Addiction can devastate families. Family members are often frustrated when individuals can’t “just stop” without help. Yet science has proven that overcoming addiction and lasting addiction recovery is not a matter of willpower or a moral failing. It’s a matter of the brain.
Scientists have been able to identify at least some of the brain circuits involved in addiction and they believe that activating these circuits can override self-control.
In other words, the brain becomes rewired so that self-control mechanism is thwarted by the new wiring. Because of these findings, the American Society of Addiction Medicine has defined addiction as a chronic relapsing brain disorder. Symptoms include cravings, loss of control and continued use despite the negative consequences.
What can you do? Family and friends, the ones who care the most, can help to addiction recovery.
First, refrain from anything that may allow the addictive behavior to continue. Stop paying bills or allowing your friend to sleep on your couch every time their spouse kicks them out for use.
Second, don’t be afraid to speak up. Sometimes holding that mirror up to the addict’s behavior will be a turning point. Third, remember that relapses are common and relapse does not mean permanent failure. Recovery is possible and worth the effort. With help, addicts can and do recover.
In spite of the availability of medications, counseling and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage, many addicts will not try any of these treatments to manage their addiction and go solely on willpower, trying and failing again and again. Why? Because of the stigma associated with drug use.
Fifteen percent of the U.S. population has a substance abuse problem, but many will not seek any outside treatment. They have been told and believe that they should be able to get better on their own if they use their willpower.