Addiction is a disease that affects all races, religions, and socioeconomic levels. No one person, or family, for that matter, is immune to addiction. Governments, counselors, patients and citizens as a whole have grappled with various ways to address and curtail addictions. From the temperance movement of the 1920s to various drug related laws that have been enacted; our society, courts, and politicians are aware that various vices exist that detrimentally affect our society at large. Over time this line of thinking has evolved to treating addiction patients like any other person suffering from a disease or chemical imbalance.
The Evolution of Addiction in Society:
Addiction within our society is nothing new. How counselors and society view addiction, however, has changed over time. In the past, society has viewed addiction as a problem that was caused and completely controlled by the user themselves. This viewpoint was not only believed by society, but was commonly used by those who suffered from addiction and those closest around them, usually family and friends. However, today we understand addiction as a disorder, and treat it as such; in most cases the only way for an addict to break the cycle of addiction is to seek outside help. Addiction can present in a variety of forms, with traditional addictions predominately being viewed as drug and/or alcohol related. The largest segment that has seen an increase in addictions are process addictions. Process addictions are addictions that fall beyond the scope of substance abuse addictions or disorders. Also referred to as behavioral addictions, process addictions are classified as gambling addictions, sexual addictions, internet addictions, eating addictions, or even exercise addictions. One of the most frequent trends occurring today in addiction (especially in teens), is internet and gaming addiction. These types of addictions are compulsive in nature. The person who is afflicted with this addiction feels the need to continually engage in an activity or behavior despite the negative impact their behavior causes. In many cases these types of addictions have extremely negative consequences on their school, work, family and social lives. The behavior provides the user with the feeling of a “high” while engaged in the activity, but those feelings are usually replaced with guilt, remorse, or even depression as a result of their continued fixation on the behavior. Just like with other addictions, the person is unable to stop engaging in the behavior without treatment and intervention.
How Addiction affects the Family:
It is easy to look at an addict and focus on the ramifications and consequences due to addiction in that person’s life. However, what is commonly lost on many people is the traumatic effect addiction causes to those who are nearest and dearest to them. Family, friends, and loved ones all suffer along with the people who face addictions. When addiction attacks one person in the family, it often affects the family at large. Those who care about a person who is battling addiction can experience a variety of emotions. Fear, worry, helplessness, anger, frustration, confusion, and even depression are just some of the emotions felt by loved ones of an addict. Help is there for both those struggling with addiction, and their loved ones. There are groups that address the family, friends, and loved ones who suffer along with the people who face addictions. Joining a support group like this has proven to be beneficial to both those battling addiction and those that support them.
Addiction is a treatable disorder. There are a variety of therapeutic options associated with recovery. Therapies, including individual, family, and group therapy, help people learn to increase their coping skills, manage high-risk situations, avoid substance-use triggers, and control cravings. Treatment must be tailored to each individual patient’s needs. Because addiction and substance abuse often co-occur with a broad range of other health problems, effective treatment must also address other medical conditions as well as a patient’s nutrition and exercise needs. Motivational interviewing and motivational enhancement therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, community reinforcement approach, contingency management, behavioral couples/family therapy, and family therapy for adolescents have all been shown to be positive therapeutic options to help create a path to recovery. There are also numerous support groups specifically geared towards helping those that are battling addiction. Having a support system with people who not only want to help you recover, but also have conquered addiction issues themselves, is a powerful tool utilized to help those who suffer with addiction.
Obstacles to recovery:
The chronic nature of addiction means that for some people, relapse, or a return to drug use after an attempt to stop, can be part of the process but newer treatments are designed to help with relapse prevention. Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are likely to relapse. Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors. But it is important to note that relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment. Relapse does not constitute failure. Recovery is a daily battle, and most people who help those battling addiction will tell you that if anything, relapsing is part of the process.
The road to recovery is a lifelong process, but the first step is being able to admit that you have a problem, and genuinely want to get better. It’s imperative that individuals make serious attempts to change for the better. Without that, it’s nearly impossible to find the help that you need.
Written by: Adrian Jones, Practicum Student
Ly Tran, LPC-S
Photo Credit: roegger on Pixabay