Are you or someone you love struggling with an addiction? Don’t know where to turn for help or advice? Are you feeling alone, ashamed, angry or exhausted? Well you are not alone. Addiction affects people from all walks of life and at any age. Consider the most recent research (2013) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
17.3 million Americans (6.6 percent of the population) were dependent on alcohol or had problems related to their alcohol use (abuse).After alcohol, marijuana has the highest rate of dependence or abuse among all drugs and 4.2 million Americans met clinical criteria for dependence or abuse of marijuana in the past year—more than twice the number for dependence/abuse of prescription pain relievers (1.9 million) and nearly five times the number for dependence/abuse of cocaine (855,000).Illicit drug use is on the increase with an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older—9.4 percent of the population—had used an illicit drug in the past month. This number is up from 8.3 percent in 2002. The increase mostly reflects a recent rise in use of marijuana, which is the most commonly used illicit drug.
Addiction occurs when the recurrent use of something (alcohol, drugs, sex, eating, gambling, technology, and more) causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. It is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive seeking behavior and use, despite harmful consequences.
A growing concern, problematic internet/social media/gaming use is negatively impacting individuals and families. In my work with adolescents and adults I have seen a strong correlation between problematic computer internet/smartphone use and behavioral health issues to include depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, school and work impairments and increasing isolation. Just as an individual dependent on substances goes through withdrawal, the individual with compulsive computer/internet/digital issues goes through similar psychological withdrawal symptoms to include irritability, restlessness, mood issues, and depression.
Everyone is negatively impacted by addiction to include the person suffering from the disease, family members, friends, the workplace and society at large. Addiction is a family disease that often negatively impacts every member of the family causing instability, increased stress, mental, physical, and financial hardships. Guilt, shame, anger, fear and isolation are common feelings that loved one’s experience.
As the disease progresses family members start to change their normal routines to accommodate the escalating problems and behaviors that are part of living with addiction. Lack of trust, broken promises, increasing conflicts and other frightening situations are common and begin to totally disrupt family life which can cause lifelong harmful effects to all. Denial, enabling, manipulation and attempts to control in order to maintain stability fail which can lead to hopelessness and severe family dysfunction.
RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Here are the signs and symptoms that are common when someone is struggling with an addiction. (*"Drugs" is used here to refer to illicit drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, or other process addictions like eating disorders, gambling or internet use disorders.)
Do you or your loved one take the drug in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended?Do you or your loved one want to cut down or stop using the drug but can’t?Do you or your loved one spend a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the drug?Do you or your loved one have cravings and urges to use the drug?Are you or your loved one unable to manage responsibilities at work, home, or school because of drug use?Do your or your loved one continue to use a drug, even when it causes problems in relationships?Do you or your loved one give up important social, recreational, or work-related activities because of drug use?Do you or your loved one use drugs again and again, even when it puts you/them in danger?Do you or your loved one continue to use, even while knowing that a physical or mental problem could have been caused or made worse by the drug?Do you or your loved one take more of the drug to get the wanted effect?Have you or your loved one developed withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the drug? (Some withdrawal symptoms are obvious, but others can be more subtle—like irritability or nervousness)
If you feel you have an addiction or know someone who suffers from one, ask for help and know you are not alone. Seek treatment and learn about ways you can cope. Although there is no cure, recovery is possible through evidence-based clinical treatment and ongoing support that can include Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment, 12 Step and other Recovery Groups, Medication Assisted Treatment along with Individual, Group and Family Therapy. Exploring the underlying causes of use, identifying common triggers and learning new coping skills are part of the journey towards healing.
For families, there is hope. Education is a crucial first step. Engage in individual, family or group therapy to learn how to stop enabling, set boundaries and increase self care. Attend recovery support groups such as Al Anon that connect family members with others dealing with similar problems to reduce isolation and the stigma associated with the disease. Several books are available I also recommend several great books to aid families in understanding addiction to include – Healing the Addicted Brain by Harold C Urschel, III, MD and Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Attendance at Al-Anon or other support groups that connect family members with others dealing with similar problems.
Watch this TED Talk featuring Johann Hari on “Everything You Think You Know about Addiction is Wrong.”
What does recovery look like?
Recovery starts with awareness and acceptance of the Brain Disease of AddictionLearning how to manage one’s disease and symptoms by abstaining from all mood altering substancesCommitting to a relapse prevention plan which includes ongoing supports and positive self-careDeveloping healthy relationship and repairing existing ones and engaging in meaningful activities that provide structure and give purpose to your life.
Recovery takes time and commitment but it’s more than worth it to live the life you deserve to live! CCM offers an Education Series and several Therapy groups to support individuals and family member’s recovery from addiction. Group are forming now. For questions and more information, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Mary Carlough, LCSW-C
Mary is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Recovery Specialist who works with individuals, couples, families, groups and organizations. She has over 25 years of clinical experience working with a wide variety of clients in behavioral healthcare settings, community mental health centers, corporate EAP, hospitals, inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment centers and in private practice. Mary provides evidenced based therapies in a caring environment where individuals and their families can learn and heal from the negative effects of living with addiction.