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Psychology and Addiction Recovery

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When a loved one abuses drugs or alcohol, it raises concerns about her health and future. Since drug abuse stems from multiple causes like traumatic experiences, mental health disorders or even physical accidents, a treatment program must evaluate the needs of each individual before creating a plan of action.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (1) states that an effective treatment program assists with the emotional and psychological needs of a loved one. Psychology plays a key role in addiction recovery because it helps a loved one learn valuable skills to avoid addiction and substance abuse in the future.

Psychological Aspects of Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (2) says that physical dependence and psychological dependence both play a role in the development of an addiction. The physical aspects of addiction or dependence stem from the way that a loved one’s body reacts when she no longer takes the drug. It can occur after taking medications as directed by a doctor or when a loved one abuses a substance for any reason.

The physical aspects of an addiction refer to the withdrawal symptoms and the physical discomforts associated with the drugs; however, an addiction also possesses a psychological component. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2), addiction means that a loved one compulsively seeks the drug and feels an emotional or psychological need to take the drug, even when it causes physical harm.

Psychological aspects of addiction include:

  • Compulsive drug-seeking behaviors
  • Taking action to obtain the drug, even when a loved one decides to stop using the substance
  • Emotional dependence on the drug
  • Attempts to use a substance to self-medicate or avoid handling emotional trauma
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Causes of drug abuse depend on a loved one’s specific situation. According to Psych Central (3), around 49 percent of women with an addiction to alcohol report past sexual abuse and a child who experiences four or more traumatic situations before adulthood is five times more likely to abuse alcohol when compared to children without traumatic experiences. Identifying the underlying causes of addiction starts with psychological treatments and therapy.

Treating Addiction With Psychology

Psychological treatments refer to any therapy programs that use various forms of psychology to address the underlying causes of addiction. According to Web MD (4), therapy programs help with addiction recovery by teaching a loved one better ways to avoid substance abuse.

Psychological Treatments include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy programs
  • Psychoanalytic treatments
  • Counseling programs, including group therapy and individual therapy

According to Web MD (4), many treatment programs use cognitive-behavioral therapy because it teaches valuable coping strategies and ways to change personal behaviors. It identifies the thought processes and situations that make drugs or alcohol tempting, and then teaches different ways to divert personal thoughts and change the actions that a loved one takes.

Benefits of Psychology

Addiction stems from several causes, including simple curiosity or accidents that lead to physical injuries. There is no single right approach, it all depends on the person. However, psychological treatments play an essential role in the recovery process by addressing the underlying causes and helping a loved one learn better ways to handle cravings or temptations.

Drug abuse harms a loved one’s physical, emotional and mental health. By treating addiction with a combination of psychological therapies, physical treatments and healthy activities, a loved one learns better ways to avoid drugs in the future and starts making positive changes in her lifestyle.

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  1. DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addition, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2009,<?li>
  2. Is There a Difference Between Physical Dependence and Addiction?, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, December 2012,
  3. David Sack, M.D., Emotional Trauma: An Often Overlooked Root of Addiction, Psych Central, May 2, 2012,
  4. Counseling and Addiction, Web MD, October 4, 2014,

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