What every Drug User and Family should know about Addiction

Health experts describe drug addiction as a chronic disease characterized by an uncontrollable urge to use drugs despite the harmful consequences which include brain damage, violence, and death.

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Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease which leaves families of drug users feeling guilty, angry, confused, and devastated, especially when they realize that their love for the affected person is not enough to control or cure drug-dependence. In most cases, families feel betrayed by the lies and manipulation suffered in the hands of their loved one. Yet, the most reasonable thing to do is pulling themselves together, tossing the ill-feelings, and taking proactive measure to save the endangered persons from themselves thus safeguarding more lives.

One of the first steps to recovery from drug use is identifying users.

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The path to drug addiction starts with a voluntary intake which eventually becomes compromised over time, with the person being unable to decide the rate of consumption. This compulsive behaviour, when practiced for a long time, may alter one’s brain function such as learning, memory, motivation and control over actions or thought patterns.

Drug addiction is treatable; some users stop the behaviour for a few days and get a lasting cure whereas, in other cases, a long-term or constant care is necessary for total recovery. No method provides a tested-and-proven cure for all drug addicts.

Families of drug users should understand that:

  • Identified users need quick access to treatment
  • An effective treatment aims at addressing the patient’s needs, not just the drug addiction
  • A combination of counselling and other behavioural therapies may provide lasting results
  • As an important part of treatment, medications prove effective when combined with behavioural therapies
  • A regular review of the treatment plan aids health experts in making proper adjustments to achieve the desired result
  • Close monitoring of drug users helps the patient avoid a relapse
  • Treatment must not be voluntary to be effective
  • Treatment programs should include tests for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, Tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. Users should also learn the steps they can take to avoid risks of exposure to any or all these illnesses.

Families of drug users should first examine relationships within the home and identify if there are behaviours, events, condition, or any traumatic life experience that could be encouraging the affected person’s reliance on drugs.

Secondly, instead of helping drug users cover up their addiction by giving excuses on why they failed in exams, go to work late or engage in anti-social behaviours, families should let the affected person take his/her responsibilities – this gets them ready for the recovery process.

A drug addiction intervention requires all hands to be on deck. Getting a lasting cure for drug users is a responsibility for all family members and, where necessary, sending the person to a residential rehabilitation center away from the family and their familiar using patterns will aid recovery. A visit to licensed addictions counsellors will provide the needed professional support and advice.

According to a national survey on drug use and health, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) confirmed that 22.5 million people in 2014 required treatment for illicit drug or alcohol use problems.