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Programs at residential or inpatient drug abuse treatment centers is thought to be more effective than outpatient services, mainly due to the important role environment plays in developing addiction. That is not to say that more flexible outpatient drug abuse rehabilitation programs where clients are able to remain at home do not work. Addiction is a very personal experience and what is effective for one person may not be for another and so the prime consideration should be is what is best for the individual concerned.

In this article, we take a closer look at how the environment a person is in when they use drugs has a direct bearing on their illness. We also show how residential drug abuse treatment centers can not only remove someone from a difficult environment while they get better, but also provide them with the tools to cope when they return home.

The Powerful Influence of Environment on Addiction and Recovery

Consider a person who is on a diet who is out shopping. Because they have told themselves to cut down on what they eat, they are likely to be thinking about food more than usual. Passing by a bakery with glorious aromas of freshly baked bread, the dieter will almost certainly experience cravings for something to eat.

This is a commonplace and completely human behavior that we all experience regularly in some form or another. However, this is a very simple illustration of how powerfully an addict can be influenced by an environment where drug-taking is actively encouraged. Human beings are very sensory creatures, easily influenced by sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. These are all factors that need to be taken into account in a personalized drug abuse rehabilitation treatment program.

There are six major ways environment influences a person with addiction illness:

  1. Family dynamics and interactions: Among the most powerful environment influences is early childhood. The way families interact, the approach to parenting, level of discipline and supervision all play an important part in the development of later mental health issues, including addiction. When we are very young, we develop our own coping strategies to deal with uncomfortable situations. In some cases these strategies can become maladaptive, leading to risk-taking or destructive behavior. In many cases experiences in early childhood become internal triggers that can be activated by external factors such as lack of parental responsibility, divorce or all forms of abuse.
  2. Friend groups: When people regularly interact with others with a potential drug problem, it can be difficult to prevent displaying the same behaviors. This is due to the natural need to belong and feel connected to likeminded people which guides us to behave in the same ways so as to easily fit in with them. The influence of friends is a strong factor in continued substance abuse as even unspoken peer pressure is very compelling. Research shows that individuals with less critical views of substance use are far more likely to engage in addictive activity. Many of our attitudes towards drugs and alcohol are shaped by the people we mix with when we’re growing up and earlier exposure to substance use is commonly associated with problems with addiction later on. Conversely, peer support groups can prove to be invaluable after attending a drug abuse treatment center and provide extra motivation to maintain sobriety.
  3. Social media: Social media has become an integral part of our lives, across the generations. Although there are many benefits to this type of social interaction, there are also drawbacks. Individuals struggling with addiction issues particularly as a result of emotional problems can feel isolated by the way others portray their lives online. Research shows that people who are susceptible to mental health problems may have them exacerbated if they spend a lot of time online. Although there is little chance of the social media trend shifting from self-promotion, there are an increasing number of groups raising awareness of mental health issues in efforts to remove stigma and shame. When attending a residential drug abuse treatment center, clients are unable to engage in social media activity in order to focus on getting better.
  4. Media in general: We are constantly surrounded by the influence of media in other forms such as video games, television shows and movies. Increasingly, we are involving ourselves in the lives of others as a form of entertainment as in the case of reality TV and also certain video games where the player can influence the direction of a character’s role in a scene. Because we are now much more engaged in media interactively, we are now more exposed to fantasy creations representing our reality. This leads to us setting unrealistic goals and unhealthy ideas and presents an unspoken pressure to those vulnerable to substance abuse. During drug abuse rehab clients are shielded from the influences of all media channels.
  5. Culture/religion: There are significant triggers for substance abuse that stem from a person’s cultural and religious background. Some people gain early exposure to attitudes towards drugs and alcohol such as there being shame attached to substance abuse or that it is particularly unacceptable for women. The pressure to live a certain way can be too much for an individual to take and often they find themselves turning to drugs in a rebellious response to others’ expectations of them. Drug abuse rehab programs allow individuals a chance to step out of their cultural or religious heritage in order to focus on finding their way in the world substance-free.
  6. Learned environments: Some people struggling with substance abuse can be affected by triggers in their physical environment such as going to the bar after work on Friday for drinks. It is not uncommon for coworkers to regularly get together at the end of a working week but when this behavior is repeated, it can become habitual very easily. Addictive behaviors are often the result of repeating an action regularly so that the activity, place or person becomes associated with substance abuse. Individuals often find themselves facing a situation where they are unable to participate or engage with others without using drugs and this is a common result of repeated or learned behavior.
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