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If you are wondering what causes addiction, or how to help an alcoholic or how to help a drug addict, here are five things you should know.
1. There is no such thing as a stereotypical addict.More than 20 million Americans have a drug or alcohol problem. Addiction affects people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Addiction is equally non-discriminatory among young people.
2. Addiction is a brain disease.Over the past few decades, scientists have gained a better understanding of addiction, why some people become addicted, and why it’s so hard for addicts to stop using drugs or alcohol. Addiction is a disease of the brain, just like asthma is a disease of the lungs and heart disease is a disease of the heart.Brain imaging scans show that repeated drug use and drinking can damage the parts of the brain that control judgment and decision-making. Substance abuse actually “rewires” the brain so that addicts begin to crave the drug above all else, even though they know it’s bad for them. Key to helping a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is thinking of addiction as a brain disease, not a sign of weakness or poor character.
3. Addiction is treatable.While addiction is treatable, most addicts can’t get sober without help. Treatment for drug abuse or alcoholism can occur in a variety of settings. It may include medication, psychotherapy and family therapy. In certain circumstances, addiction treatment requires admission to a hospital for more supervised medical monitoring. In all settings, the goal is to remove drugs or alcohol from a person’s life, and address the physical, psychological, emotional and social issues that contributed to drug use.
4. Teen ‘users’ are more likely to become grown-up addicts.The younger a person starts using drugs or alcohol, the more likely he or she is to become an addict. It’s important that parents take all teen drinking and drug use seriously, and not dismiss it as normal experimentation.
5. Recovery is hard.It’s important that both family members and addicts understand that treatment is not the same as a cure. Relapse can be discouraging to family members and devastating to the addict. But relapse is not the same as failure, and family members should not give up on their loved one if relapse occurs. If you are supporting a loved one through treatment and into recovery, know that he or she will likely need your support for a long time.
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