Many people deal with addiction each year. SAMHSA’s 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 22.2 million Americans aged 12 or older had struggled with substance dependence or abuse in the year before the survey. This figure translates to roughly 8.5 percent of the 12-and-older population, and shows that drug dependence and abuse is much more common than some people realize. A lot of times, when people talk about drug addiction, they focus on the person with the addiction. But the families and friends of people who struggle with drug addiction are often just as affected by the drug use. It can be difficult to accept that a loved one has an addiction, but adapting to this reality is essential in order to help the person begin the recovery process.

The Nature of Addiction

Although addiction happens to many different people, not everyone understands exactly what addiction is. One of the best ways for family and friends to support a loved one who is struggling with addiction is to learn more about the nature of addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines drug addiction as “a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her.” The NIDA goes on to explain that even though a person chooses to use drugs at first, over time, drug use changes a person’s brain, making it harder to resist the strong urges to continue using them. It also describes some of the specific ways that drugs interfere with the brain’s communication system, specifically its chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters. Drugs interact with this communication system by either acting as neurotransmitters or by making the brain produce too many natural neurotransmitters, which in turn causes the communication system to send unusual messages.

Addiction Treatment Options

When a person finds out that her loved one has a drug addiction, she may be overwhelmed and unsure of what steps to take next. The most important thing for a person with an addiction to do is get professional help, so having a conversation about treatment options may encourage the person to begin the recovery process. The Mayo Clinic lists the following common forms of drug addiction treatment:

  • Specialized treatment programs: these can be either residential or outpatient, and can include detoxification if the person experiences withdrawal symptoms when ending drug use.
  • Therapy: the person meets with a therapist in an individual or group setting and discusses ways to manage drug cravings and avoid relapse, and how to deal with any social, job-related and legal problems.
  • Support groups: in these groups, the person regularly meets with other people who are also struggling with drug addiction. The people in the group support each other through their successes and struggles, helping the group members to realize that they aren’t alone in recovery.

Support Options for Families and Friends of Addicts

Counseling and support groups can also be beneficial for the family members and friends of a person with an addiction. In both of these environments, family and friends can discuss and explore the following:

  • Ways to engage in more effective communication with the addict and with other loved ones
  • Feelings related to the addiction
  • Damage caused by the addiction
  • How to help the addict maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid drugs in the future

Get More Information About Adapting to the Reality of a Loved One’s Addiction

When a person’s loved one has a drug addiction, she may feel overwhelmed by the situation. The best ways to help a loved one with addiction are to understand exactly what addiction is and to encourage him to seek out professional treatment. If you are struggling to accept that your loved one has an addiction and would like some more information about how to cope with this difficult situation, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to help you better understand your loved one’s addiction. They can also discuss addiction treatment options, as well as counseling and support group possibilities for you and your family. Call us right now to find out more.