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Breaking Down Addiction Denial: The Role of Long-Term Inpatient Drug Rehab

Someone struggling with an addiction problem will likely be the last one to notice the problems his or her behaviors cause. Friends and family soon realize repeated attempts to reason and point out the consequences of an addict’s actions fall on deaf ears.

Denial and addiction go hand and hand, not because the addict doesn’t want to face the truth, but because he or she has lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong. For people with long histories of addiction, denial has become an ingrained part of their overall psychological make-up.

Long-term inpatient drug rehab provides addicts with the time and space needed to see drug use for what it is: a major problem in their lives. Long-term inpatient drug rehab programs also treat whatever medical and psychological conditions that impede a person’s ability to see denial for what it is.

The Choice to Use Drugs

While not everyone who tries drugs will continue using, those who keep using gradually relinquish their ability to choose to do so over time. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addictive substances compromise the brain’s ability to think clearly to the point where the areas responsible for reasoning and judgement become rewired. In effect, the only time an addict exercises “free” choice when using drugs is when he or she tries them for the first time.


addiction denial

Addiction denial works in a cycle.

Characteristics of Denial

The degree of denial an addict exihibits corresponds with the degree of damage drug use has caused. Likewise, individuals struggling with severe addictions have developed strong denial mechanisms that are especially difficult to break.

According to Penn State, characteristics of denial displayed by addicts may take the form of:

  • A refusal to acknowledge drug use as a problem
  • A refusal to acknowledge other problems that result from drug use
  • A belief that other people have a problem, not the addict
  • Refuse to seek treatment unless they absolutely have to

The Purpose of Denial

Ultimately, the mind uses denial to make reality more palatable. While most everyone exercises denial to a certain extent, the addict’s mind enters into a warped pattern of logic and reasoning.

For the addict, denial works to protect, support and justify the role that drugs hold in his or her life. To do this, a person may minimize problems resulting from drug use, rationalize any negative consequences that come about or repress any doubts he or she may have regarding continued drug use.

Much of the time spent in long-term inpatient drug rehab focuses on breaking down denial’s defenses, which enables addicts to take an active role in the recovery process.

Symptoms of Denial

Much like symptoms of drug withdrawal develop out of the body’s physical dependence on a drug, symptoms of denial stem from the brain’s psychological dependence on a drug’s effects. In effect, denial gives the addict permission to keep using drugs.

Symptoms of denial can vary depending on the person and his or her circumstances, some of which include:

  • A belief that one can stop using drugs whenever he or she wants to
  • Viewing drug use as a personal matter
  • Believing drug use doesn’t hurt or affect others
  • Viewing drug use as necessary (and normal) for dealing with daily life stressors
  • Comparing one’s drug-using behaviors with that of others who are worse off

Over time, denial creates its own belief system equipped with its own thinking patterns, emotional responses and behaviors. Interventions employed by long-term inpatient drug rehab programs specifically deal with the components of denial and its effects in a person’s daily life.

Benefits of Long-Term Inpatient Drug Rehab

Chronic addiction leaves lasting effects on the brain’s physiological and psychological make-up. More often than not, these effects require longer treatment times than traditional 30-day programs offer. According to the New York Times, treatment programs running 90 days or longer have greater success at helping addicts maintain sobriety on a long-term basis.

Long-term inpatient drug rehab treatment takes a multi-pronged approach to addiction, addressing both the physical and psychological dependencies that support drug-using behaviors. While these programs do offer detox services, most of the time spent in long-term inpatient treatment is spent breaking down denial defenses in a person’s thinking.

Time to Address Underlying Issues

People who’ve developed unhealthy coping behaviors, such as burying difficult emotions or entering into dysfunctional relationships remain highly susceptible to drug abuse and addiction. During the course of using drugs, drug use becomes a means for coping with difficult issues and daily life stressors.

As underlying emotional conflicts often form the basis for addiction to take root, long-term inpatient rehab employs a range of interventions that work to help addicts uncover these issues and develop healthy coping behaviors.

Interventions used may include:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Support groups
  • Group therapy

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

Breaking the addiction cycle entails building a lifestyle that supports drug-free living. Much like addiction breeds its own lifestyle, living drug-free means developing the types of habits and behaviors that make long-term sobriety possible.

While confronting denial remains a focal point of treatment, the length of a long-term inpatient drug rehab program allows the time needed for a person to “walk out” or practice the principles learned on a day-by-day basis, according to the Montana State Website.

Dual Diagnosis Conditions

According to the National Institutes of Health, people struggling with mood or anxiety disorder are twice as likely to develop addiction problems as the general population. When co-occurring mental illness exists, addiction denial mechanisms become that much stronger. Under these conditions, the level and intensity of treatment provided by long-term inpatient drug rehab offers a person the best chance of a successful, lasting recovery.

Adjusting to a Drug-Free Lifestyle

Belief systems form the basis for a person’s motivations, behaviors and overall outlook on life. As a belief system, denial works in the same way. Once addicts come to see addiction for what it is, it takes time to adjust to the emotional shifts that take place as a person settles into drug-free living. Long-term inpatient drug rehab programs offer much needed support and direction as a person develops and grows in recovery.

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