Addiction: What to Look For, What to Do, and Where to Go

The following information was presented at a FCR conference recently held regarding treatment and the church.

MYTHS:

• If you have enough will power, you can stop.

• This is a character flaw.

• You can successfully finish treatment in a few weeks.

FACTS:

•“Alcoholism is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation.”

•“More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol” (NCADD).

• “The first episode of alcohol intoxication is likely to occur during the mid-teens” (DSM-V).

•The earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it is to progress to more serious abuse.

MORE FACTS:

•“Because adolescents’ brains are still developing in the areas that govern decision-making, judgment, and self-control, they are especially prone to risk-taking behaviors, including trying drugs of abuse”
(webmd.com).

•Substance-related disorders occurs with other disorders, such as conduct disorder, antisocial behavior, PTSD, etc. (DSM-V).

•“Recovery is a long process and frequently requires multiple treatment attempts before complete and consistent sobriety can be achieved”
(waysidehouse.org).

ADDICTION: WHAT IS IT?

•“A chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”

•“Occurs when a person cannot control the impulse to use drugs even when there are negative consequences.”

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-abuse-addiction-basics

UNDERSTANDING THE EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN:

•Changes to the structure and function of the brain:

•Affects decision-making and self-control, makes “intense impulse to take drugs.”

•Targets “the brain’s reward system. …‘Teaches’ people to repeat the behavior of abusing drugs.”

•Produces or releases less dopamine, leads the individual “to keep abusing drugs to bring his or her dopamine function back to ‘normal’ or use more drugs to achieve a dopamine high.”

EFFECTS OF LONG-TERM USE:

Long-term drug abuse causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits, as well.

•Brain imaging studies of drug-addicted individuals show changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision-making, learning and memory, and behavior control.

•Together, these changes can drive an abuser to seek out and take drugs compulsively – in other words, to become addicted to drugs.”

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/drug-abuse-addiction?page=2

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS:

•Loss of Control
•Secrecy
•Changing Appearance:
•Serious changes or deterioration in hygiene or physical appearance.
•Family History
•Tolerance:
•Over time, a person’s body adapts to a substance to the point that they need more and more of it in order to have the same reaction.
•Withdrawal

From: National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD)

DSM-V CRITERIA:

•Behaviors observed in a 12-month period
•Must have 2 of 11 symptoms:
1.Consuming more alcohol or other substance than originally planned.

2.Worrying about stopping or consistently failed efforts to control one’s use.

3.Spending a large amount of time using drugs/alcohol, or doing whatever is needed to obtain them.

4.Use of the substance results in failure to “fulfill major role obligations” such as at home, work, or school.

5.“Craving” the substance (alcohol or drug)

6. Continuing the use of a substance despite health problems caused or worsened by it. This can be in the domain of mental health (psychological problems may include depressed mood, sleep disturbance, anxiety, or “blackouts”) or physical health.

7. Continuing the use of a substance despite its having negative effects in relationships with others (for example, using even though it leads to fights or despite people’s objecting to it).

8. Repeated use of the substance in a dangerous situation (e.g. when having to operate heavy machinery, when driving a car).

9. Giving up or reducing activities in a person’s life because of the drug/alcohol use.

10. Building up a tolerance to the alcohol or drug.
•Tolerance is defined… as “either needing to use noticeably larger amounts over time to get the desired effect or noticing less of an effect over time after repeated use of the same amount.”

11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping use.
•“Anxiety, irritability, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, hand tremor or seizure in the case of alcohol.”

WHAT TO DO?

•Be understanding & empathetic. They may have chosen to use but did not choose the addiction.

•Treat them as if they are someone with a chronic illness.

•Set boundaries & let them know where you stand.

•Possibly involve the court, employer, etc.

•Seek professional help and get treatment.

HOW TREATMENT WORKS?
•Addresses the addiction 1st then secondary issues (e.g. mental disorders, past, etc.).

•Treats the whole person:
•We’re not just physical, but mental, emotional, spiritual, biological, etc.
•Use of behavioral therapy, support groups, 1:1 counseling, drug & alcohol education, biblical teaching, medication, if needed, and case management.

Remember: early detection is helpful & prevention is key.

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