With nearly half of all Americans having a family member or close friend with a substance abuse disorder, it’s common to wonder how to help an addict. Because addiction is a chronic condition, you must learn how to cope with and manage your symptoms throughout your lifetime to maintain sobriety. Since addiction is a progressive condition, early treatment is the best way to improve your recovery outcomes.
Each year, upwards of 20 million Americans meet the criteria for a substance abuse disorder, with another 15 million struggling with alcoholism. Addiction is a disease that doesn’t discriminate, meaning anyone is capable of developing a substance abuse disorder. Addiction also impacts more than just the individual with a substance abuse disorder because it’s a family disease.
How Addiction Works
Addiction is a complex mental health disease that causes you to compulsively abuse your substance of choice despite experiencing negative consequences as a result of your use and having a strong desire to quit. Drugs and alcohol create mood-altering effects by forcing your brain to release more neurotransmitters than it should. This rush of pleasurable neurotransmitters is responsible for the positive effects of intoxication.
Once you use a substance and have a positive experience, your brain associates the substance with pleasure. Your brain’s pleasure and reward center then changes, rewarding your drug use by releasing neurotransmitters and punishing your abstinence by restricting their release. As you progress through the stages of addiction, your substance use becomes increasingly more destructive. Since drugs and alcohol lower your inhibitions and impair judgment, addiction can result in increased conflict and poor decision-making.
Common signs and symptoms of addiction include:
- Using alone
- Experiencing memory loss when intoxicated
- Concealing, hiding, or denying your drug and alcohol use
- Spending the majority of your time and money on your substance of choice
- Having friends or family members confront you about your substance use
How to Help an Addict
If you’re trying to understand how to help an addict, you likely have a friend or loved one who is struggling with a substance abuse disorder. While denying a substance abuse problem is common during addiction, addiction can also cause feelings of hopelessness, ambivalence, and isolation. Understanding how to help an addict means knowing that treatment is almost always necessary.
Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs best understand how to help an addict because they offer unique and specialized treatment centered on helping you learn how to maintain sobriety. It can take time for your brain and body to fully heal from addiction, as your brain must relearn how to properly release neurotransmitters.
Cravings can continue long after your last use and put you at risk for relapsing. A relapse occurs when you achieve a period of complete abstinence and then begin abusing drugs and alcohol again. You can relapse by using your substance of choice or by abusing a different substance. Substance abuse treatment programs focus on helping you learn how to identify and cope with triggers and cravings, which helps prepare you for early recovery.
Drug and alcohol treatment programs also use evidence-based and holistic treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and meditation. A key part of treatment is improving your ability to understand how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected and how you can change negative emotions and thinking patterns.
Starting Treatment Today
If you’re struggling to understand how to help an addict, remember that addiction makes it difficult to make rational decisions. Struggling with a substance abuse disorder can damage relationships, which creates additional feelings of isolation.
Treatment centers understand the unique needs that people with an addiction encounter, allowing them to ensure you have the support, guidance, and tools necessary to maintain sobriety. If you would like to find out more about how our substance abuse programs can teach you how to help an addict, reach out to Recovery Ways today at 888.986.7848.