Five Questions Frequently Asked by Families of Addicts
Addiction is a family disease. When someone you love is struggling with an addiction you struggle as well. It can be difficult to know what to do, where to turn, and even how to ask for help. After having worked in the field of addiction recovery for a decade, I have had many of the same questions asked by families of those with Addictions. Each week I am addressing one of the five of the most frequently asked questions regarding addiction and the treatment of addictions.
Families of Addicts Question #1- Why can’t they just stop?
A few years ago I was watching T.V. with my husband and an advertisement for a Drug Rehab (not in TN) came on. It stated they could cure addictions! So, I went to their website and part of their cure was to assign you a “sober buddy” that goes with you everywhere. I could just picture in my head someone following a client around smacking pills and alcohol out of their hand and scolding them. I am not sure that is how it works exactly, but that does not sound like a cure to me, nor is that realistic for most people.
I wish it was that easy though. I would love it if a magical pill or formula could stop someone from ever using again. Your loved one could wake up tomorrow and never want to use again. Quit just like that. Of course, there are a rare few people who do quit cold turkey and don’t touch drugs or alcohol again but they very rare. For most it is a struggle and below I will explain why.
Addiction is a Disease
An addiction is a disease of the brain and is chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal. Please know, this does not take away responsibility for seeking care. I have heard more than one person struggle to accept the idea that addiction is a brain disease because they are afraid that will take away the responsibility of the addict from getting help. Just as with any medical diagnosis, a person is responsible for seeking treatment for their problem. In my experience, most addicts can see that their behaviors are causing them problems. Many have tried to stop on their own unsuccessfully. That’s why it is very important for both the person with the addiction and people trying to help them understand that addiction is more than just a bad habit that needs to be broken.
The Brain and Addiction
Advances in neuroscientific research have proven what many in the field already believed to be true; that addictions actually change the brain. It is common for people to have heard about how addiction affects the dopamine levels in the brain. However, through brain mapping it has also been discovered that addiction affects other areas of the brain as well. Those areas of the brain that are affected by addiction affect the ability to make sound judgments, rational thoughts, problem-solving, and the ability to regulate one’s own emotions. Hopefully knowing that helps to explain some of the actions your loved one has taken since becoming addicted.
Treatment for Addictions
Neuroscience 101 -Things that fire together, wire together. Therefore, the more often a behavior is repeated, the stronger those connections become. The great news is that our brains can be re-wired. There are many different types of treatments that have been proven to help those with addictions. There is hope for those who want recovery. Recovery is hard work but it is possible. With the right information, tools, and supports many people are successful in their recovery. Next week I will talk more about the types of treatments available.