By Lucy Schultze
Oxford Treatment Center
If someone chooses to drink or use drugs for the first time, can’t they also make a choice when it’s time to stop?
For most people, the answer is yes. When drugs or alcohol start causing problems in life, they decide it’s not worth it and quit using, or just use less.
For others, though, it’s not that simple. Experts estimate about eight percent of the population is prone to addiction. For them, a combination of genetic risk factors and physical dependence, along with the “rewiring” effect that addictive substances have on the brain, all combine to make quitting virtually impossible.
Psychiatrist Stephen Pannel, D.O., medical director at Oxford Treatment Center, said most people wouldn’t be in treatment unless they had to be.
“There’s this perception that people who are in treatment have not tried to quit on their own, and that’s usually not true,” he said. “Most of the time, when people get to this point, they have already tried to stop. But the withdrawal or physical pain from quitting is so severe, they can’t bear it.”
Pannel is board certified in addiction medicine and adult psychiatry. He specializes in treating what’s known as co-occurring disorders — the mental health issues like depression and anxiety that frequently go hand-in-hand with addiction.
In treatment, clinicians deal with those co-occurring disorders through therapy, appropriate medication and other interventions. Taking substances away while giving people new ways to cope allows them to take their first steps in recovery.
“In detox and treatment, your access to drugs and alcohol is zero — but access to medical and psychosocial care is 24/7,” Pannel said.
“When people are first separated from these substances, they soon look healthy again. But psychologically, they get a lot worse before they get better.
“Their use before was dysfunctional — yet the chemicals they were putting into their body were,…