Addiction Abuse Facts
And how to support a person who does not want to change
- Addiction is the continued use of a substance despite negative consequences. The person using will use no matter what we say or do or the repeated harmful effects.
- Substance abuse of drugs and or alcoholism is a Disease. In 1956 the American Medical Association declared alcoholism a disease. Alcoholism is a disease, not a personality or moral disorder.
- Addicts and alcoholics react differently to drugs and alcohol than “normal” people. Most addicts and alcoholics are unaware of their behaviour as neuroscience now understands changes have happened in the brain processing. Indeed, they commonly see drugs and or alcohol as their solution, rather than their problem. This abnormal effect of drugs on addicts eventually creates neurotic, confused, insecure, frightened even insane behaviour. In the end, this so-called “alcoholic or addict” personality is thought to have caused the disease, whereas it has, in fact, resulted from it.
- The “Disease” concept of Alcoholism is an abnormal reaction, an undesirable side effect, an allergy, if you will, to the drug and or alcohol. The chemical, alcohol, reacts abnormally with the neurotransmitters of the brain in such a way as to create a demand for drugs/alcohol. In time, this develops into recognizable craving and addiction.
- Denial is a key symptom of the disease of addiction/alcoholism. The chemical changes have occurred at such a deep level that the alcoholic/addict doesn’t realize it has taken place. This inability to see that they react differently to alcohol or drugs than do social drinkers is called denial. However, the addict/alcoholic is not lying. Despite outward appearances, they do not realize their relationship is abnormal. Ask an alcoholic why they drink; they will give you reasons ranging from plausible to ridiculous. Only rarely do they realize they drink because they must. Alcoholics need alcohol, they do not merely want it, and this is the same for addicts.
How to support a person who does not want to change?
- Firstly, if a person does not want to change you can not make them. You can be patient and supportive while waiting for them to accept they have a problem.
- You can maintain a good relationship and know that maybe when they are ready, they will talk to you
- This does not mean you accept unacceptable behaviours so you can keep your distance, giving them a clear message changing their behaviours and substance use is the best option.
- You can tell them you are concerned about their continuing alcohol or other drug use.
- Discuss the link between their use and other negative consequences. Understand that the person may not change their behaviour if they do not have to face the consequences of their actions.
- If they are unwilling to change you should set boundaries around what behaviour you are willing and not willing to accept from the person. E.g. you may decide they can not come to your home nor will you go to theirs.
- Do not feel guilty or responsible
- Do not join in the using with the person
- Do not support the habit by giving them money
- Do not use negative approaches e.g. lecturing, bribing, nagging, shaming, threatening or crying
- Do not make excuses for the person or cover up their use or related behaviour
- Do not take on the persons responsibilities except if not doing so would cause them harm. E.g. to their own lives or others lives.
- Do not deny the basics needs e.g. food
- Encourage a general health check
What if a person does not want professional help?
The person may not want such help when it is first suggested to them. If the person does not want to see a professional, you should discuss some of the reasons why this may be!
If the person is finding it difficult to accept that they need professional help – you could suggest that you do not need to be an alcoholic or addict to benefit from talking to a professional and it just may be of benefit to get your head around what you are struggling with.
If the person feels shame or is worried about what others will think of them reassure the person that they are not alone. Others have walked this path and the first step is to ask for some help for their situation. Reassure them that seeing a professional is private and is the first step of looking after themselves and this should not be a “shame job”.