Is there an addiction problem?
We all make changes in our lives by deciding to do something different. So why can’t someone just decide to stop drinking or using drugs? It’s not that simple because alcohol and drugs change the brain in powerful ways that make quitting much harder to do.
When someone can’t stop using drugs or alcohol and it is causing serious problems in their life, it is called ADDICTION.
Researchers are always learning more about how drugs and alcohol change the brain and cause constant craving. This helps us understand the struggles people face in trying to give them up and stay sober. It also leads to new treatments and programs that work better to support recovery.
Why is it hard to be sure?
Often it’s not easy to tell if someone is having problems with substance use, or even if you are. Daily life (work, school, family, friends) may not have changed that much. Your health and finances seem okay. So what’s the problem?
And even if there are signs, how do we know that addiction caused them? Physical illnesses or mental issues can also change how people feel, act and think.
Here are some reasons why addiction can be hard to see and accept. You may want to:
- Think of drugs or alcohol as an escape from your problems, not a cause
- Hold on to something that once gave you a sense of comfort or power
- Avoid the fear of not being able to cope without it
- Protect yourself from dealing with what’s happening - called denial
- Hide it from people because you worry how it will effect your relationships or work
- See it as something temporary you need to do to get through a hard time
- Protect yourself from painful feelings such as deep anger, disappointment, fear or not feeling good enough
- Avoid the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms or feeling overwhelmed
Why does it happen?
Many things can raise the risk of addiction to alcohol or drugs. Some relate to a family history of addiction or early abuse. Others have to do with trying to cope with painful feelings, experiences or difficult life situations.
Using drugs or alcohol to get quick relief can seem like a good way to cope at first. But over time, it hurts you – including your relationships, career, school, finances and physical or mental health.