When Reality Becomes Less Than Reality

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated November 29, 2018

When looking at how addiction tends to manifest itself, it’s useful to look at the perception of reality to the person who abuses drugs or alcohol. Because of the very nature of what happens to a person’s mood when actively affected by a substance, their view of reality can become distorted. One of the more frequently experienced perception changes is that the person can forget their responsibilities and problems. Their altered reality is one that appears to be easier to manage and thus less stressful or anxiety filled. Other drugs may have an effect of perceived higher sense of pleasure, where physically their body and mind are sending them signals that they are experiencing a euphoric and elated reality.

These things aren’t in and of themselves bad. We watch movies or read books to find the same escapism and largely for the same reasons. The difference, however, is that when using a substance to achieve these moments, the perception of reality itself is altered and when the ‘high’ is over or the drug wears off, it leaves a person not only in ‘normal’ reality but often times in a state that can feel worse than where they started; a ‘more distressing’ reality.

Drugs that directly manipulate the brain’s pleasure neurotransmitters like cocaine often times leave a person coming down with the immediate desire to return to that more carefree and pleasurable reality. This component often times is part responsible for addiction in users. The altered reality experienced becomes that more desirable one and the actual reality which now feels more depressing or painful despite having not changed starts becoming more and more avoided through drug use.

When this happens with a physically damaging drug like cocaine, the actual reality will objectively become worse. The body will become harmed through use, introducing physical ailments that weren’t originally there to deal with. If use is frequent and their behavior erratic and risky while under the influence, the consequences of their actions will set into motion events that will also make their actual reality much worse. Addiction in these cases becomes a cycle in which each return to ‘normal’ reality does indeed become worse and worse and creates an incentive to use the drug more. Most addicts will seem, to ordinary people, like they are making irrational decisions. In their altered reality, though, these decisions become more and more rational and logical; the real world isn’t easy to deal with and escapism in the form of using a drug exists.

addiction treatment servicesAll this happens before the possibility of physical dependency sets in which can further complicate the person’s relationship with drug and alcohol use.

At Northbound St. Louis, we offer treatment which can bring the person back into balance with their own reality set them free from addiction to their escape. Call (866) 311-0003 to talk to a counselor about diagnosis and treatment options.


Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.