Community Service Worker

Addiction: 3 Things that Professionals with Community Service Worker Training Should Know

April 28, 2021

In Canada alone, recent research has shown that about 21% of the population will experience addiction during their lives. While addiction is extremely prevalent across society, there are still a number of misconceptions surrounding this disease. Namely, many people don’t know that addiction is a disease. Addiction is a term used to describe the problematic use of a substance, and is characterized by compulsivity or difficulty managing use despite negative consequences. 

If you’re considering a career as a community service worker, you may encounter individuals suffering from addiction. In order to effectively support these individuals, it’s important to be equipped with an understanding of addiction, which is an incredibly complex disease. 

Read on to discover three things that you might not know about addiction. 

1. Those with Community Service Worker Training Should Know that Many Factors Can Lead to Addiction

There isn’t one singular factor that can determine whether a person will develop addiction. Rather, there are many different factors that can interact with each other to cause addiction. If you’ve ever wondered why some people become addicted to substances while others don’t, it may have to do with circumstances such as genetics, environment, mental health issues, and more. After completing your community service worker training, it’s important to understand these causal factors in order to work with those suffering from substance use disorders.

There are many different factors that can lead individuals to develop substance use disorders

Some people may inherit a genetic predisposition for vulnerability to the addictive properties of substances. In fact, genes account for about 50% of a person’s risk of developing an addiction. Another factor is environment. This can include the community that an individual has grown up in, the person’s quality of life, their peers, their family, or their economic status—any one of which can affect the likelihood of the person developing a substance use disorder. Mental health issues can also increase a person’s predisposition to developing addiction, as research has shown that more than 50% of those suffering from addiction have also had mental health problems throughout their lives. Lastly, people may use substances as a means to cope with tough situations, developing an addiction as a result.

2. Addiction Changes the Brain

Addiction is often misconstrued as something that can be cured by quitting the use of a substance, but the reason that addiction is so difficult to treat is because it changes the brain. Addiction can alter the brain’s natural balance, its chemistry, its communication pathways and even its structure. The compulsion and cravings created by addiction can change the brain’s balance as it adapts to this new behaviour, creating a new balance called allostasis. The dopamine surges which result from substance use can alter the brain’s reward circuit, creating a dependency on this form of dopamine rather than deriving pleasure from other sources of joy, such as spending time with friends or eating. Thus, addiction is extremely complex to treat, as it creates change in the brain itself.

Addiction can alter the brain’s natural balance, making it difficult to treat

3. There Isn’t One Right Way to Treat Addiction

After community service worker college, you may work with individuals suffering from substance use disorders. When working with these individuals, it’s important to realize that addiction treatment is a complicated process of unlearning and implementing a variety of strategies that work towards behavioural change. For these reasons, focusing on sobriety alone isn’t always effective. Individuals will typically need to find other sources of joy rather than simply maintaining a goal of abstinence, and there will not be one universal treatment strategy that works for everyone. 

For many suffering from addiction, positive reinforcement and communication will be more effective than punishment, which can cause an individual to feel isolated and spiral further into addictive behaviour. Since the chances of relapse are high during an individual’s recovery, they will benefit more from continued support and focus on emotional health rather than shaming. Treating addiction is a process, and individuals may battle addictive behaviour for the rest of their lives. When helping individuals to overcome addiction, it’s important to work with empathy, patience, and understanding above all. 

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