Addiction

What Is Addiction?

Addiction may be diagnosed as a substance abuse disorder (alcohol, legal drugs, illegal drugs), or a process addiction disorder (food, internet, sex, gambling, debt) or a mental health disorder (depression, bipolar, mania, borderline).

A person struggling with addiction is dealing with a complex brain disease that compels them to continue their drinking or substance abuse even when faced with damaging and harmful consequences. These substances directly impact the brain itself. The brain itself sends signals that the craving (of alcohol or drugs) is the most important focus. As this need intensifies, a person may also develop a higher tolerance through increased use. Thus, more and more of the drug or alcohol is needed to satisfy the craving.

After years studying the brain, doctors understand that an addict’s brain changes.Because of their substance abuse, the addict’s decision making, judgement, memory and impulse control are severely affected. These changes can remain long after the abuse stops, which can be equally frustrating for the addict and those who surround him/her.

Podcast: How To Deal With Sudden Grief After Losing A Loved One To Addiction

Causes of Addiction?

There is no single cause for addiction. Rather, a large number of factors are involved including: genetics, biology, social, psychological and environmental factors are involved. There is no one personality type or defining characteristic that means a person is going to suffer from alcohol or substance abuse, though mental illness does often co occur with addiction.

Chronic pain has increasingly become a factor with addiction. When a person feels pain for longer than 90 days it is considered chronic. This may lead to a prescription intended for pain management that leads to substance abuse.  

Another important factor to consider is trauma. Trauma can take many different forms such as verbal, physical and mental abuse, divorce, death, etc. Trauma created intense feelings of discomfort and may cause people to turn to substances like alcohol and/or drugs in an effort to become numb.

Addiction and Denial

Denial is a common struggle with addiction. People may spend years denying how unhealthy and deep their habits have become. They find excuses that justify their behavior and ignore the advice of concerned loved ones watching them struggle with addiction.

Watching someone you love battle addiction is challenging. It’s painful to watch someone whose health continues to decline. It’s frustrating to find solutions for a person who doesn’t acknowledge the problem. Ultimately though, it can simply be exhausting as we feel drained emotionally, mentally, physically and sometimes even spiritually. Family members and friends are often “tapped out” and may grow resentful of the person they are most concerned about; this is why an interventionist can be crucial. Denial is a powerful tool used by the alcoholic/addict to allow the behavior to continue. Family members often use it too to hide the severity of the issue.

Is an intervention necessary?

When attempting to talk with someone in denial, it must be done while they are sober. The conversation may be difficult for them to have and hard for them to hear what you have to say. When under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may be unfocused, inattentive, or just outright angry. When that happens, family members may become sidetracked or focused on other issues such as financial problems. The attention then shifts off the individual and conversations take wrong turns. These attempts are generally not productive steps toward recovery.

Professional interventionists have the training, experience, and knowledge needed to keep the focus on the person struggling with substance abuse disorders or mental health disorders. An interventionist will have spent time collecting information that gives a robust portrait of the identified loved one, and will guide the intervention accordingly. There are several different approaches to an intervention and a trained interventionist will know the most beneficial way to work with each individual. The ultimate goal of an intervention is to help both families and those struggling with addiction find healing.

Addiction and Stigma

Despite research findings and development in understanding addiction, there remains a stigma around the disease. Some people still consider addiction a moral failing or an inability to pull oneself up by the bootstraps. This thinking can hinder someone in recovery because that stigma leaves a mark of shame, disgrace and disapproval.  

Those struggling with addiction often face two stigmas: a self based stigma and a community based one. A self based stigma is a personal sense of guilt and shame those struggling with addiction feel about who they are and the things that they have done while in midst of the disease.  A community based stigma can come from the surrounding community: families, workplace, any small groups. These may be roadblocks during recovery but they are surmountable as people are so much more than their disease. As a professional interventionist and clinician, I believe in a realistic optimism that aids recovery and allows people to operate from a strength based perspective.  I believe a person is the sum of their parts and not just their disorder.

Articles About  Addiction

Where is Your Phone on Thanksgiving Day?

Where is Your Phone on Thanksgiving Day?

In the spirit of Dr. Suess, have you ever wondered about all the places you go with your smartphone and if you are addicted? I ran across a wonderful study, of course, on my smartphone by Solitari - this is a company that creates games, and they were curious to learn...

read more
Party Without Regrets

Party Without Regrets

Colleges all over the nation are getting ready for students to return to campus. The return of students to in-person classes and dorm living will usher in the return of parties. Often, alcohol is the main event of the party, but drugs will also be on the scene. It...

read more
Marijuana: Do You Think It Should Be Legal?

Marijuana: Do You Think It Should Be Legal?

    Early in July, US Senate Democrats introduced a draft bill that would legalize marijuana use for Americans, 21 and older. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in December 2020. The Senate version would allow adults to possess up to 10...

read more
The  Overdose Death Toll is Staggering

The  Overdose Death Toll is Staggering

  The Overdose Death Toll is Staggering. Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control released national data that confirms almost 30% increase in deaths by drug overdose. Tragically, over 93,000 people died from overdoses in 2020. This is the highest number of...

read more
Have We Come a Long Way, Baby? Women and Alcohol

Have We Come a Long Way, Baby? Women and Alcohol

When I was growing up, I used to look up to my mother in awe. She was stunning with her hair drawn back in a chignon, dressed in original long, flowing dresses, nails perfectly manicured in a bright red hue. As she sashayed across the room with a whiskey sour in one...

read more