Addiction is a very personal thing and whilst some people are capable of using recreational or prescription drugs without experiencing dependency or negative issues, others can soon become addicted.
If someone falls into that cycle of dependency and addiction it can cause numerous problems in all aspects of their life and potentially lead to feelings of shame, isolation and helplessness.
There are specialist resources available in many states to provide professional counseling and support but an integral part of the healing process is also the support provided by friends and family.
Empathy is important
When you know someone well, you clearly know when something is not right and if they have an addiction problem, understanding what they are going through will help you to ask the right questions and offer the level of support they need.
Many people experiment with drugs without ever intending to get drawn into addiction and of course, using recreational or performance-enhancing drugs for example, doesn’t automatically mean that they will become dependent on these substances.
Learning how some people including loved ones, can fall into addiction will help you to empathize with their predicament and allow you to offer the positive support they will need to get through this difficult period in their life.
A complex disorder
One of the fundamental issues with drug addiction and its effect on the brain, is the sheer complexity of symptoms and reactions that can vary between people.
Whilst each different drug does tend to produce certain physical reactions, repeated use of substances can alter the way your brain looks and functions, which is the point where it gets deeply personal and complex.
On a basic level, taking a recreational drug has the effect of causing a noticeable surge in the levels of dopamine in your brain. This triggers intensified feelings of pleasure and because your brain remembers this feeling, the addiction can take hold by making you feel like you want to repeat those feelings as often as possible.
Due to the changes in your brain, it affects your ability to function with clarity of mind and to be able to exercise the normal levels of restraint that we should be able to do to retain a level of control.
Anyone who has first-hand experience of drug abuse and addiction will be frustrated by the myths that surround this issue and how to deal with it.
It is often thought that in order to defeat an addiction it merely takes a certain level of willpower and you have it within you to stop using drugs if you really want to.
This is a myth and whilst willpower is definitely required, the fact that prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain to accommodate feelings of compulsion and craving, is evidence that it is very difficult to quit simply by willpower alone.
Another popular misconception is that addicts have to actually hit rock-bottom in their addiction cycle before becoming receptive to change and finding a way to cure their addiction.
It should always be remembered that the recovery process can start at any point in their addiction and in fact, the longer their addiction is allowed to take hold, the longer it can take to treat.
If you see a friend or family member who is experiencing issues with addiction, it is always going to be in their best interests to intervene as soon as possible.
Money is not always the cure
One of the first things that many family members or friends want to do when learning that a loved one has an addiction problem, is to offer some financial support.
This is a real dilemma because there are unfortunately plenty of examples where a supply of money merely serves to feed the addiction. Loaning money, or even paying bills that have accumulated are often in effect only serving to delay the point where the addict has to face up to the consequences of their addiction.
It is actually the case more often than you might think, that an addict is set on the road to recovery simply by the fact that they have been unable to find the money to buy the drug they are craving.
Money provided by family members and friends is invariably provided with the very best intentions, but sadly it does not always provide the intended solution.
If you want to help a loved one, learn about the consequences and symptoms associated with their addiction and offer your emotional support at a time when they need it most.
Kathryn Hill works as a counselor and is keen to share her insights and ideas regarding this difficult topic. She has plenty of first-hand experience of dealing with people with addiction problems and is a regular contributor for a number of consumer information websites.