This way to a new start…
Legal or illegal, there are many addictive substances out there preying on youth. Focusing your attention on educating yourself on latest drug trends, signs and symptoms of use, and maintaining a strong relationship with the teens and young adults in your life can help you determine if your loved one really does have a problem.
The key is to stay calm throughout this process, and remember that the choices your loved one makes are their responsibility, not yours. If they are using, it is not your fault. Try not to blame yourself for their choices. They are going to need lots of love and support – save your energy on what comes next, not dwelling on the past.
Here is where you can find out more about addiction, how to talk to your loved one, and what steps to take next…and remember, anyone can become addicted.
National Institute on Drug Abuse – Anyone Can Become Addicted to Drugs
Addiction is an individual-specific brain disease that can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time in their life, with no regard for age, gender, or socioeconomic status.
Science and Myths From Dane County’s Parent Addiction Network:
The myths and stigma associated with drug use are pervasive. Addiction is not a moral failing. It is not a choice. It’s not about willpower. It’s not about your upbringing. Many of us have been or are in denial about our loved one’s drug use. We often don’t recognize the severity of the disease, or that it is a disease at all. It’s time to change that perception.
Addiction is a complex brain disease. It is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Addiction is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These changes in the brain interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control behavior, and feel normal without using drugs. Overtime, the changes make it difficult for someone to stop using drugs (or alcohol or tobacco) despite his/her wish to do so.
Addiction is best understood as a continuum ranging from never used at one end, to addiction at the other end; with various categories of use in between. There are clinical diagnostic criteria for determining where one lies along the “continuum of substance use”. Some individuals may never become addicted; others will. Continued use over time of addictive substances alters the structure and function of the brain, affecting judgment and behavior.
Research evidence points to risk factors for developing addiction:
- Genetic predisposition – is there a family history?
- Structural and functional brain characteristics – are we hardwired differently?
- Psychological and environmental factors – are outside influences at play?
- Age of first use – individuals are more likely to develop the disease of addiction when they start using before the age of 21 when the brain is still developing and is more susceptible to addictive substances (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University, June 2012)
- Mental health and past substance abuse diagnoses – 1 in 4 individuals with a mental illness develop a substance abuse disorder, and 1/2 of those with a substance abuse disorder develop a mental illness (more at www.recoverymonth.gov)
Addiction is a life-long battle…but prevention works, treatment is effective and people do recover!
The following is from Learn to Cope
- A person can get off drugs alone
- Most addicts can become permanently drug-free or “cured”
- People don’t need treatment – They can stop using if they really wanted to
- Addiction is a moral or character flaw
- People do not seek treatment until they “hit rock bottom”
- Research shows that it is very hard for opiate and injection drug users (IDUs) and cocaine and other drug users to quit on their own
- Relapse is common, even after treatment
- Many addiction problems co-occur with mental health issues, making recovery even more difficult. Society has a greater understanding and acceptance of alcoholism and nicotine addiction. Little stigma is attached to relapse to smoking or alcoholism. There is more realistic expectations concerning success of treatment for smokers and alcoholics – potential for relapse after treatment is generally recognized and accepted; unlike for drug relapse
- Most people understand that chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, cannot be “cured” – they are treated and managed to reduce potentially severe consequences. In contrast, many believe that it should be possible to permanently cure a person of drug addiction. If a “cure” doesn’t occur, then treatment is considered useless and not deserving of investment or support
- Research does show that comprehensive, sustained treatment can enable individuals to effectively manage drug addiction and live a productive, happy life