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Former Addicts Have Lower Risk of Developing New Addictions

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Getting clean not only allows former users to beat the addictions which took over their life; it could also put them at lower risk of developing future addictions.

Another Reason to Get Clean

A new study led by Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, found that those who got clean were about 50 percent less likely to become dependent on something else than those who still abuse a substance. The findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The researchers used nationally representative data from 2001 and 2004, in which 35,000 people were asked about their use of a wide range of drugs, then reevaluated three years later. Twenty percent of those evaluated in 2001 had developed a new addiction three years later. However, 27 percent of that population was comprised of people who had not gotten over their first addiction and 13 percent had previously gotten clean.

“To achieve remission, most individuals need to make changes in their lifestyle and learn strategies to avoid substance use that will eventually protect against the onset of new addictions,” said Olaya García-Rodríguez, of the department of Psychology at the University of Oviedo in Spain (who was not involved in the study). “I hope that these results contribute to lessening the stigma and discrimination that many adults and young people with a history of substance abuse face when they seek employment.”

Additional Findings

The study also found that young, unmarried men who also struggled with psychiatric problems were more likely to develop a second addiction. But while some believe that those who get clean are prone to simply replacing one substance for another, García-Rodríguez said there is little medical validity to that assumption. Developing cognitive skills, participating in individualized counseling and learning healthy behavioral methods are vital. For example, coping strategies, improved relations with family or loved ones and learning how to avoid substance-related scenarios are all essentials to not becoming addicted to something else.

Of course, simply overcoming one addiction is difficult enough. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, approximately 40 to 60 percent of addicts who get clean will eventually relapse. The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Australia also reported a 79 percent chance of addicts detoxing in the first three months. These statistics demonstrate the importance of developing the coping skills listed above in order to maximize the chances of living a healthy and sober life.

Learn more about addiction and the available treatment options.

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