Supporting a Loved One Who is Dealing With Addiction

Discovering that a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs can be devastating, and trying to support them as they seek help can be very trying. I know it was for my family. In order to be effective in helping them deal with their addiction, you have to keep in mind that the addiction has changed them and how they respond to situations.

You may quickly realize that helping out a loved one in this situation can be very difficult because most of the time they are not aware that they have a problem or they are in denial that they have an addiction. Your loved one may feel embarrassed or awkward about the issue and they often times feel that discussing the addiction with you may risk losing the relationship that you have with them.

Helping a loved one deal with an addiction requires a very different approach and here are some pointers that you can use in order to assure your loved one that you are there to help and support them as they try to recover from their addiction.

  • To be effective in helping one deal with the addiction, you have to prepare yourself first. Realize that you will be entering a very stressful situation and that you should come armed with techniques to help you relieve your own stress in order to have a sound mind and body to help out your loved one. Learn strategies to relieve stress and get individual counseling. If you will be there for your loved one, you need someone to be there for you.
  • Establishing trust with them should be your most important goal when trying to help them deal with their addiction. Though it may be hard to do because they have somehow betrayed your trust by partaking in the addiction, knowing that they can rely and trust you will help them on their way to recovery. Avoid nagging, lecturing, or criticizing them for their poor judgment. Giving the impression that you would like to control them will get them even deeper into the addiction.
  • Throughout their recovery from addiction, you would need constant communication with them in order to continuously encourage and motivate them to get better. Forcing an addicted person to seek help will be futile unless they themselves admit that they have a problem and that they need to change. When communicating with them, you should listen as much as you talk, you should be consistent, you should show that you support the change that they want to happen, and most importantly, you should show understanding and compassion.
  • When your loved one has agreed to seek treatment for the addiction, you should take an active role in the process and know what to expect so that you will be able to provide the help and support that your loved one needs. Try to learn more about their addiction and what happens during their withdrawal to help make the entire process more comfortable and bearable for them. Encourage them to take part in group therapy so that both of you can heal the wounds created by the addiction together.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Opiates and other illegal drugs are highly addictive and people who are using them either for pain management or recreational use can easily get addicted without even realizing it. I know. It happened to me. There are many causes of addiction. For some people drugs provide a means to escape the harsh realities of life, and unfortunately for many addicts, the addiction was a result of experimentation that spiraled out of control. For most addicts today, it starts with a well meant prescription for painkillers. That was how it started in my case.

By being aware of some of the signs and symptoms of addiction, you might be able to get a loved one help early on, when it will be easier for both them and you to deal with.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Physical signs of drug addiction will include confusion, change in responsiveness, decreased heart rate, slow respiration, increased blood pressure, frequent illness, blackouts, clammy and hot skin, sexual dysfunction, and sleepiness.
  • A drug addict will display sudden changes in their behavior, such as mood swings, depression, aggression, violence, and unexplained anxiety.
  • Drug addicts will start withdrawing themselves from family and spend more time in isolation. All of a sudden they will display a loss of interest for hobbies that they used to enjoy doing.
  • There will be a noticeable decrease in the quality of their work in the office or performance in school.
  • People who are addicted to drugs will have unexplained expenses and will seem to require more money than usual. If your teen asks for more allowance or if your loved one seems to be spending more money for unexplained expenses, then it is possible that they are using the money to purchase more drugs.
  • Drug addicts will try to hide the addiction the best that they can and they will start to lie about their activities and will be very secretive. They can start getting involved in illegal activities such as stealing or fraud in their effort to find ways to finance their addiction.
  • It is very common for drug addicts to suddenly display risky or thoughtless behavior where they put the safety of themselves as well as others in danger as the drugs affect their judgement.
  • Once addicted to drugs, the person will feel that you need to take the drugs in order to go about their usual activities. Their body will require the drug in order to function normally and its absence will start the appearance of various withdrawal symptoms. After some time, they use the drugs not to feel good but in order to prevent these withdrawal symptoms from coming up and just to feel “normal”.
  • It is very common for addicts to continue with the addiction even if they are aware of how it is negatively affecting them, their work, and their relationships. Since their body has become dependent on its use, they will often find it nearly impossible to stop even if they are watching things crumble around them.

To you, much of their behavior may seem irresponsible and irrational. It is. However, that is what drug addiction will drive them too. They are no longer thinking rationally or responsibly. Nearly everything will revolve around getting their next supply of their drug of choice. Everything else becomes secondary. It did for me.

Causes of Drug Addiction

For many, drug addiction is an indication that a person is morally weak or shows difficulty coping with their problems with life. Some people think that a person who has become dependent on the use of drugs can just quit if they want to and quitting is just a matter of changing their behaviour and motivations in life. That certainly was not my story, nor is it the story of many addicts I talk to.

Unfortunately, drug addiction is a very complex disease that has biochemical effects on your brain. It is not a matter of sheer willpower for an addict to get clean. There is no single identified reason for the onset of drug addiction. Rather, it is believed that multiple factors can lead to drug addiction. There are several factors that can put a person at high-risk of getting hooked on drugs, and I will identify some of them below.

Genetic Causes

Genetics play a role in drug addiction among individuals. It has been found that those who have an immediate family member addicted to drugs have increased chances of becoming addicts themselves. This can be attributed to multiple gene sequences that are similar among family members, as well as similar brain receptors present among family members.

Psychological Causes

Psychological factors are still believed to be what comprises the bulk of reasons why a person gets addicted to drugs. Many of the psychological reasons related to drug addiction stems out of traumatic experiences during childhood such as physical or sexual abuse, problems at home, and parental neglect which can easily result to emotional and psychological stress.

Once this person gets to try and like the euphoric or relaxing effect of narcotic drugs, they will often succumb to it and use it as a means to escape their psychological issues. They end up self-medicating to decrease the debilitating effects of their psychological problems. Over time their bodies become dependent on the drug, and they become addicted.

Aside from traumatic experiences, psychological issues such as mental illness, depression, the inability to connect with people, poor performance at work or at school, and poor coping mechanisms can put a person at high risk of developing addition to illegal drugs.

Environmental Causes

An individual’s environment can also put him at risk of drug addiction. If the person grew up or is living in an environment where drug addiction is present and permissible, then it is very likely that they will get involved in drug use themselves.

The number of teens partaking in the abuse of illegal drugs is on the rise and this can be partly attributed to neglectful and inattentive parents. It is very common for teens to want to experiment and combining this with the lack of parental supervision can easily lead to drug addiction in adolescents. Helping your child with his issues will help him avoid having to run to drugs in hopes to drown away his problems.

Being involved in an environment where taking performance enhancing drugs are encouraged and belonging in a group of peers who are drug addicts can put you at high risk of developing the addiction yourself.

This is just a general overview of things that can lead to addicted behavior. Each addicts experiences are different. There is no one single thing you can point to and say, “That will cause addiction.”