Your Loved Ones and Addiction

If someone you care about is struggling with an addiction, it’s important to be patient and supportive while helping them find treatment.

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Characteristics of Addiction

Drug addiction is marked by being unable to stop abusing drugs or alcohol. Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue using despite the harm it causes themselves and their loved ones.

Different drugs have different effects on a person’s mind and body. Some substances are more addictive than others. Other drugs have more potent effects. Given enough time, drug abuse often develops into addiction.

If left untreated, alcohol and drug addiction can lead to severe injury or even death.

Many factors can influence whether your loved one could become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some of these factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Abusing drugs at an early age
  • Emotional and physical trauma
  • Family history of drug or alcohol use

Why Addiction is Difficult to Overcome

Contrary to popular belief, quitting is not a matter of willpower or morality. Overcoming addiction is a struggle, even for someone who genuinely wants to stop using. This is because drug abuse actually changes how the brain functions over time.

Some substances, like heroin, “fool” the brain into releasing certain neurochemicals, producing a euphoric high. Drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine cause the brain to release too much of the happiness-inducing chemical dopamine.

Both drug types alter the brain’s makeup in ways that make users chemically addicted to them.

People addicted to drugs or alcohol have developed a tolerance or resistance to the substance’s effects. Addicted people will need more of that drug to reach the high they’re used to. Eventually, they’ll have to keep using to even feel normal. When someone addicted to a drug quits “cold turkey,” they suffer painful withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms are some of the biggest reasons quitting drugs or alcohol is so difficult.

To ensure your loved one’s safety, it’s important for them to get medical help to manage withdrawal and other health risks of quitting. Stopping use without professional supervision is not only difficult but often dangerous.

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Coming to Terms with Your Feelings

Addiction affects more than just the addicted person. Family and loved ones of addicts are often subjected to physical and emotional pain. Alcohol and drug abuse might directly impact your life and your family, but that does not mean you are to blame.

A loved one’s drug addiction and alcoholism is never your fault.

A crucial part of an addict’s recovery is accepting responsibility to get sober. Accepting that a loved one’s addiction isn’t your fault is also crucial to your family healing.

It’s natural to feel hurt by your loved one’s addiction, but it’s important to recognize these emotions for what they are. Holding onto frustration and anger for too long can make rebuilding family trust difficult. Support groups like Al-Anon help family and friends accept these feelings while learning how to support an addicted loved one — and themselves — during addiction recovery.

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How to Get Your Loved One Help

There are numerous ways to help someone you love overcome addiction.

Stage an Intervention

You can enlist a professional to hold a meeting between the addicted person and their loved ones. An intervention can be an effective tool to encourage someone to seek addiction treatment.

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Medically-assisted alcohol and drug detox are necessary for those with severe addictions to recover safely. Inpatient and outpatient drug detoxes can reduce painful withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient and Outpatient Drug Rehabs

Treatment centers across the country specialize in inpatient and outpatient addiction recovery. Inpatient drug rehabs offer 24-hour on-site care, while outpatient programs allow recovering addicts to stay at home while undergoing rehab. These clinics can provide your addicted loved one with medical and mental health expertise to help them get — and stay — sober.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Many private therapy practices and drug addiction treatment centers practice cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to help with recovery. CBT helps addicted people learn how to cope with negative emotions without abusing drugs or alcohol.

Support Groups

Joining a group of like-minded people in recovery can be a great help for loved ones struggling with addiction. For decades, twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have supported millions of people during recovery. New self-help programs like SMART recovery offer support, as well.

There are many things you can do to help your loved one through this difficult time in their life. It’s important you remain supportive yet firm about treatment. If you want to talk to someone about how to get your loved one treatment for their addiction, contact a dedicated treatment provider for help.

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