Is addiction an issue in our society? Addiction to something is usually defined as repetitive use or behavior that you no longer control and that causes harm to yourself or others. The most common being alcoholism or drug addiction. With these conditions, many of us have the image of the drunk under the bridge or on the street, and the heroin junkie with a needle in their arm in a back alley. Most alcoholics and addicts are functional. They could be working at a major company, a business owner, a college student or indeed very often as the disease progresses, they start to loose things; jobs, homes, relationships, etc.
The article “Addiction Medicine the birth of a new discipline” September 2014 (you can read it here… ) outlines the fact that this is now a recognized specialty with board-certification requirements for the doctors who choose to become experts in the field of addiction medicine. Even though I’m board-certified in Pediatrics and Integrative Holistic Medicine, I chose to become board-certified in addiction medicine. I have been helping opiate addicts under the age of 30 get off the opiates for the past several years at my clinic Fair Start, in Portland Oregon.
Substance use causes significant suffering for the individuals and their families and accounts for over $500 billion in economic costs in the US. In the 2012 NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) surveying Americans over age 12:
- 32% binge drink
- 7% report heavy drinking the past month
- 9% used illicit drugs the past month
- Heroin use increased 79% since 2007
- Opioid overdoses now exceed deaths from MVA’s (car crashes).
You can read this data here…
What can you do if you have a problem? Ask for help, get to a 12-step meeting then keep going back, and if needed, set up inpatient treatment for yourself.
What can you do if you are the family of one suffering from substance use or addiction? Stop enabling them. No more money given, excuses made, etc.
Offer them treatment and then if necessary set up an intervention where a professional helps you get them either into treatment or out of your home. Be ready to go to any lengths for your loved one. It means risking everything in one sense, but too often the lack of willingness on the family’s part is what kills them anyway.
The diseases of addiction or substance use are progressive and fatal if untreated. Think of it as slow suicide. You can no longer stand by and throw your arms up saying you are helpless. Do your part by not enabling, but also realize you cannot help them until they hurt bad enough or have enough motivation to get help. If you keep the environment nice and safe (roof over their heads and food in their tummy) why would they need to change?
I have had to show my adult children who were deep in their disease the door many times. It is one of the hardest things a parent can do. You must be willing to help them in any way possible when they are ready – but not in ways that allow them to continue in their drinking or using. The same goes for spouses or anyone else in your life who may be using your kindness to get access to drugs or alcohol. The kind thing to do is to care enough to stop enabling them. For those who struggle with that, there is a program for you: Al-Anon. You can learn more about Al-Anon here…