost all drugs cause some kind of physical and mental changes that require more of said drug to feel normal.
For example, in opioid addiction, the brain stops producing dopamine – a pain-relieving and pleasure fulfilling chemical – on its own due to the drug’s influence. In turn, your body experiences withdrawals when you suddenly quit from this lack of dopamine. And it takes the brain time to “re-learn” how to create dopamine again. ²
Withdrawal symptoms are apparent in every drug that can cause addiction. In fact, most people avoid treatment due to the fear of withdrawal symptoms. However, the sooner you overcome these symptoms, the easier it becomes to fully recover from drug addiction.
How to Stop Drug Addiction Without Rehab – 5 Steps
Before we begin, it should be noted that the steps laid out below are what you go through regardless of whether or not you’re in a treatment facility. Since this is a complicated process, the purpose of rehab is to make it easier and provide you with safety.
However, we understand that not everyone has access to a treatment facility. In such cases, this is what you can expect to go through once you decide to quit a substance. Still, we highly recommend considering rehab before quitting drugs or alcohol on your own.
1.) Admit You Have a Problem
Recovery cannot begin until you admit you have a problem. In most cases, substance abuse changes the brain to develop excuses and justifications for continued use. By admitting your problem, your taking the first steps towards finding the underlying causes of your addiction.
Of course, this isn’t easy. And it’s one of the biggest reasons a loved one can’t force recovery onto someone else. However, that’s not to say those seeking recovery can’t looked to loved ones for help.
Once you’ve admitted you have a problem, it’s important to have a solid support system helping you along the way. While these friends and family may not have all the answers, they can provide you with a trusting environment when things become most difficult.
2.) Detox – Physical Withdrawals
When you suddenly stop taking drugs or alcohol, your body enters a state of detox where it must eliminate the influence of substances. This process will bring along a unique set of withdrawal symptoms – depending on the drug – that leave those struggling in an uncomfortable state for between 1 to 2 weeks. ³
While it is possible to detox at home, there are two difficulties with this:
- Being the grueling process of physical withdrawals, it’s only natural many want to turn back to a drug in order to avoid it. It takes a lot of willpower to overcome this stage of recovery on your own.
- While it’s dependent on circumstances, some drugs will produce withdrawal symptoms that can lead to dangerous complications, such as seizures and severe dehydration. ⁴ This is one of the primary reasons medical facilities are highly recommended for the detox stage – the 24-hour support and monitoring ensures your safety.
There are ways to circumvent some of the symptoms of withdrawal, but these medications can only be applied in a clinical setting. There are also holistic medicines for withdrawal, but since there’s no evidence to suggest they’re more effective than pharmaceuticals, a treatment facility remains the best course of action for withdrawal.
3.) Mental and Emotional Withdrawals
Once the body has been cleansed of chemical influence, the brain must then undergo its own withdraw. While symptoms vary depending on the drug, the most common mental and emotional withdrawals include: ⁵
- Emotional overreaction or numbness
- Lack of motivation
- Rapid mood changes
- Sleeping problems
- Stress sensitivity
Of these symptoms, cravings are the most important. These are strong desires to use a substance in order to fulfill a problem that may be caused by mental withdrawal (i.e. anxiety or depression). In many cases, cravings can be so intense and result in a lack of control, leading to relapse. ⁶
In most cases, mental and emotional withdrawals are handled with psychotherapies and support groups. These allow you to understand where your addiction is coming from within you and develop coping techniques to overcome these challenges. ⁷
The length of mental withdrawals vary depending on the person and their previous addiction. However, most people will spend anywhere between 6 months to 1 year in this stage of recovery.
4.) Relapse Prevention
The potential for relapse is likely going to be a battle you face for the rest of your life. Luckily, it becomes easier with time. However, during the physical and mental withdrawal stages, it will be most prominant.
As your brain and body undergoes so many changes, there’s going to be a desire to make things easier on yourself by simply giving in. In a more specific example, if you’re overcoming an opioid addiction, your brain needs a lot of time to “relearn” how to make dopamine on its own. A craving may is your brain’s way of saying, “you can get all that dopamine back by taking opioids again.” ⁸
Of course, different drugs have varying mechanisms for causing cravings and relapse. But what remains the same is your brain and body simply need time to readjust and overcome the damage a substance has done to them.
One of the best ways to prevent relapse is by finding a support group of others who were addicted to the same substance as you (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous). Through these groups, you can find others who are going through similar experiences as you, discuss your issues, and work together on overcoming the problem.
5.) Moving On
As mentioned, you’ll likely struggle with the threat of relapse most of your life. However, the best way to overcome these desires is simply by incorporating other hobbies into your life.
Some people find exercising to be a great substitute as it creates endorphins that can help the brain and body repair itself after addiction. ⁹ Others turn to more artistic forms of expression, such as writing or painting, in order to keep their minds busy through a long stretch of time.
Regardless of your decisions, the most important thing is to find a purpose that goes beyond drugs and alcohol.
Why Professional Help is So Important
As you can see, the steps of recovery discussed here can be done without the help of rehab. However, there are a few reasons why a treatment facility remains your best option:
- Detoxing from a substance can be dangerous and a medical facility allows for your safety.
- Mental and emotional withdrawals are extremely difficult and often require the guidance of a mental health professional.
- Rehab facilities will have resources to further your recovery, such as medication and support groups.
- Through a treatment center, you’ll have your recovery process laid out – giving you a clear idea of the steps you need to take to overcome addiction.
Overcoming drug addiction isn’t easy. Overcoming it on your own is even more difficult. It’s unlikely you’ll find a medical professional who recommends you go through the withdrawal process without the help of a facility.
Beyond the fact that it can be dangerous, the experience is so intense that the majority of people who attempt such a feat end up relapsing. Through a rehab facility, you’re ensuring you have the best chance of recovery.
Still have questions about how to stop drug addiction without rehab?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA): Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
² Addiction Science & Clinical Practice: The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence
³ Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment (SAMHSA): Overview, Essential Concepts, and Definitions in Detoxification
⁴ Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings: Withdrawal Management
⁵ Health Direct: Addiction withdrawal symptoms
⁶ HHS Public Access: The clinical significance of drug craving
⁷ National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA): Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction
⁸ StatPearls: Addiction Relapse Prevention
⁹ frontiers in Psychiatry: Exercise as a Potential Treatment for Drug Abuse: Evidence from Preclinical Studies