Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that negatively affects a range of cognitive functions. People with addiction find it nearly impossible to make sound decisions. Even when the right thing to do is clear to you, your addicted loved one will be unable to assess risk, appreciate the benefits of delayed gratification, or understand how serious the consequences of using really are.
Drug Addiction and Crime
The “reward center” of the brain is called the limbic system, which is the region that ensures positive, survival-oriented activities — such as eating — are prioritized. Using drugs affects the limbic system and teaches the brain that getting high is essential for survival. This lesson is reinforced by miserable withdrawal symptoms that the addict knows can only be alleviated by using. That’s why people in the later stages of drug addiction are willing to do almost anything to get high again.
In many cases, late-stage addiction is also associated with severe withdrawal symptoms. The persistent cravings to use, accompanied by symptoms such as hallucinations and vomiting, drive the addicted individual to do anything to make them stop. This includes stealing from family members, committing crimes, leaving young children unattended, and more. Using is the most important thing that matters, and it eventually becomes more important than life itself.
Addiction is a disease that overrides free will. On a deep level, your loved one might understand that lying, cheating and stealing are wrong, but he is powerless to stop. This powerlessness creates feelings such as shame and guilt — feelings the addict attempts to relieve through using more drugs. These complex issues are just some of the reasons why most people with addiction never get the treatment they need to get sober.
Are You an Enabler?
It happens frequently that family members enable their loved one’s addiction by rationalizing bad behavior, loaning money, calling in sick to work, or bailing the addict out of jail. This happens because it is often nearly impossible to believe that someone you love could possibly be addicted to drugs. Seeking an alternate explanation is often easier than admitting the truth. However, long-term enabling behavior not only worsens the addiction, but it also causes profound negative consequences for all members of the family.
You can protect yourself and your loved ones — and help your addicted family member — by taking several steps. First, find out everything you can about the signs and symptoms of addiction. If you know the substance or substances your loved one is using, that’s even better. Once you learn these signs, you’ll be able to spot them instantly and know what to do in case of an emergency.
You may also need to protect yourself and those who are at risk, such as the children, siblings or spouse of the addicted individual. Get the police involved if necessary, and store valuables and heirlooms in a secure location.
Finally, stay positive about your own healthy lifestyle. Exercise, eating nutritious foods, spending time with loved ones and giving back to your community are all effective ways to boost your spirits. You’ll also demonstrate to vulnerable loved ones that living a satisfying, enjoyable lifestyle doesn’t have to mean taking drugs or drinking alcohol. If you can, find it in your heart to forgive your loved one and offer a helping hand.
For more information on addiction, contact 12 Keys Rehab today.