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What Is Grief In Addiction?

What Is Grief In Addiction

Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. It is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli (e.g., drug seeking behaviors and use) despite harmful consequences. Habitually abusing drugs and/ or alcohol will affect the way one’s brain functions, as one’s body becomes increasingly accustomed to operating with the presence of the substance in its system. The precise reason behind why an individual develops an addiction remains unknown. There are, however, several risk factors that have been reported to increase one’s propensity for developing an addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) these include environmental risk factors, genetics, drug of choice, method of use, and the age an individual started abusing drugs and/ or alcohol. Every individual is different and will have or lack various predispositions that can contribute to developing an addiction.

Addiction can wreak havoc in all areas of one’s life, as an individual struggling with addiction will prioritize satisfying her drug cravings above all else. It is not uncommon for an individual struggling with substance use disorder to experience relationship challenges, negative physiological effects, financial strain, legal complications, lack personal hygiene, and be unable to maintain steady employment. It is important to note that substance use disorder does not develop overnight, nor should an individual expect his or her recovery from addiction to occur instantaneously. The treatment process for recovering from substance use disorder is not entirely linear and will be unique to everyone.

The Role Of Grief 

Loss is a normal and unavoidable part of being human, and grief is an emotion that is caused by loss. The Mayo Clinic explains “grief is a strong, sometimes, overwhelming emotion for people…” Grief affects the human limbic system by disrupting certain brain chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine). Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with one’s reward center and feelings of pleasure. Serotonin is known as one of the chemicals responsible for maintaining one’s mood balance. Grief will manifest in each person differently. Experiencing grief after a loss is healthy and natural. Grief plays a large role in the process of recovering from an addiction. Grief often emerges in reaction to the intense changes taking place in an individual as his or her addiction is addressed. Internalizing the loss of how one used to interact and function in the world as a drug user can be complicated. Understanding, accepting, and facing this process of grieving can be invaluable to one’s recovery process. 

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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