Do you know someone who’s dealing with addiction? Studies show that 31.9 million Americans aged 12 years and older have used illegal drugs in the past 30 days. They also found that 14.8 million people in this same age group have an alcohol use disorder.
You may feel intimidated or even scared to discuss addiction with the individual. Yet you want to help or need to protect yourself or others. Keep reading this article to find ways to navigate this difficult conversation.
Biological Changes to the Brain in Those Suffering from Addiction
First, it’s key to understand that drug and alcohol abuse changes how the brain responds. This gives the individual less control and makes it very difficult to win the battle.
National Institute of Health-funded scientists have studied the biology of addiction. They’ve shown that addiction is a complex, long-term brain disease. Even if the individual quits, they’re always at risk for a relapse.
Understanding the biological changes of addiction explains why it’s not just about willpower. While the individual does need a personal level of commitment, that is only one factor. Research shows that addiction controls and destroys key brain areas tasked with survival.
Healthy brains experience rewards from bonding with others, eating, or exercising, for example. Circuits in the brain turn on and make you feel good and motivated to repeat the behaviors.
When you’re in danger, the brain generates fear or alarm. It then helps you fight or get to safety. The brain’s frontal lobe helps you control temptations and understand the consequences.
Brains exposed to drugs or alcohol develop different pleasure and reward responses. The person’s brain tells them they want more and more of the addictive substance.
Addiction can also cause the emotional danger-sensing areas to go into overdrive. This leads to anxiety and stress when the person doesn’t use the substance. Now the person feels compelled to use drugs or alcohol to avoid feeling bad instead of for pleasure.
Ongoing use of drugs damages the decision-making areas in the frontal lobe of the brain. Brain imaging has shown reduced activity in this part of the brain of addicted persons. Thus, they can’t recognize the harm of abusing drugs or alcohol.
Factors That Contribute to the Risk of Addiction
Scientists found that genetic factors can increase an individual’s risk of addiction. However, not all members of the same family will experience addiction. At this time, experts don’t have an answer for this phenomenon.
Environmental exposure, abuse, and extreme stress can also be causative factors. The age when someone starts using drugs or alcohol impacts their risk as well. The younger you start, the greater the risk for addiction later in life.
Since the teenage brain isn’t fully developed, they’re more susceptible. Their under-developed frontal region means less impulse control and ability to evaluate risk.
The adolescent pleasure circuits operate in overdrive. This means they experience enhanced reward responses to drugs and alcohol.
Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Are you concerned about a friend or loved one’s use of drugs or alcohol? Do you wonder if they’re addicted? The following provides an overview of the signs to look for.
- They’re unable to get through the day without using the substance.
- They need more of the substance to feel the same effect.
- They take unnecessary risks when under the influence.
- They make life-threatening and dangerous choices.
- They have violent behavior or outbursts.
- They neglect their responsibilities.
- They have sore muscles and joints due to swelling from the toxins.
- They have stomach bloating, pain, gas, or diarrhea.
- They develop eczema, acne, itching, or other skin problems.
- They have sleep problems.
- They feel anxious or depressed.
- They have memory problems and mood swings.
- They lose interest in normal daily activities.
- Their energy level may be very high or low.
For those with an addiction to prescription medications, they may change doctors frequently. They’ll also use different pharmacies and even forge prescriptions.
How to Encourage Someone Who’s Dealing with Addiction to Seek Help
So, how do you talk with the individual about their addiction and encourage them to go to rehab? It’s important to know that loved ones have a great impact on the person with an addiction.
You may wish to gather a group with the joint goal of helping your loved one. Begin by expressing your feelings for them and your concerns.
It’s important to show love and support as well as set boundaries for addictive behavior. Voice your concerns in a clear, calm, and concise manner. This can help influence the person’s decision to get treatment.
Keep offering to provide information about rehab programs and other strategies. Constant social support may be the key to getting the person to accept that they need help.
Don’t forget that addiction is a brain disease and not a choice or moral failing. The goal of treatment is to help the person manage their condition. You can’t fight this battle for them.
When you set boundaries, stick to them while continuing to encourage them to get help. Addiction counseling is an important tool for the individual and their loved ones.
Ensure that you practice healthy living and abstain from drug or alcohol use. Provide support but don’t cover up the consequences of addiction. The individual needs to deal with the problems related to their disease.
Remain optimistic while working within the boundaries and encouraging treatment. If they relapse, understand that this is part of the disease process. Keep providing support.
Is It Time to Address Addiction in Your Life?
Dealing with addiction is challenging for everyone involved. Cenikor provides a place to work toward better health and living. We’re committed to helping people with drug and alcohol addiction.
Our team also treats behavioral health issues using a full continuum of care. Our nonprofit organization serves over 1,000 clients each week. Contact us today and let us help you find a new chapter in your life.