There is nothing more upsetting than watching the people you love spiral out of control and having no clue on what you can do to help them. Drug addiction is a serious matter and this illness has touched the lives of thousands of people before you. Know that you aren’t alone and that there are people out there who can share the same experiences that you have. Understanding drug addiction is one of the first steps that you can take to be able to learn how to be a strong support network for your loved one. Here are 5things to understand about drug addiction that helped me when I first began caring for my wife:
Dopamine is defined as a compound present in the body as a neurotransmitter and a precursor of other substances including adrenaline. When you first try a drug, you experience an unnatural intense feeling of pleasure. This is caused by a hit of dopamine in your brain. Your brain begins to change because of the unnatural flow of neurotransmitters. As you begin to become used to this feeling, the neurons in your brain may begin to reduce the number of dopamine receptors or they begin to make less dopamine. This leads a person on a destructive path on a never-ending cycle of trying to achieve the same high that they did at the start and never being able to reach that same level of pleasure again. This leads to tolerance of drugs becoming extremely high and spirals your addiction out of control. It’s clear what happens to the brain when someone becomes addicted, but it’s unknown how many times you must use a drug before becoming addicted. Depending on your “risk factors”, you could potentially have devastation consequences to your life.
2. Why Did I Become Addicted But My Friends Didn’t?
Drug addiction is a complicated matter and there are many factors that could influence the reason why you got addicted and your friends were able to keep it under control. This greatly depends on each individual’s “risk factors”, some of these include:
Biology: Drug addiction depends on the genes that you are born with. Your genes can account for about half a person’s risk for addiction so it’s pretty serious. Look at your family tree and see if there is a pattern of addictive behaviors. This could include gambling, overreacting, being destructive in any way and much more. Gender, your ethnicity and a presence of a mental disorder could also put you at risk for drug use and addiction.
Your environment plays a major role. What type of people are your family and friends? Do you have a close healthy relationship with them? Are you easily peer pressured? Have you suffered any form of physical and sexual abuse? Your environment and life experiences can increase the likelihood of the start of a dangerous drug addiction cycle.
No matter what age or level of development you are at when you take drugs there will always be the risk involved that you could fall into addiction. However, the earlier you begin to take drugs the more likely it is that you can become an addict. As a teen, your brain is not fully developed yet and you’re prone to more risky behaviors, this includes trying drugs.
3. Support is Vital
If you have a loved one who’s battling a drug addiction, it’s important that you are there for them through thick and thin. Do some research and begin to understand that drug addiction is an illness and it’s not because your loved one is doing it deliberately on purpose. Once you break down that barrier and begin to grasp the concept more clearly, you’ll be able to have a deeper understanding of how to be a strong support unit. During drug rehabilitation, you should approach the situation with care. Treatment programs are there to help drug users get off drugs and cure them of the chemical dependency. Once they are out, encourage them to attend their weekly meetings and keep a close but not overwhelming eye on them. Positivity is the greatest gift that you can provide to someone in need, love him or her, and don’t criticize every mistake they make.
4. Mistakes Do Happen
Relapse rates while out of rehab and in the recovery phase are up to 40 to 60 percent. With addiction being a disease, during the recovery process he/she may experience certain “triggers” that increase their risking of falling back into substance abuse. When a relapse occurs, people can experience extreme feelings of shame or regret.
5. It Will Be Worth It
Don’t give up. If this happens to your loved one, sit down and write a list with them to find out what triggered their relapse. Encourage them to learn from these mistakes so that next time they can be avoided. Getting healthy is not a race, everyone is different and needs to go at his or her own pace, but don’t feel disappointed if your loved one does relapse. It’s normal. Be there and help them through it instead.
Learn As Much As Possible
Trying to help someone with a substance problem is no walk in the park. However, by learning about the different factors that have led them to this destructive cycle you’ll soon be able to become a strong support network for their sobriety journey.
Is there anything that you feel that we missed? Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know.