Understanding When to Get Help for Addiction

When to Get Help For Addiction

An estimated 20 million Americans struggle with addiction. Other estimates state that just over half of the adult population of the United States has tried at least one illicit substance in their lifetime, and the overwhelming majority of Americans have tried alcohol, while up to half of the nation is drinking regularly. Substance use is deeply embedded in society and is a fact of life for countless men and women.

Despite that, it remains relatively taboo for many to speak up about their addiction and reveal that they’re having a problem. Others yet don’t even realize that they’re struggling with addiction. Part of the problem lies in the fact that addiction is so poorly understood for many, that it becomes difficult to distinguish between, for example, heavy alcohol use and addiction.

An estimated one in six Americans regularly binge drink once a week, drinking an average of seven drinks worth of alcohol in a single session. However, only a fraction of the people who binge drink are addicted. Understanding what addiction is, can help you figure out when you need help, and why.


When Is It Addiction?

There’s a relatively simple distinction that, while easy to describe, is not always so easy to identify. The difference between drug use and addiction is how voluntary one is compared to the other. Both eventually lead to someone getting hurt or ignored, but if a person is in full control over their actions and they realize how their drug use puts their loved ones in harm’s danger, or has otherwise hurt others, if they have any empathy at all they will either quit or start quitting.

On the other hand, someone who is addicted will try, but usually fail the first attempt. Addiction is hard, and among other things, it robs you of choice. It always starts with a choice – one that all addicts eventually learn to regret – but it turns into the inability to trust your own word, losing faith in yourself as others question your integrity, as you find yourself irresistibly drawn to doing things you shouldn’t be doing because deep down inside, you just can’t stop.

That’s one way to tell. But many successfully repress those thoughts and don’t even realize that their behavior is something they can’t completely control. They find ways to excuse it, or worse yet, their family enables them without meaning to. Either way, addiction can only be treated if the person who is addicted firmly decides to get help. While you can force someone into rehab or into a sober living home, they have to want to get better. And sometimes, that can take some convincing.


Seeing the Signs

There aren’t too many signs that clearly correlate with addiction, and it’s generally impossible to know if someone is an addict unless you spend enough time with them while having the professional expertise and experience to make that call, but if your loved one has been showing any of the following signs, you’ll want to try to convince them to get some professional help regardless of what they’re dealing with.

  • Unexplained behavior
  • Irritability
  • Physical signs of drug abuse (bloodshot eyes, track marks, frequent nose bleeds, dental problems)
  • Poor hygiene/massive weight fluctuations
  • Trouble with memory
  • Chaotic sleeping cycle
  • Problems at work
  • Physical evidence of drug use (drug paraphernalia)

Note that these don’t necessarily point only to drug use. While some do – like paraphernalia and track marks – others are much subtler, and can often imply any number of other issues, from a different disease or disorder to other behavior that might be breaking a person’s trust (in other words: lying).


Trust Matters

If you’re going to help your loved one and believe that they may be struggling with an addiction they haven’t admitted to, then trust is critical for moving forward. They have to believe that you have their absolute best interests at heart, and that what they’ve been doing violates that trust, and hurts you.

Regardless of whether or not they’re addicted, if your loved one’s drug use is bleeding over into your life together, causing problems and pain, you need to convince them to get help. It starts with talking about the pain caused by the addiction – then, it’s time to talk about what can be done to fix the problem together.

Again, trust is important here. If you’re partners, then you standing with your partner will be very, very important. It should never be your job to babysit your partner, but your support will matter greatly in helping your loved one get back on their own two feet and maintain their sobriety for months and years to come.


If You’re Asking Yourself, Get Help

If you’re wondering if your drug use counts as an addiction, chances are that things have gone far enough that you’re considering at least some of your actions to be outside your control, or that something happened to make you reconsider your behavior. It’s a good idea, if you’re worried about your mental health and the possibility of an addiction, to just book an appointment with a doctor specializing in addiction or with a psychiatrist to get a formal diagnosis.

Yes, the tell-tale sign of addiction is when your drug use interferes with your daily life in a significant way. When your behavior begins to harm others and you can’t do anything to stop it, it’s clear that you’re no longer in full control over your own choices.

If you’re asking yourself whether you’re addicted or not, the smart thing to do is get help and figure it out through a reliable, professional diagnosis. Addiction is treatable, and although it is considered a chronic disease, regular treatment and a commitment towards getting better can net you incredible results, and have you living a normal life.

Things arguably won’t ever be “back” to how they were, but they can be different – better, in fact, than ever before. It takes a little faith in the professionals who help you and a lot of trust in the people you know and love, but addictions can be overcome with time and the right treatment plan.

Addiction Grinds Your Life to a Halt

Addiction Grinds Life To A Halt

Sometimes, you can’t think straight, talk in complete sentences, or even get up and do the things you know you have to do. Functioning like a “normal” person is out of question, and what should be at the forefront of your mind has been pushed thoroughly to the back, while your primary occupation is, as per usual, this intense need for something that you’ve been struggling with for weeks, months, or even years.

Drug use and addiction are not the same thing, but for the millions of Americans who have struggled or still do struggle with substance abuse and addiction, the day-to-day reality of not functioning without your fix, and often not functioning with it, is terrifying. Much like most of life becomes terrifying. For those who have never been addicted, the simplest analogy is to think of addiction as a mental prison, an inescapable vice grip on a person’s mind and thinking. Responsibility and choice aren’t completely gone – after all, you can choose to get help – but your ability to act on your choices is limited by your ability to withstand the symptoms and cravings that come with abstinence, which are often overpowering, like thirst or real hunger.

Most Americans have tried illicit drugs, not to mention legal vices like alcohol and nicotine. Teens and adults in their 20s are most susceptible to drug use, and most who end up struggling with that is defined as a dependence issue end up getting addicted around this age. As their peers give up recreational drug use to focus on their goals, many find themselves stuck. It can take years or decades, but most eventually get unstuck. In fact, as they get older, many actually stop using even without treatment.

But others can’t. The difference isn’t the disease, but the circumstances. Addiction will truly grind your life to a halt, and unless the right set of circumstances help you age out of drug use, it takes the help of formal treatment to get you to the point where you can heal properly. Decades of research have led to the current hypothesis that addiction is a treatable disease, one that might be considered chronic in the way its symptoms can reoccur over time. But the right lifestyle and emotional support can help those who have previously struggled to get clean for years truly stay sober for the rest of their lives. By understanding how addiction changes lives, the way past the disease becomes clearer.


How Addiction Can Change Your Life

The difference between drug use and dependence is that when you’re dependent on a drug, you cannot go without it. This isn’t to say that you simply crave it all the time, but you actually cannot go through a day without seriously obsessing over your drug of choice, to the point that it begins to negatively impact your life.

At first, the impact might not even be noticeable to most people, or even yourself. At other times, the impact is hidden by another problem that’s eating away at your life, causing havoc as well. Anything from losing your livelihood to surviving one tragedy after another can lead a person through a cascade of emotional problems, with addiction being just one of many possible aftermaths.

But one way or another, addiction takes the place of many other things in life. It takes away relationships, choice, opportunities, and, most importantly, it gives the illusion of taking away pain. That alone is how most addictions continue to perpetuate themselves, through weeks, months, and years. It’s why addiction is most prevalent in teens and young adults, even as it continues to feed off them for years after. If you don’t have a way to cope with your pain, and if all other options are out, a drug can look like your best shot at feeling better. Instead, it makes things worse.


Making the Choice to Get Help

Regardless of how dependence begins, it always leads to a self-perpetuating cycle. Most people try to stay sober once they realize they’re addicted, and some do get sober, time and time again.

It isn’t easy or possible alone. Statistically, some people get clean and stay clean without professional help. But they still need help. It’s the support and love of friends and family that is necessary to help a person push through the hardest days, and the hardest nights. Beating addiction means staying sober over days, weeks, and years. But it starts with the choice to get help.

The reason help matters so much is because of how addiction affects the mind. Most people who struggle with physical dependence on drugs also struggle with withdrawal symptoms, severe cravings, and a series of emotional problems tied to their drug use. Drug use also takes its toll not just on the body but on the mind, cutting into a person’s cognition and increasing their drive to take unnecessary risks.

Drug use treatment, in essence, utilizes pharmacological and psychological therapy to help a person find their own way out of addiction. In the early days, that means providing them with the drug-free environment they need to stay away from drugs at their most crucial hour. Over time, that means providing them with the emotional stability and support to help them continue living a life without drugs, by learning to cope with stress and tragedy in a healthier way, processing old nightmares and working towards creating a better, more positive outlook for the future.


Relapse Isn’t Failure

It’s okay to fail and stumble. Enough has been said about failure being a path to learning, but not enough is said about how important it is to find a way to deal with the immense pain that comes from disappointing yourself or others. There’s no denying that if you are or ever have been motivated to stay clean, a relapse is incredibly demoralizing. Telling someone to just “get over it” won’t do much to help that.

That is why it is important to rethink the whole thing, instead. The true failure lies in giving up completely: in putting your arms up and deciding you won’t work on getting clean any longer. The real failure would be using a relapse as an excuse to argue that you simply cannot get clean. There are some things you should never give up on, and that includes your own life. Letting an addiction run its course can, and often does mean you’re signing a death warrant. Sometimes – especially early on – it’s okay to relapse. But it isn’t okay to give up on yourself.


How to Handle A Relapse

How To Handle Relapses

Relapses can happen, especially early on in your recovery. Up to 90 percent of people who try to quit drinking may have at least one relapse until they manage a form of long-term sobriety, for example. Rather than homing in on your “failure”, it’s important to realize that these early relapses are rather common and are, in a way, a natural part of the recovery process.

Learning how to handle a relapse and use it to prepare for the future is an important step in the recovery process. Here are a few basic tips to help you get through your relapse and use it for the better.


Take Deep Breaths

Don’t let one relapse kick you off the right path. Relapses won’t make you forget everything you’ve learned about what it means to be sober, but they might leave you a little disillusioned, especially at first. It’s easy to be disappointed in yourself after a relapse. But don’t give up on your sobriety, no matter what.

Take a few deep breaths, and internalize that relapses are common in early recovery. Most people relapse from stress or pressure. It’s often that people maintain a high level of motivation and control immediately after a sobriety program or a recovery program has ended, but if you don’t keep in touch through group meetings or continue to educate and immerse yourself in recovery material, then it’s easy for time to erode your motivation and increase your cravings. Then, all it takes is the right circumstance to push you over the edge.

Learning to take deep breaths is the first step to figuring out what other ways you can calm down, relax, and manage your stress. It’s also important to have a plan in place for when you’re feeling the urge and can’t find a way to stop it from growing.


Call Someone

Recovery is a “solo path”, but we all need people in our corner. Having someone to rely on, or better yet, having a group of people you can rely on, is critical for recovery. This is something that can’t easily be done alone – but if you have friends and family who can help and support you, then even the rougher days are a little easier.

If you relapse, call someone. The first few moments after you realize that you’ve made a mistake are the scariest, and it’s difficult to think straight. Calling someone you can trust and rely on means giving yourself time to absorb what happened, and know that things will be alright, even if they don’t seem that way in the moment. From there, it’s important to focus on getting back on the right path.


Get Back into A Program

Sober living homes are the best bet for someone who has recently gone through a relapse. Different from usual forms of residential treatment, these homes are built as a sort of community for recovering addicts to come together and spend some time in a drug-free environment, until they sort things out.

All sober living homes have their own individual ruleset, but some basic rules throughout most sober living facilities include:

  • No drugs.
  • No violence or fighting.
  • A strict curfew.
  • Mandatory contributions, through chores and such.
  • Group meetings and events.
  • Monthly fees (rent).
  • Mandatory school attendance/job/employment-seeking efforts.

Sober living homes are designed to help individuals learn the manage the stress of sober living and ease the transition from a rehab program to every day life. However, they can also be a great place to rededicate yourself to sobriety after a relapse. By taking the pressure off through a drug-free environment, you can continue to lead your normal life while learning more about your relapse through therapy. Working to figure out what led you to relapse in the first place can help you avoid a relapse in the future.


What Does A Relapse Mean?

It’s very important to understand why relapses happen. Not just in general, but specifically. Most relapses are triggered, helping recovering addicts learn something about their recovery. Perhaps there’s a certain thing they’re struggling with. A relationship, a worry, an anxiety of sorts. Addiction can amplify these emotions, and they can be particularly strong during early recovery, where everything is in flux. Perhaps the trigger can help you, as the person who has relapsed, better understand how life affects your recovery, and adjust accordingly.

Relapses shouldn’t be seen as failures – rather, they’re bumps in the road that give you the necessary cue to stop, look around, and evaluate what’s going on.

Of course, relapses are scary. And yes, you should avoid them. But no matter how your recovery goes, don’t give up on it. Relapses aren’t failures – but they can cause you to doubt your ability to get through this crucial stage of recovery. Don’t let them knock down your resolve.


Do Not Worry

A relapse can cause you to question many things. Above all else, it will cause you to question your devotion and commitment to being sober – and in turn, your commitment to others, especially if you have family and friends working to support you while you make it through this. A relapse can make you ask yourself: “Can I really do this? Can I really stay sober, if I keep messing up like this?”

By understanding that relapses are not character flaws, but signs that there’s simply something you can work on in your recovery, you can overcome these needless worries. To put things into perspective, more than half of all people who go through recovery relapse before the first year is up. Some relapse more than once. And it takes continuous work to stay sober. Yet if they keep up with their treatment and recovery nonetheless, they eventually reach a point around the year mark or so where the relapses stop happening as frequently, or at all.

Early recovery can be the roughest portion of the journey. Not that it’s always smooth sailing afterwards, but by working on identifying the causes and conditions for your relapses, you can learn to avoid certain triggers, better manage your feelings, stay away from certain locations or events, and move past these temporary challenges. In other words: it gets easier.


Can You Be Addicted to Sex?

Can You Be Addicted To Sex

Drug addiction is heavily covered all over media as the country tackles a major opioid crisis. It’s a problem that touches millions of Americans, taking thousands of lives via overdose and accidents, while putting a major dent on the country’s healthcare system. Yet while substance abuse is a deathly serious issue, addiction comes in many different forms.

Behavioral addiction, in the sense that a person can be addicted to doing something rather than taking something, works very differently from substance use. Yet behavioral disorders are still very damaging conditions that cause much suffering, and they can be treated through proper treatment. Sex addiction is one form of behavioral addiction wherein a person compulsively seeks out sex and sexual gratification to cope with stress, or sometimes just to function at all.


Explaining Sex Addiction

Sex, food, and gambling are common examples of addictions that exist separately from our typical definitions of substance dependence. For example, when a person snorts cocaine, the drug enters the bloodstream and makes its way into the brain. There, it blocks the brain’s cells ability to recycle dopamine, causing a flood of this “happy” neurotransmitter to build up in the nerve cells. This is what creates the high feeling of euphoria, but eventually leads to a chemical dependence. The brain reacts to this sudden influx of dopamine by trying to adapt to it, leading to cravings, tolerance, withdrawal, and addiction.

Sex and food, predominantly, are different dependences but very similar in addictive patterns. A food addiction is actually a form of disordered eating, wherein a person utilizes the mind’s natural inclination to reward us for eating (as a survival mechanism) in order to cope with stress – by seeking out instant gratification. Some people eat far too much, binge eating and stress eating to feel better, which leads to self-esteem issues, health problems, and a repeating cycle.

Sexual gratification works the same way but is much more nuanced. Sex addiction is an intimacy issue wherein a person fears close relationships and real emotional interaction, and trades these for a quick release through porn, masturbation, hookups, or cheating.

Sex addiction is not a label to shame people who have lots of sex. It’s not used to describe people who consensually engage in polygamy. Sex addiction isn’t an explanation of any number of legal kinks, including safe bondage. People express themselves sexually in many ways – it only becomes a mental health concern when their sexual activity gets in the way of healthy human interaction: wrecking relationships, causing trouble at work, and leading to a downward spiral mentally and physically.


Sex Addiction Treatment

Sex addiction is treatable, but not in the same way as alcoholism or drug abuse. Drugs are inherently addictive, and an important step of recovery is finding a sober lifestyle that allows a patient to remain abstinent.

Sex is not something sex addicts are meant to abstain from forever, although they are free to choose celibacy if they consider it to be the only way. Instead, therapists work with sex addicts on a one-on-one basis or through couple’s therapy to get to the bottom of their addiction and figure out why they turned to sex in the first place. Like people who self-medicate, sex addiction is rooted in the need to cope, and the inability to do so in a healthy way.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is important in helping a recovering sex addict realize why they use sex to feel better. From there, rules and exercises are used to help establish a better concept of sex and the role it should play. The difference between healthy and disordered sex is the effect it has on a person’s life outside the bedroom, and therapy aims to address and eliminate the negative effects.

Gender-separated or sexual-preference-based sober living can be a good way to focus on therapy by forcing celibacy during initial treatment. Sober living environments aim to help recovering addicts learn how to interact in normal society, maintain responsibilities, remain accountable towards one another, and form lasting and meaningful friendships, while removing all sources of temptation and promoting a completely drug-free living space.


Dating and Relationships after Recovery

It’s about more than sex. To understand why a recovering sex addict might have great difficulties with dating and relationships after treatment, it’s important to understand that sex addiction is more than just a proclivity for getting off, or a lifestyle choice. Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder.

That means people who struggle with sex addiction often struggle with truth, transparency, and with being open, honest and vulnerable. They fear these things because they are potentially hurtful and can cause great pain if exploited.

Sex is fun, sex is easy, sex is instantly gratifying and for all its messiness and potential problems, sex remains simple and straightforward. For individuals who fear real emotional closeness but crave the physical intimacy of another human being, sex is perfect – and dangerously addicting.

And wanting sexual pleasure doesn’t go away. While you can eventually stop craving drugs and can learn to live without them, many people cannot realistically remain celibate or force themselves to forget and ignore their own natural lust and desire. Curing a sex addiction isn’t a matter of abstinence and self-control – it’s a matter of unraveling a person’s intimacy issues and making them face their own fear of commitment, integrity, and reality. Therapists who help individuals with sex addiction often note that a sex addict uses sex to interact with people while avoiding neglect, abuse, or abandonment. They fear loneliness but cannot be in long-term relationships. They’ve learned to be satisfied with the immediate and the short-term, when what they really want is slow and difficult.

To overcome sex addiction and return to dating, a recovering sex addict has to learn to love themselves. They have to learn to trust themselves. And they have to learn to trust others, even complete strangers, and accept the risk of getting hurt in exchange for the possibility of a beautiful and blossoming relationship, and a chance at real and meaningful love. It can take a while to find the right person, especially if you have no experience with real and concrete relationships.

You may find yourself emotionally hurt, which can be difficult to stomach without reverting to your old ways, but you have to remember that it takes time to learn what kind of person you should be looking for, and it takes just as long to learn to look past a person’s sex appeal and focus on creating and fostering a long-term relationship.

If you’ve gone through treatment and have a better grasp of who you are and why sex was a problem for you, you may want to start dating again. Before you engage in a relationship, try to make sure that:

  • You have a sturdy and reliable support system in place.
  • You’re regularly engaging in therapy and are tackling codependent issues, from self-esteem problems to other possible addictions.
  • You’ve been cleared by a medical doctor and are clean from any possible infectious diseases.
  • You feel emotionally ready to be honest and open with another human being and aren’t seeking a relationship purely for physical gratification.

If you can give each point on this list a check, then you may be ready. Just remember that you could get hurt, and make sure to ask for help from friends and therapists if or when you do.

The Issue of “Choice”

Addiction and Choice

Addiction is not a choice. No one chooses to be addicted. To be addicted is to be trapped in a cage of your own making. You can get out, but unlike any other ordinary cage, the urge to crawl back in is too powerful to resist at times.

Yet when you’re in, the door locks itself again, and you’re filled with regret. You want to get out, but it’s hard. When you’re finally out again, the urge to go back begins anew.

Like a special hell, addiction is not something anyone willingly signs up for. You find yourself struggling day in and day out, and your cage grows ever tighter. It was fun at first, but it becomes harder and harder to feel like you felt that first time around, and the way out becomes more and more elusive.

But why? Why do addictive drugs make us feel that way? What is it that makes people feel trapped, unable to escape, only to be sucked back in when they finally do manage to break away? Why is addiction not a choice? The answer lies in your brain.


Why Addiction Isn’t a Choice

Let’s start by understanding that the emotions we feel are strictly a result of chemical interactions in the brain mostly in response to our environment. When you’re feeling sad, melancholy, nostalgic, angry, happy, or in love, there’s a complex series of signals going off in your mind, with neurotransmitters going from brain cell to brain cell, communicating and making you feel. You, as a whole, function as a system, and that system is controlled by thoughts and emotions.

The brain is where these emotions happen, influenced in large part by external stimuli. When you see a puppy, your first instinct is to think of it as something cute. We feel this way towards most baby animals, but we feel this way the most towards baby mammals that look the most like other humans. Dogs are particularly wired into our subconscious because we’ve been domesticating them for millennia, but it’s all part of a greater need to protect the small and weak, so they can survive and thrive in this world.

Sexual attraction works much the same way. A combination of subconscious cues attracts us to certain facial shapes, body types, pheromones, and smells.

With anger, and rage, your stress levels go through the roof and if a threat is clear, then your adrenal gland sends you into a fight or flight response. This is common in response to sudden pain – in the moment of being hit, you see red, and your first instinct is to identify the source of the pain while the anger washes over you. Occasionally, some wires get crossed, thoughts turn dark, and our anger grows too strong.


Your Brain on Fun and Pleasure

Pleasure is one of the most important feelings. Our ability to feel good about something allows the brain to reinforce behavior, allowing us to highlight important things, and figure out what it is that we need to do again in order to feel that way. Exercise, good food, sexual activity, social status, and personal accomplishment are among a few different things that make us essentially feel good, boosting our self-esteem and confidence, washing away negative emotions, making us yearn to be a bigger part of the tribe, and giving us a sense of contentment. We crave to repeat those experiences, and we seek them out. In some cases, this backfires. For example, because we’re built to process simple carbohydrates as a quick fuel source, we generally crave sweet things. Sweetness is rare in nature, generally. But through industrialization, companies can capitalize on this inner need to consume sugar, by selling it to us in various forms, causing us to quickly gain more weight than we should.

Addiction is another such consequence. Very few specific compounds interact with the brain as though they were neurotransmitters, only that these compounds are much more powerful than what our body would ever produce, creating an otherworldly emotional and physical state known as a high. You’re overcome with pleasure and a sense of calm, while dopamine floods your brain.

Soon after that first high, you begin to want a second. It’s innocuous at first, and many can experiment with such substances and never develop a need for them. But if you’re in the wrong mindset, and crave to feel good, that first high quickly turns into a fifth, a tenth, a twentieth. There’s no specific number for getting addicted, but over time and somewhere along the way, it all clicks, and you’re stuck.

When you start taking a drug that is deemed addictive, it changes the way your brain processes pleasure. The first high doesn’t change much, but it lays the foundations for greater modification. You see, the brain is very adaptive. That’s one of its great strengths, because it allows us to survive under the most horrific circumstances, by pivoting and adapting to our surroundings. But when presented with something like an addictive drug, the brain adapts in the other way, by numbing the drug’s effectiveness – and, in the process, making everything else pale in comparison to the drug.

This is called tolerance, and with it comes withdrawal – the brain begins to rely on the drug as a regular occurrence and stopping causes you to experience unpleasant physical and mental symptoms, including nausea, fever, and irritability.


It Starts with Choice

People generally get addicted for two reasons: internal factors, and environmental factors. Internal factors are largely genetic. Some people are predisposed to getting addicted, because of the way their brain responds to certain substances. Others are simply more likely to get addicted because they’re more likely to seek out drugs to begin with, perhaps because of another condition like a major depressive disorder.

Environmental factors are everything else. A bad childhood, early trauma, loss and pressure, stress at work, a life in disarray, the need to fit in – there are many reasons people start using drugs, and most of the time, they start using as a choice. Some find themselves in truly terrible positions, where drug use is forced upon them by a controlling partner, but others find themselves in a mentally vulnerable place, where their judgment is clouded and the ability to think of the risks is diminished to the point where they don’t matter to that person, in that moment, for any given number of reasons.

That’s how it begins, but it always turns into the same thing – a cage, getting smaller and smaller.


Patience is Key

Drug treatment is largely based on successfully treating a person therapeutically, by giving them the tools to decide to stay sober long enough for their past to no longer haunt them. Time is what really treats an addiction – time away from the drug helps the brain recover, and it helps you set up a life that you won’t ever give up that easily ever again.

But it’s important to be patient, and to understand that there will likely be missteps and setbacks. This time, however, you have the choice to move past them get back on track no matter what happens.

What is an “Addictive Personality”?

Addictive Personality

Somehow, you feel like you always knew. You know how reckless they liked to be, how they felt a need to feel the thrill of life at every available moment. Or how they became easily obsessed with something, driven to perfect it, or find out what they wanted to know no matter what. In hindsight, their personality seemed to fit addiction perfectly – so much so that it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to know that they ended up struggling with it.

But that’s not how it works. While the concept of an addictive personality is popular, it’s also unfounded. Personalities don’t have much bearing on a person’s likelihood to get addicted – at least not in the sense that you might think they would.

Yes, there are factors that make addiction more likely. Yes, there are people with rough lives that go through every possible hardship and still come out the other end never having been addicted to anything. And yes, there are many people who easily find themselves interested and passionate about something, who then also find themselves addicted to drugs. However, in the larger scope of things, a person’s personality or passion doesn’t hint towards addiction – but other things do.


Nature, Nurture, and Addiction

Likelihood is not destiny. Statistics don’t spell fate. And no matter how much your life may be swerving in a specific direction, there’s always the chance it’ll go a completely different way. It’s important to note these things when likelihoods and statistics are discussed. This is not meant to serve as evidence that you or someone you know may end up addicted to a drug. It’s meant to help explain why some people are addicted, and others aren’t. And like anything, it can’t account for every case – just most of them.

All addiction risk factors can be roughly divided into internal and environmental. Environmental risk factors are everything and anything that we designate as “nurture” – from how a person was raised, to where they were raised, as well as the choices they made, the choices others made for them, and the choices no one consciously made that still affected them greatly.

Internal factors are largely biological, stemming either from family history or pure chance. Things like genetic conditions, rare birth defects, undetected diseases, or developing conditions gone unnoticed throughout an addiction or period of mental illness. Anything from chronic pain without an identifiable source to severe depression caused by an inborn hormone problem, like Cushing’s disease or hyper/hypothyroidism.

The things that are most likely to account for a person’s addiction are:

  • A person’s contact to drugs
  • Their likelihood to take them

Ultimately, it’s drugs that cause addiction, and the more someone is exposed to them, the more opportunities they have to try them. Age is a big factor, because younger minds are not just easier to pressure into drug use, but they’re also more susceptible to the effects of drugs. Someone with a healthy childhood and enough education might know better than to cave to peer pressure and take a substance they can’t identify or know is addictive. But even then, there is a certain age where no amount of parenting can account for the sheer need to fit in with other kids.

Then there are all the factors that openly encourage someone to try drugs, from disillusion and heartbreak to physical pain.

Most cases of addiction begin with a series of mistakes, for any number of reasons, from suffering to teenage misguidedness. No one consciously makes the decision to ruin their lives. Instead, they see a simple short-term solution to a nagging problem and are in no position to rationally weigh the risks. No personality specifically pushes someone to be more susceptible to a drug’s addictive properties. But personalities do play a different role.


It’s Not the Personality

Personalities don’t dictate how effective a drug is going to be in making someone addicted. But they do play a role in how likely someone is to take drugs. In this sense, an “addictive personality” is not hallmarked by passion or obsessiveness, but by apathy, nihilism, pain, and social distance. They’re more likely to try drugs out as a solution to their consistently low mood. Socially aggressive and insecure individuals are also more likely to take drugs, to drown out their anxieties and fit in.

Mental instability highlighted or hinted at through serious personality flaws can be a major sign that someone is at risk for not just addiction, but self-harm and unpredictable behavior. It’s important to seek help or get someone help if they’re struggling to be happy, with themselves or their lives.

But it’s important to distinguish symptoms of a potential mental disorder from “personalities”. Personalities are very complex and individual, and there is no proper consensus towards categorizing personalities in a way that is in any shape or form therapeutically-relevant. Even popular personality tests, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, are rarely if ever useful. However, people cling to such definitions because they simplify a very complicated topic, and allow them to fit into a group, despite it not actually existing.

Your personality is unique, fostered and created through a unique set of circumstances and individual factors. You share similarities with others, but no other person can be your splitting image. Personality traits exist, but we rarely follow them closely. While a person may be more likely to exhibit introverted behavior or act cholerically, it does not make them one or the other. Therefore, it is better to identify risk by looking at your family history and considering environmental factors.


Why the Why Matters

If you’ve never been addicted, then know that even if the odds are against you, you still have choice. You can choose to say no. You can choose to stay away. Without a history of drug use, it’s entirely in your power to completely avoid addiction.

If you’ve been addicted, then knowing why can help you figure out how to stop and treat your addiction. Like any condition, resolving the underlying cause can help in treating the symptoms. If your addiction is the result of pain and anguish, you must learn to address it head-on in a way that does not involve drugs. Therapy and addiction treatment can help you work through your issues and find a way of life that works much better.

The Hidden Signs of Addiction

Signs of Addiction

Addiction is not always obvious. It can be subtle, creeping up on a person over time – one day, they think they’re in total control. The next, they begin to doubt themselves, until eventually, the truth can’t be ignored.

The longer an addiction festers, the harder it is to reverse. Rather than being anything a person can just “snap out of”, addiction is a disease that takes hold in the brain and changes the way a person thinks. Months of abstinence, therapy, and concentrated will are necessary to help the mind heal and return to a healthy state. Until then, the symptoms of addiction get worse – from behavioral changes to physical ones.

An important tip for anyone with friends or family engaging in drug use – both the legal and illegal kind – is to watch out for potential symptoms of addiction. Hidden signs. Catching addictive behavior early on, staging an intervention and calling a professional for help can make the fight out of addiction much easier.

The trick is distinguishing between normal behavior and addictive behavior. Drinking a large amount of alcohol is not indicative of alcoholism, but frequent binge drinking and out-of-control behavior accompanied by a few other behavioral changes certainly point towards potential addiction. Similarly, many chronic pain sufferers need medication and take it often to relieve their pain – but it becomes a real issue when they begin to seek illegal alternatives to get their hands on more painkillers, or begin taking the drugs not against physical pain, but emotional pain as well, as rare as these cases are.

Addiction is an inability to stop using a substance or engaging in behavior despite clear consequences and severe self-destructive behavior. Someone with an addiction is dependent on the drug or drugs to some level, unable to stop using. Here are a few hidden signs of addiction to help you figure out whether you should be concerned about your friend or loved one.


Frequent Lying

Perhaps the simplest but most damning character change in someone with a developing addiction is the growing and consistent urge to continuously lie and cover up. As an addiction worsens, people tend to realize that their behavior is shameful or wrong, but they’re still battling internally with the idea of being unable to stop themselves – so they delay the inevitable by lying about their behavior, their drug use, and their whereabouts.

Part of an addiction is hiding your drug use while striving to function, but as the lies pile up, it becomes harder to keep up appearances and the façade begins to crumble. That can be very painful, especially for someone still going through the initial stages of denial – so much so that it drives them to further emotional depths. Addiction feeds on painful emotions, because they drive people to use to dull the pain. That, in turn, feeds things like shame and self-loathing, creating a vicious cycle that begins with a few excuses. If you find your partner or friend consistently lying about their whereabouts and activities, they may be hiding something as significant as an addiction.

It is important to note that addiction does not transform a person into a monster or make them lie pathologically. It is easier to lie, and most people do when confronted with reality. But once they accept their condition, addicts are just as honest or dishonest as anyone else. It’s not so much the addiction that is causing the lies, but the fact that there is something to hide, especially early on.


Rapid Weight Change

Addiction can savagely tear into the body over just a few months, depending on the drug of choice. Some drugs are far more poisonous than others, but many addictions sadly lead to overdose. Before that happens, a drug (or drugs) can have several negative impacts on a user’s body, including organ failure, lesions and scabs from habitual scratching, dental problems, and rapid weight loss or weight gain.

Not all drugs are recognizable through physical symptoms, but stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines often lead to weight loss due to lack of appetite, while excessive alcohol leads to obesity and fatty liver before causing serious liver damage.


Mood Swings

A drug’s domain is, first and foremost, the brain. Drugs are psychoactive substances that pass through the blood-brain barrier, interfering with natural neurotransmitters by hijacking the receptors on your neurons. This leads to the many different effects each drugs have, from hallucinations to slurred speech, slow thinking and staggering, euphoria, etc.

Yet as the brain develops a tolerance to the drug and dependence kicks in, kicking the habit becomes harder and harder – until it’s not a habit, but an addiction. Personality shifts can occur as drug use becomes progressively worse, and the periods between highs become less tolerable. Mood swings, including symptoms of depression, correlate with heavy drug use because of the severe mental impact of addiction. They become most frequent right after quitting, for several weeks.


Evading Responsibility

As an addiction progresses, more time and effort go towards securing the next high. Criminality is higher among people with addiction because drug use often impairs the brain’s ability for critical thinking and risk-assessment – people see point A and point B, but don’t fully recognize the dangers lying between these points.

But long, long before drug use can lead to crime, it first leads to evading responsibility. It’s common for people with addiction to skip out on work or school, miss appointments, become tardy, and lose their ability to manage time, risk, and life in general.


Relationship Problems

Addiction is a selfish disease, insofar that it can make someone more concerned with their next high than anything else. It begins slowly and insidiously but builds up over time. One way in which this manifests is by introducing relationship problems and tensions due to constant lying, trust issues, and an increasing distance between the drug user and their partner. If your partner is going through lengths to hide what looks like a drug habit, it’s important to find ways to discuss help.

The beginning of an addiction is often far from any recognizably bad behavior. It all starts with one slip up, one mistake, or one moment when you decide to let loose – from there, a slippery slope opens to another excuse, another reason, another step down a dark road.

Most people who end up struggling with addiction don’t see the path until it’s too late, and the people around them often have no way of stopping them. If you think your loved one may be well on they way towards developing an addiction, talking over with them, and consider finding the best approach to get them the help they need.


Putting Together A Plan to Help Avoid Relapse

Planning to Avoid Relapse

Relapses are terrifying for most. Both the idea of a relapse and the dread felt after a relapse rank high among a recovering addict’s worst experiences, alongside hurting others and going through an overdose. While relapses are not always life-threatening, they can bruise and batter a person’s morale, and leave them feeling like their journey has been all for naught.

To overcome relapses and move past them  – and even learn to avoid them in the future – two things must happen. First, it is important to unlearn the fear of a relapse. Second, it is important to completely reframe and rethink what it means to relapse and see the experience from a different point of view.

To clarify: a relapse is when a recovering addict uses again, thus breaking their sobriety streak. However, it is far too easy to lose sight of why sobriety matters, and instead focus solely on the number on a chip or on a calendar. By taking a different approach to the meaning of a relapse in the grand scheme of things, a recovering addict can recover much faster and relapse less often.


Why Relapses Happen

Relapses happen for a myriad of reasons. Most involve stress. Everyone has a limit for how much they can take before they break, and for people in early sobriety, even the slightest burden can feel several times heavier due to the weight of staying sober. Relapses commonly occur early on not out of a lack of conviction or experience, but because it is the hardest part of the journey, especially without the right support.

However, relapses do not magically occur after some form of mental threshold is reached. While many events contribute to the build up of a relapse, there is always one specific event that triggers it. These triggers change, because most people have several. It could be something that reminds you strongly of the old days, such as a specific place or song, even something as simple as the route you take on your way to work. Or it could be something else that sets you off.

Before relapses occur, there are countless temptations and moments where the question – to use or not to use – comes to the forefront of the mind. This is normal in early recovery, when cravings are still at their strongest and the memory of being high is still freshly burnt into the mind. Cravings subside the longer the brain gets a break from drugs. Ideally, that break should last forever – but when it does not, drug use primes the brain for another session, thus making relapses doubly difficult to escape as they demoralize the patient and make it more alluring to use again.


Identifying Triggers

One way to start avoiding relapses is figuring out exactly what your triggers might be. This is mostly for the first few months, to help you focus on sobriety and minimize the chances of another relapse. Ideally, it should not take too much time to adjust to recovery and find a stable place in life. Sober living homes are ideal for this, as they give tenants a place to stay with responsibilities and communal chores, within a temptation-free environment.

Eventually, you can reintegrate triggers into your life without worry, although it is up to you to know when that time comes. Until then, consider what went through your head before the relapse. What memories and thoughts remind you most strongly of your time as an addict? What tempts you the most? What keeps you distracted the most?

Find a way to live your life without evoking excessive stress and unfortunate memories, at least for the first few months of your recovery.


Nurturing a Support System

Knowing what endangers your sobriety the most is helpful, but you cannot live your life tiptoeing around everything. There will be times when you must take a risk and risk getting hurt – from going into an interview looking for a new job, to asking someone out for the first time in a long time. However, you should not bear your burdens alone. Having a solid support system can alleviate a lot of pain – friends and family can help reassure you and give you hope, rather than perpetuating negative feelings and pity.

If you are not on good terms with your family and do not have any friends, it is high time to make some. A good place to start would be through group therapy, at meetings and other places where recovering addicts come together to support each other. This way, you can learn more about addiction through one another and find new and interesting perspectives on similar struggles and situations.


Back to the Basics

Sometimes, relapses are a result of going off-course from what recovery originally taught you. Most addiction treatment programs focus on helping addicts get back on their feet, which can involve anything from helping them build the confidence to get out into the world and find their place in society, to helping them discover new hobbies and pastimes to manage stress and find ways to fight the cravings.

Use what you learned while in treatment or talk to a professional and seek out outpatient treatment or sober living communities.


It’s Not Over

Find your triggers, get help from friends and family, seek out professional therapy, and understand what a relapse looks like. But that is not all. Your arsenal would not be complete without this vital piece of understanding: a relapse is not the end of the journey. Some people dread relapses and frame them as failures – testaments to your inability to stay clean no matter how hard you try.

This is the wrong approach to a relapse. The right approach is to brush off the dust and put one foot after the other into the stir-ups and ride off toward the future. Do not let a single relapse overturn weeks, months, and years of hard work.

It is not over. In fact, in most cases, it has just begun. Relapses happen early on in recovery, and recovery is a lifelong journey. With time, you will learn not to fear relapses, and see them instead as opportunities to learn more about your triggers, your addiction, and how best to deal with it. By learning from previous relapses, you gain the knowledge needed to avoid them in the future, and lose the fear created by tying your success as a sober person to your lack of relapses and mistakes.


The Top 3 Reasons to Get Help for Your Addiction

Get Help For Addiction

Addiction is not an easy disease to treat and manage. It is unlike many other diseases and conditions, to the point where there are entire debates and arguments held to discuss whether addiction should be labeled a disease at all.

Yet despite its dangers and widespread societal effects, it can be treated. But not alone.

There are only two options when struggling with addiction – get treatment, or don’t. And when you don’t, it’s likely that the addiction you’re fighting alone will send you to your grave.


1. It Will Kill You

While grim and stark, the reality is that roughly 21 million Americans use drugs compulsively, and the death toll caused by drug overdoses and drug-related accidents is rising. There’s a reason they call it the opioid crisis: drug abuse is killing more people than all cancers combined.

If you are addicted to drugs, and you refuse to seek treatment, then it’s highly likely that your addiction will kill you. And it is not a particularly quick process.

Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine strain the heart and breathing. Depressants like Xanax and alcohol can poison your body, cause seizures, and respiratory failure.

And heroin can leave you paralyzed, or worse. These drugs may cause minimal damage in the short-term, but taken over years and in high dosages, they slowly but surely damage the brain and other organs, leading to a myriad of painful conditions and diseases before death.

It begins in the brain, where an influx of dopamine and other neurotransmitters introduces the mind to a whole new substance. In the most unfortunate of cases, it only takes a few times for the dependency to kick in, and for the curiosity to turn into a need for more. Kicking the habit to the curb is not as easy as switching donuts out for kale, and that is something most people struggle with as well. We are not well-equipped to fight against our own brain, and it’s worse when the addiction is as hard-wired as it can be with drugs like oxycodone, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

Many people occasionally use drugs and never struggle with addiction. Some people use lots of drugs and don’t develop a habit. But that does not mean that addiction is easy to overcome, or something that can be left to stew until the very last second. The moment you realize you are fighting against a real physical dependency to substances, you must make a choice between choosing a longer and healthier life spent with the people you love, or an arduous and tragic battle against your substance use.


2. It’s Hurting Others

If you have any friends or family, then your addiction is sure to take a toll on them. There is a difference between hurting people and alienating your own family – members of an understanding family will do their best to help a relative through a difficult time, even through an addiction – but there are limits to what a family can take, and there are limits and boundaries between friends and partners.

Losing your friends and family to addiction is, in many cases, the last straw. We need others to depend on, and others who can depend on us. Accountability towards other human beings and security in knowing that there are people around us who can offer help and support when we need it the most.

An addiction can push all that away and create a miserable pocket of loneliness – thus making the urge to drink and use more powerful, to drown out the growing magnitudes of emotional pain.

Again, therein lies the importance of making the right choice. If you choose to get help, you can get ahead of the damage and find the professional support you need to tackle and manage this disease. But if it goes on with you struggling to stay clean, hurting those around you without meaning to, unable to stop, then sobriety becomes exponentially more difficult to achieve and maintain. Not only would you have to become clean for your own sake, but you would have to face the pain and shame of your actions in total sobriety.

The only way out is through – because any other way, like relapsing, will only make matters worse. So why is addiction so hard to break? Because despite being terrible for a person’s long-term health and wellbeing, it does wonders in the immediate and short-term. A high can make all the fears and problems go away, for a while. But the problem is that afterward, they are a little bit bigger than they were before.

What you do while addicted is not automatically excusable or inadmissible, but it can be understandable, and if you want to make it through this process, you have to find a way to forgive yourself and come to terms with everything you have done before you ask others to forgive you and give you another chance as well.


3. Being Sober is So Much Better

One big dread for many people facing the challenge of recovery is that sobriety ends up being nothing but an endless bore. However, that could not be further from the truth. Where drug use clouds the mind and glazes the eyes, being sharp and clean gives you the opportunity to experience life the way it was meant to be experienced.

However, sobriety is not a magic cure. It is simply the act of not drinking. This can give the mind and body time to heal from months or years of drug use, but sobriety is just the possibility of a better future, rather than the guarantee of it.

In fact, the term dry drunk refers to people in recovery who, despite their sobriety, continue to show symptoms of moodiness and aggression sometimes seen in addiction. This is because initially, sobriety is boring. And potentially frightening.

But sobriety paves the way to experiencing true and real joy again, without substance use. It is the path to being with others, creating meaningful and long-lasing bonds, and enjoying being within your own skin again. It is a path towards mental and physical health, wellbeing, and contentment. It is never a guarantee, but it is a solid chance, and if you are ready to take it then you’re ready to make the most of it.


The Myth That Marijuana Is Not Addictive

Marijuana Addiction

Cannabis is an Asian import, first cultivated in Central and South Asia, and common throughout Japan and China as an incredibly sturdy fabric. Cannabis, in the form of hemp, can be traced back up to 10,000 years – in other words, we have an incredibly long history with this plant. Yet its psychoactive properties were not well recorded until much later.

Today, it is estimated that about 147 million people – 2.5% of the world population – consume cannabis. Compare this to the 0.2% of the world population that consumes opioids, and it is clear that while marijuana may be overshadowed by the tragic overdose deaths caused by opioids at home, it’s a greater global threat. In comparison to both cocaine and opioid abuse, cannabis abuse has grown much faster, and talks of legalization bring up fears that the dangers of cannabis are being understated.

To avoid fearmongering and the spread of disinformation, it is important to set the record straight on what marijuana is and what it is not – how it can be dangerous, and why something as drastic as legalization has be considered very carefully, if at all.


What Marijuana Is and Is Not

Marijuana is psychoactive cannabis, a drug made from the cultivated leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant. The psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. While THC is the most common of its kind, there are other similar cannabinoids – drugs that mimic the effects of cannabis in the human brain, often synthetic in nature.

Marijuana refers to the plant-based drug circulated either as oil, in edible form, or for consumption through smoking. Out of all illicit drugs on the planet, cannabis is by far the most cultivated and trafficked drug in the world.

Marijuana is not a panacea or a wonder drug for cancer patients and sick children. Cannabinoids – often in the form of inert cannabis oil – show potential as therapeutic drug in combatting nausea and vomiting, especially in the late stages of terminal illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Cannabinoids are currently available as a prescription drug and have been for years. However, while the isolated compound (THC) shows promise in regard to the treatment of select symptoms, the dangers of marijuana use – specifically recreational marijuana use – remain considerable.

Marijuana is addictive. While research has long suggested the possibility that marijuana does not produce physical dependence like other illicit drugs and prescription medication, more and more evidence is piling up pointing towards the fact that marijuana can result in physical dependence, both in animal and human studies.

Physical dependence is defined as a condition created by regular drug use, leading to symptoms of tolerance (requiring higher doses of a drug to achieve the same effect) and withdrawal (unpleasantness and sickness in response to stopping drug use). Physical dependence can lead to intense and powerful cravings in the absence of a high, and can massively impair a person’s ability to function, causing them to miss out on important responsibilities.

Examples of extreme cases of cannabis dependence involve losing track of time and substantially disrupting daily activities to look for or consume marijuana. Withdrawal symptoms involve mood swings, irritability, and appetite problems. Even among heavy users, the symptoms of a cannabis withdrawal are not particularly severe compared to other addictive drugs. However, their presence indicates that marijuana addiction exists and poses a threat to any who use the drug.


Realities of a Marijuana Addiction

Prolonged and excessive use of marijuana – recreationally or otherwise – can lead to a reliance on the drug to maintain a sense of normalcy and mood control. What might have started as a way to calm down after a hectic day or take the edge off a stressful situation can soon become the only way to ever be calm or maintain a sense of cool.

Long-term use comes with other dangers, including impairment of the brain’s cognitive functions (eating into a person’s ability to calculate risk, make decisions, process and integrate information, and retain memories). In mental health patients with symptoms of schizophrenia or psychosis, marijuana use can exacerbate the issue. Heavy smoking also leads to throat and lung problems, including bronchitis, lung inflammation, and more.


Marijuana as Prescription Medication

Even as a form of medication, cannabinoids are not to be taken during pregnancies, and just like any other addictive drug, cannabis use needs to be considered carefully rather than taken as a light mood-altering drug, or as a quick stress-management solution.

Marijuana has been legalized in one form or another in more than half of all US states, and other states are taking steps to consider the drug as a form of medicine, with considered uses including appetite stimulation, antidepressants, anti-spasmodic and anticonvulsant medicine, and glaucoma.

The future will involve cannabis as a form of medication – the question is how best to regulate it, and how best to educate people on the various dangers of irresponsible drug use – including cannabis.


The Most Harmful Myth

Of all myths – including the myth that marijuana is completely non-addictive – the by far most dangerous assumption one could make about this plant is that it is harmless. For one, marijuana today is completely different from marijuana fifty years ago, and utterly unrecognizable in comparison to the stuff smoked and eaten in antiquity.

In fact, the THC concentration of cannabis has shot up significantly since the drug has been getting more popular, due to specialized and fine-tuned laboratories working hard to create strong pot. From just around 3% in the 1980s, cannabis today has a THC concentration of roughly 12-13%.

Marijuana today is potentially addictive, can be harmful to the brain – especially the developing brain of a young adult under 25 – and while it may even prove useful to the field of medicine someday, it is still a substance to be approached with caution.


Treating Marijuana Addiction

Like other addictions, a marijuana use disorder can be treated effectively. Despite mild withdrawal symptoms, cannabis can still trigger cravings and is often a major coping mechanism for many people dealing with stressful private lives or work environments. A key part of treating the addiction is helping them find other ways to keep their stress in check. If you need help with cannabis addiction or any other form of addictions, feel free to contact us for the help you need.