Drug and Alcohol Addictions Destroy Lives
Most people who use prescription or recreational drugs do not experience any negative consequences. However, that is not the case for many others who discover themselves becoming psychologically and sometimes physically addicted. Those who become addicted find themselves feeling trapped in a downward spiral as key relationships such as home, school, family, and friendships rapidly deteriorate. Eventually the addict becomes increasingly isolated and psychologically distressed, yet seemingly helpless to do anything about it.
Fortunately, there are ways of breaking this downward spiral, stabilizing the addicted person’s life, and successfully learning to live an addiction-free life. The first step in this process is coming to a greater understanding of addiction and how it can be dealt with. That means understanding how addiction develops, its warning signs and symptoms, and how to get help for oneself or a loved one.
There are many reasons why people develop unhealthy relationships with drugs and alcohol. Many people start experimenting because of curiosity and because other people in their social scene are doing it. Drinking and taking drugs can also be a means of trying to cope with psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, or too much stress. The reasons why some people get addicted are many and are unique in the case of every addict. Many addicts come from families where there is a long history of addiction. A bad childhood, mental disorders, and the method and types of drugs taken can all be factors. There is simply no reliable way to predict who will become an addict, nor is it possible to explain why when you have two people in similar circumstances, one will become addicted and the other will not.
It is estimated that as much as 7% of the population will become addicts at some point in their lives. Once addiction develops, whatever the person is addicted to becomes as important to them as other basic life sustaining activities like eating or drinking water. This compulsion to use the addictive substance persists even in the face of rising evidence that the addiction is causing great harm. Often the addict seems strangely incapable of noticing their level of dependence or the damage that is being done, a phenomenon known as “denial.” The practice of denial may develop even if the person seems intelligent and perceptive in all other areas of their lives. When it comes to drugs or alcohol, they just can’t see clearly what is happening to them.
Sometimes drug addiction develops quickly, but more commonly it tends to sneak up on the addict. Small increases in the rate and amount of usage over time is part of what makes addiction hard to recognize until it is too late. Often the addict will not realize the seriousness of what is happening to them until something dramatic happens, such as a lost job, a failed marriage, or a serious drug related accident. Yet, even when these dramatically negative events occur, it can be surprising the degree to which the addict will blame everything for what happened except the substance to which they are addicted. They may even use the misfortunes created by the addiction to justify further addictive behavior by exclaiming, “If you had my problems, you’d get high too!”
The difficulty in getting the addict to face their addiction and do something about it is extremely frustrating to the people who care about the addicted person. Addictive drug use can seldom be conquered by willpower alone, in part because drug abuse alters the way the brain and body function so that stopping the drug use feels psychologically and physically painful. The addict’s social circle and general environment also often reinforce the drug use in both direct and subtle ways that are nearly impossible to overcome.
That is why overcoming addiction to drugs and alcohol almost always requires seeking outside help. Ideally, the addict should be removed from their normal setting so that continued drug use is not reinforced by their environment. This usually means being placed in a facility with trained professionals who are experienced with dealing with addicted individuals and who understand the physical and psychological dynamics of drug addiction. Usually at least thirty days in a treatment facility is required, with extensive follow up and support after the addict returns to society.
The good news is that drug and alcohol addiction, even in seemingly hopeless cases, can be overcome with proper treatment. Even in cases where the addict is initially resistant to treatment, once the person is in the treatment setting and away from their drug re-enforcing environment, they often come to realize their situation and show a new willingness to change.
For some addicts, the path to recovery is faster and easier than for others. There is no one way of treatment that works equally well for every addicted person. Often, the initial phases of recovery require some trial and error and perhaps some setbacks. Yet, it is a fact that alcohol and drug addiction can be successfully overcome, provided the right kind of professional treatment is obtained.