For many addicts money is a powerful abuse trigger. Just having a $20 bill is enough to send many users straight to their dealers. For an addict using money is intimately connected to both getting high and to stress that causes cravings. Addiction chemically rewires neural pathways, so the brain may associate money and getting high with pleasure. Even addicts well into recovery must be especially careful about money as it can cause relapse even years after rehab.
Money and the Brain
Many people struggle with spending impulsively as buying something triggers a response in the reward center of the brain. In a healthy person this response reinforces hard work and reward, but addicts’ brains associate money with the euphoria of getting high. This association is much more powerful than rational thought.
This same part of the brain is where impulse control, anxiety, depression and habit formation occurs. Responsible spending means a person can consciously override his emotional urges to buy everything he wants. This same ability to control impulses directly affects an addict’s ability to refuse available drugs. But as with self-control, recovering addicts can rise above the temptation to spend money and get high if they seek specialized treatment.
Reprogramming Money Habits
Impulses to spend money and get high whenever money is available may last for years after rehab. One of the most important skills that recovering addicts develop during rehab is the ability to process and resist drug cravings. It is certainly possible for an addict to correct her thinking even though she experiences powerful cravings when given money. However, until that ability develops, recovering addicts should protect themselves in the following ways:
- Avoid ATM or debit cards as they make it too easy to access money
- Entrust a non-addicted friend or family member to control your spending
- Set up direct deposit for your paycheck instead of receiving a paper check
- Maintain close contact with your recovery sponsor in the first months after rehab, especially on paydays
- Learn to speak with friends and loved ones about your drug use triggers so they don’t inadvertently contribute to a relapse
Finding and maintaining employment during recovery can be challenging and stressful. Your brain will want you to medicate the stress associated with money by using drugs, but you can resist this with treatment.
Money Help for Recovering Drug Addicts
If you a recovering addict and access to money sparks your cravings, then please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline right now. Our counselors can help you resist the urge to get high and can connect you with the best treatment program for your particular needs. If you have already been through rehab, we can connect you with excellent aftercare programs and money-management resources.
Don’t be ashamed of your need for financial help and accountability. You will eventually overcome these cravings and we can help.
Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at The Oaks. For more specific information on programs at The Oaks, contact us today.