When a Loved One Has an Addiction

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Addiction is a chronic disorder of the mind and body which is characterized by a compulsive need to consume an addictive substance or engage in addictive behavior. Because addiction affects how the brain works, it can be painful to see a loved one being afflicted by this disease and watch them continue to make choices that are detrimental to their well-being. The good news is that it is possible to escape the clutches of addiction with the right treatment and approach.

Understanding How Addiction Works

The influence of addiction can manifest in three distinct ways:

  1. Craving for the object of addiction
  2. Loss of control over its use or consumption
  3. Continuation of use or consumption despite adverse consequences.

The complex nature of this condition can lead it to interfere with an individual’s ability to resist these cravings, which is why addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease. Moreover, as a person continues to drink or use drugs, they’ll find it harder to achieve the same high or intoxication—an effect known as tolerance. This can cause them to drink or do more drugs. If left untreated or allowed to escalate, it can further lead to permanent health complications, incarceration, or worse.

It’s also important to note that your loved one may either deny there’s an addiction problem or try to downplay the condition. This is a very common problem. Alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs can address this issue and provide you with ideas on how to motivate your loved one to get help and ultimately start their path towards recovery.

Addiction: How Big Is the Problem?

The happy American family typically depicted in movies and TV shows seldom include drugs and alcohol. However, according to a 2014 study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 1 in every 10 individuals who are age 12 and older has used an illicit drug in the last 30 days.

Alcoholism is another disorder that affects numerous families across the country. Research shows that between 2002 and 2013, drinking habits among adults have increased, with more people developing alcohol use disorder or becoming heavy drinkers.

The issues that arise from addiction have thus created a more challenging relationship dynamic among family members and couples, often causing short-term and long-term problems.

The Effects of Addiction on Family Members

The spouse, children, and other immediate relatives of someone struggling with addiction are all affected by the problem. In fact, these issues can be far-reaching and can lead to financial, emotional, legal, and psychological distress.

How Addiction Impacts Children

When a child witnesses a parent suffering from addiction at a young age, it can take a toll on the child’s well-being and future. Not only do they become more likely to develop the same substance use disorders, but they may also experience developmental delays due to lack of care.

It’s not uncommon for children to experience neglect and abuse in a household struggling with addiction. In some cases, the child may even manifest mental and emotional disorders in adulthood due to their parents’ drug use.

The underlying factors can vary from child to child, but in many instances, it is due to the following:

  • The child blames himself or herself for the parent’s addiction.
  • They feel unworthy of attention or affection due to neglect.
  • They seek out unhealthy relationships with individuals who also suffer from substance use disorder.
  • They end up removed from their home and placed in foster care.
  • They become more exposed to aggression or violent behavior since they witness more domestic trouble.

Considering the potential long-term effects of a parent’s drug or alcohol addiction on the children, it becomes even more important to seek treatment and rehabilitation so the entire family can provide a safe and nurturing environment where kids can grow.

How Addiction Impacts Relationships

Connections with family and romantic partners can also take a severe blow when a loved one is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction.

It can be challenging to understand why the person you love can’t easily change their ways despite the obvious consequences of addiction. This is because addiction can impair your loved one’s ability to make good decisions and capacity to think about anything else apart from drinking or using drugs. Eventually, other issues such as distrust, shame, codependency, and even violence start to appear.

Couples in which a partner abuses alcohol or drugs are often in a tumultuous relationship, and it can be difficult to get out of the downward spiral unless proper treatment and therapy is seeked out.

Addiction in Teenagers and College-Aged Youth

If the loved one with addiction is within their teenage years or in early adulthood, time is of the essence. The longer the addiction lasts, the more damage it can cause.

Many adults who are addicted to alcohol or drugs were exposed to it at a younger age, usually in high school or college. Early use often leads to increased tolerance, which may then snowball into a full-blown addiction by the time they reach adulthood.

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Addiction in students can lead to several problems, such as:

  • Poor school performance
  • Reckless behavior at home
  • Strained family relationships
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • A tendency to run away from home
  • Stealing from parents to support the addictive behavior

Sometimes, the signs of addiction in teenagers can be more subtle. Keep an eye out for wrappers you don’t recognize, drug paraphernalia, out-of-place over-the-counter drugs, liquor bottles, and dents in the vehicle they’re driving.

Detecting Addiction in Your Loved One: A Checklist for Families

Addiction has a different effect on different people, and some individuals may show more of these signs and symptoms than others. It can even become more challenging when a loved one is making an effort to conceal the addiction problem. As such, it is often  up to you to keep an eye out for these changes in the person you love.

Physical Signs:

  • Poor grooming
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Bloating or puffiness
  • Tremors
  • Red and puffy eyes

Mood or Emotional Indications:

  • Mood swings
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Irrational giddiness and laughter
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Feeling of hopelessness

Psychological Indications:

  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusional beliefs

Occupational/Education Indications:

  • Declining grades
  • Poor work performance
  • Loss of employment
  • Loss of interest in school or work activities

How to Help a Loved One with Addiction

As we watch a loved one suffer from addiction, we ourselves become entangled in the web of the consequent effects of this disorder. However, there are definitely ways to help the person so they can start their journey to healing and recovery.

1. Learn More about the Addiction

Addiction is much more than substance abuse. It can also be a result of other underlying issues, which can range from a chemical imbalance in the body or brain. or even another disorder such as bipolarity, anxiety, an eating disorder, or depression.

As painful as it may be, it’s important for family members, friends, and spouses of the person with addiction to learn the nature of the disease and how it causes the addicted individual to act in a certain way.

2. Support But Don’t Enable

Enabling comes in many forms. It can be making excuses for our loved one, hiding their addiction, or taking the fall for their mistakes. Essentially, you are acting as an enabler when you do something for the person that they should do for themselves.

Supporting, on the other hand, is a constructive form of helping, such as having a conversation about the addiction, arranging an intervention, or even educating yourself on how addiction works so you can understand how your loved one is affected by it.

3. Establish Boundaries

One of the hardest things about addiction is deciding that you will no longer be enabling your loved one and that you’ll be enforcing boundaries from now on. Be prepared for an emotional confrontation as addicted individuals can react differently to these changes.

Moreover, remember that the boundaries are meant to help your loved one get on a healthier path. This can make it easier for you to “stick to your guns” during the tough times.

4. Research on Treatment Options

It’s likely your loved one may want to stop the addiction but does not know where to begin. This is where you can offer valuable help. There are many methods of treating an addiction, such as the 12-step program, family therapy, or admitting them into a rehabilitation center.

Oftentimes, addiction is deep-seated in the home environment, which means that the entire family should play an active part in facilitating the healing process. For this to be effective, however, issues in the family should be addressed first, ideally by a family therapist.

If you’re ready to take the next step, Better Addiction Care is here to help. The treatment programs provided by the rehab facilities in our network  include inpatient care, outpatient care, and other comprehensive treatment services that are all designed to meet your loved one’s needs.

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