Individuals struggling with drug or alcohol addiction often do things they thought they would never do — even to the people in their life that they love. Active addiction isn’t pretty, and the effects of addiction-based behavior can be devastating for both addicts and their friends and family members.
It’s a painful reality that no one wants to address, but facing the truth is necessary to help those who are struggling through the throes of addiction.
To learn how addiction affects loved ones and family members, and how to get help for a loved one’s substance use. Continue reading this article for more information on how to get help for your loved one.
What Is Addiction?
When most people think of addiction, they think of drugs or alcohol. However, addiction can be much more complicated.
Addiction can be defined as any behavior that a person finds difficult to control, regardless of whether it involves substances.
Common signs of addiction include
- Feeling the need to engage in a behavior or use a substance regularly
- Being unable to control one’s use of a substance or engagement in harmful behaviors
- Continuing to use a substance or engage in a harmful behavior despite endangering personal safety or causing adverse consequences.
Addiction can alter one’s own health and brain chemistry, making it difficult for a person to stop using a substance even if it leads to a chronic or a severe medical condition, legal troubles, and lasting relationship issues with parents, children, and family.
For example, substance abuse can alter how the brain produces and responds to dopamine, leading to addiction.
Recognizing Drug Addiction in a Loved One
If you have a family member struggling with an addiction problem, it’s important to recognize the signs of addiction and the addict’s behavior.
Some common signs that a loved one may be struggling with addiction include:
- Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school
- Withdrawing from friends and activities that they once enjoyed
- Lying or being secretive about whereabouts and activities
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Experiencing financial problems and asking for financial assistance
- Going through mood swings or drastic changes in mood or behavior
- Exhibiting changes in appearance
- Displaying symptoms of withdrawal when unable to use substances or engage in the addictive behavior
It might be difficult to see signs of substance use disorder or addiction in a loved one at first. However, as the addiction progresses, it will become increasingly difficult to hide. If you suspect that a loved one is struggling with an addiction, the best thing you can do is talk to them about it.
Talk to Them about Their Problem
Many people who struggle with addiction are in denial about their problem. As a result, the one with an addiction problem might be resistant to talking about it. Having an open and honest conversation with your loved one about their addiction is important.
During this conversation, try to avoid judgmental language or ultimatums. Instead, focus on expressing your concern for their well-being and letting them know you’re there for them.
Emotional support is essential for someone struggling with addiction, and it can go a long way in helping them enter recovery.
Difference Between Addiction and Dependence
There is a significant difference between addiction and dependence. People can be dependent on a substance without being addicted to it. For example, someone who takes medication for a heart condition is dependent on it but is not addicted to it.
Addiction, on the other hand, is more complicated. Despite the consequences, addiction is a compulsive need for a substance or activity. Someone addicted to a substance will keep using it even if it’s harming their health or causing life problems.
Withdrawal symptoms and cravings also characterize addiction. When someone tries to quit their alcohol or drug use, they may experience uncomfortable symptoms like headache, nausea, and anxiety.
When Does Addiction Start?
A drug or alcohol problem often starts with experimentation. For some people, experimentation leads to regular use, which can eventually become an addiction.
Usually, addiction is a way to cope with difficult life circumstances, such as trauma, extreme stress, or anxiety. However, over time, the addiction takes over and becomes a problem in and of itself.
Addiction can also be the result of a genetic predisposition. Some people are more likely to develop an addiction due to family history. Families who know their addiction history understand what a loved one’s drug use is and can set healthy boundaries.
An addicted family member might try to hide their problem initially, but eventually, the addiction will be impossible to ignore. Other family members and loved ones will be affected by the addiction, as well.
Seeking treatment options from a health professional or facility like La Hacienda Treatment Center that offers evidence-based treatments is an effective way to stop old habits.
The Different Types of Addictions
Addiction affects people in different ways and there are several different types of addictions. Some of the most common types of addiction include:
- Alcohol addiction: Drinking is legal and socially acceptable, so it’s easy to overlook that it can be as addictive as any other substance. Nearly 15 million adults in the United States suffer from alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- Drug addiction: There are many drugs that people can become addicted to, including prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, and illegal substances. Opioid addiction is a particularly serious problem in the United States. In 2018, there were more than 47,000 deaths from opioid overdoses.
- Nicotine addiction: While most people associate smoking with cigarettes, nicotine can be found in other products as well, such as cigars, e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and it’s estimated that nearly 70% of smokers want to quit but cannot do so on their own.
- Gambling addiction: For some people, gambling can become an addiction. This type of addiction is often characterized by a compulsion to gamble, despite the negative consequences. A gambling addiction can lead to financial problems, relationship difficulties, and mental health issues.
- Behavioral addictions: These include gambling, overeating, television compulsion, and Internet addiction. The individual is addicted to the activity or the feelings that result from engaging in the activity.
No matter what type of addiction a person is struggling with, the results are similar. Someone with an addiction typically experiences problems in all areas of life, including work, school, health, and personal relationships.
Four Stages of Addiction
A loved one’s addiction does not happen overnight. It is a gradual process over time. There are four stages of addiction.
For many people, the first time they try a substance or activity is a momentous occasion. It can be a time of excitement, exploration, and trepidation. This is especially true if the person is trying something out of curiosity or peer pressure.
2. Regular Use
After trying a substance or activity once, some people continue it regularly. This could be because they like how it makes them feel, enjoy the social aspects, or think it’s helping them cope with stress or other life problems.
3. Misuse and Abuse
At the misuse and abuse stage, the person uses the substance or engages in the activity more frequently, and it starts to negatively affect their life. They may begin missing work or school, having issues with their parents, children, or spouse. Legal problems and financial problems also arise. The latter can especially cause complications if there is a shared bank account.
At this stage, addiction has complete power over the individual. The addiction tells your loved one that they do not have a problem. The addiction tells your loved one it is not a problem, and the problem lies with others like – family, friends, children – people who don’t understand.
If not treated in a facility such as La Hacienda, addiction may lead to incarceration or death.
Seeking Help for Addiction
A person with addiction can overcome their disease. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s addiction, the best thing you can do is encourage them and learn about this disease from a program like Al Anon or by the side of your loved one’s recovery process.
Even if individuals suffering from substance use disorders and addiction are unwilling to seek help, family and friends can play an important role in getting them help. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s addiction, there are a few things you can do to help:
- Educate yourself about addiction and its causes: When you understand more about addiction, you’ll be better equipped to help your loved one.
- Learn about the different types of treatment options available: From family therapy sessions to support groups that use a 12-step approach, various types of options can be helpful for those struggling with addiction.
- Talk to your friend or family member about your concerns in a non-judgmental way: A person with addiction is likely aware at some level that their behavior is harmful. Compassionately approaching them will make it more likely for them to listen to what you have to say.
- Offer your support throughout their journey in recovery: As your loved one starts to recover, they’ll need your help to maintain sobriety.
You can also involve other family members and friends in this recovery process. Sometimes, it takes a village to help someone struggling with addiction. There is no quick fix. Help your loved one find the help they need to cope with their addiction.
La Hacienda Treatment Center Helps People Overcome Addiction
Whether it’s alcohol or drug abuse, or a combination of drinking, prescription medications, and street drugs, addiction is a serious disease that requires professional help to overcome. La Hacienda offers a treatment program that addresses medical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the disease.
- Clinical therapy: Individual and group counseling sessions can help individuals understand the underlying causes of their disease and learn new coping mechanisms. Examples include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and talk therapy, among others.
- 12 Step Programs: A primary focus of La Hacienda’s recovery program is introduction to the 12 steps. Under the direction of our Alumni Support Staff, patients work through the first four steps while in treatment.
- Medical: La Hacienda has a dedicated detoxification facility to medically supervise withdrawal. We have a 24/7 nursing staff and patients see a doctor daily. Our board-certified, on-campus physicians may prescribe medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings so patients can concentrate on their therapy.
- Inpatient residential program: Patients receive medical care, therapy, room, and board at the attractive residential treatment center in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
- Family Program: A free, on-campus, four-day program for parents, children, and other family members of patients, which focuses on the cause and effect of substance use disorders, and healthy ways families can promote the recovery process. This includes introduction to support groups such as Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Outpatient program: La Hacienda Solutions in Austin is an intensive outpatient program that allows patients to live at home while participating in individual and group therapy at the North Austin location.
The type of program that’s best for you or your loved one will depend on a variety of factors, including the severity of the addiction, any co-occurring mental health disorders, and whether there are any other complicating factors.
Other Resources and Organizations That Can Help
If you are unsure where to start when it comes to getting help for addiction, there are a few resources and organizations that can help:
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
SAMHSA is a government organization dedicated solely to helping those with mental health and substance abuse disorders. They have a national helpline that can connect you with facilities nearby, regardless of where you are in the country.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
NIDA is a research organization dedicated to helping those with substance abuse disorders. They have various resources on their website, including information about different types of programs.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a United States-based nonprofit organization originally founded as a grassroots group by family members of people diagnosed with mental illness.
If you’re struggling with addiction or know someone who is, resources and treatments are available to help. It may not happen overnight, but with treatment and support, long term recovery is possible.
All it takes is one step to get started on the road to recovery. Consider all the factors involved in choosing a treatment program to ensure you or your loved one receives the best care. La Hacienda will help guide you. Please reach out today.