What is Addiction

According to the American Society of Addiction, Medicine addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Addiction is characterized by an inability to consistently abstain, imparted behavior control, subject to cravings, diminished recognition of a significant problem related to one’s behavior, relationships, or inappropriate emotional responses. In other words, when a person’s behavior becomes controlled by the substance (food, alcohol, drugs), an activity (watching pornography on the web, gambling, working, shopping, for example), or a feeling (such as raging) despite negative consequences related to that behavior, then the person is suffering from an addiction.

Because of the nature of addiction and the chemical alteration, it creates in one’s brain, simply saying no to the drug or substance or behavior may not be so easy. Many of our normal brain functions such as neurological functions, cognitive functions, and emotional response functions are distorted. What seems obvious to the none addicted person, is not necessarily obvious to the addict. Even if the addict admits to the problem, he or she may physically unable to stop.

For this reason, addiction is now classified as a disease of the brain. It is not about willpower alone.

Why Would Someone Suffering From Addiction Refuse Help?

It is difficult to delineate the line when someone crosses over from abusing a substance (alcohol or drugs) to a person who is addicted. When someone abuses drugs or alcohol, he or she may be acting in a self-destructive manner, but at that moment, the addict will not be able to stop. However difficult it is for someone to watch the progression of addiction, it is difficult for someone else to tell the addict that he or she has a problem. Often the loved witnessing the changes in behavior will confront the addict and more often than not the addict will deny the accusation. Such dynamics are complex. Sadly, such discussions, arguments, or crying sessions can drive the addict further into his or her addiction because the addict will feel guilt, anger, or shame. Difficult feelings even for people who are healthy.

It should be remembered that someone who is in the throes of active addiction will find it onerous to admit the problem and even harder to stop using. Promises will be regularly made and broken. Pain is inflicted on everyone close to the person succumbing to addiction. By the time addiction has taken hold, the brain chemistry has been altered, and most times interventions will be needed. Depending upon the stage of the addiction and the substance, medical supervision to stop will be required. These interventions may include emotional therapy, medication management, and behavioral therapies. Indeed, to date, more and more alcoholics and addicts are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders (more than one issue accompanying the addiction) such as alcoholism and depression.

One can stop using alcohol, but if the underlying problem such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder is not addressed, the addict or alcoholic will return to using as a means of self-medicating to ease his or her discomfort. The pattern is not unusual. Even if someone goes through detox which is not followed by entrance into a comprehensive treatment program the underlying reason for the addiction remains.

It should be remembered that detox IS NOT treatment. Detox is the process when the body rids itself of the substance and attempts to return to stasis or equilibrium. If the person suffers from a mental health disorder, there can be no return to stability without diagnosis and treatment regardless of whether the individual is using drugs or alcohol.

9 Things You Can Do to Help the Substance Abuser Get Treatment

  1. If you wish to speak about the problem, you must do so when you loved one has not been using or drinking
  2. Speak to your primary physician and ask for help and encourage the addict or alcoholic to seek medical attention
  3. Learn about addiction and the role enabling plays by speaking with an addiction counselor
  4. If you are ready to confront the addict or alcoholic, talk with an addiction interventionist. A professional intervention is a preferred methodology
  5. If the addict or alcoholic is likely to hurt him/herself or is violent with others, you might need to have the person hospitalized. Such action requires the help of a licensed doctor. If you believe this is a necessary step, consult with an attorney.
  6. Recognize that the addict and alcoholic will promise anything to be left alone.
  7. Stop rescuing the addict (making excuses, paying the bills, getting the addict drugs, doing his or her work, etc.)
  8. Offer loving support for help without judgment
  9. Learn what it means to set boundaries

Substance Abuse Treatment Works

Anger at someone who is functioning under the influence of substances will not stop the alcoholic or addict from using or engaging in self-destructive behavior. You can’t force anyone to find sobriety and recovery, but by changing your behavior, you can influence the addicts. There are many forms of treatment, but those that work always are based on scientific evidence and best practices. Treatment should be multi-level with regular evaluations by a treatment team including a licensed doctor trained in addiction medicine, a licensed substance abuse counselor, provided in a structured, safe, environment for the addict. Stopping addictive behavior is a matter of life and death. Find out more about treatment for those using and for the family members by speaking with a trained treatment representative. Help is available, and treatment works when done in a quality treatment program.