How to Help an Addict: A Guide to Understanding Addiction
Understanding addiction can be difficult for those who have no first-hand experience of coping with it.
But when it comes to helping someone that you’re close to that is struggling with an addiction, it is essential that you develop empathy for their situation and try and understand what they are going through.
So, what can we do to try to understand what our loved ones are going through?
In this article, we’ll talk about addiction and all of the ways that you can help someone who is struggling with an addiction.
What Causes Addiction?
If you want to know how to understand addiction, you will first need to learn about addiction and what can cause it.
The word addiction comes from the Latin word for ‘enslaved by.’ If you have experienced addiction yourself, you will understand why this turn of phrase is used.
There are three elements to addiction. Firstly there is the craving for the object of the addiction; secondly, there is the loss of control over its use, and thirdly, there is the inability to stop even when it is having a detrimental effect on your life or health.
Many people associate addiction with drink and drugs; however, it is possible to get addicted to gambling, sex, the internet, video games, eating, shopping, and much more.
Addiction centers around the part of our brains that process enjoyment. When we do something or consume something we enjoy, our brains produce dopamine.
When the brain’s reward system gets flooded with dopamine, the hippocampus stores the memories of this rapid sense of satisfaction, and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to the stimuli.
Over time, and through repeated use, more and more dopamine will be required to reach the same levels. This means that a greater hit of the object of the addiction is required.
Understanding addiction means realizing that the way that these hormones interact with the different parts of the brain is the root cause of the problem.
How Can You Help Someone With an Addiction?
There are several ways that you can help someone with an addiction. With your help and support, they can overcome their addiction, and it can become more manageable.
Here are some steps you can take to support someone with an addiction.
One of the most important things that you can do for someone with any form of addiction is to take the time to understand the addiction. Realize that they don’t just have poor willpower or an inability to make good life choices.
Addiction is powerful and cunning; if someone has developed an addiction to something, then it will take a lot of hard work and willpower to break that addiction.
Learn about how their addiction affects them. Over time, addicts learn to hide their addiction in shame and secrecy. By helping them break down the secrecy associated with the addiction, you’ll be able to start unpicking everything that is associated with it.
The more you can learn about their addiction, the better. Try and ask questions in a non-judgemental way and be supportive in your responses. Understand that it will be hard for them to open up to you about their addiction.
Talk to Your Loved One
If someone that you’re close to is going through a trying time with an addiction, they will need your support. They don’t need your judgment or your anger at them. Try your best to show them as much support as you possibly can.
Take the time to talk to them and be there for them when they need to talk to you. Opening up about addiction is hard; however, it will be very beneficial in their recovery to have the support of those that are close.
Research Options for Treatment and Support
When someone is in the throes of their addiction, they may not be able to see a way out for themselves. Help them out by researching the various different support options which may be available to them.
There are several options available. A rehab clinic may be a good first step, but this should be followed up with continued outpatient support, help from a therapist, or membership of a twelve-step program.
Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation
An inpatient program for a drink or drug addiction will usually start with a period of detoxification. During this time, the addict will get rid of the drug from their system. This will help them to deal with the immediate physical cravings and withdrawals associated with their substance use.
Once the drugs or alcohol have left their system for enough time, it will be time to engage in rehabilitation. This will include group therapy, one-to-one counseling, and other activities such as meditation or yoga.
The idea of rehabilitation is that it will identify the problems in the addict’s life, which caused them to turn to their addiction in the first place.
Join a Twelve-Step Program
One of the most effective ways of dealing with addiction is to join a twelve-step program. There are programs available for many different forms of addiction. The most famous twelve-step program is Alcoholics Anonymous.
Participation in a twelve-step program will see the addict looking into various areas of their lives and reviewing how their addiction has made them behave. For many, there is a strong religious element to this format, although you don’t have to be religious to follow this path.
Helping an Addict
If you really want to help an addict through their addiction, spend some time learning about and understanding addiction. Once you know how their addiction affects them, help them further by suggesting programs of recovery and by being someone that they can speak to.
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