If Raghu developed a fever, he would gain several concessions from school/work and at home. People may sympathize for him and maybe even send him a “get well” soon card. He wouldn’t worry about going to the doctor. The doctor would run a few tests and prescribe medication. He would get better and get back to life.
Now, imagine if Raghu developed a drinking problem !
Most people look at substance abuse as defect in character or a lack of “self control”. This is just not true. Substance abuse has been entwined in a lot of stigma and misunderstanding that makes it difficult for the sufferer to come out and seek help. Addictions are often difficult to get rid of, several substance users constantly make decisions to give up, but often fail to stick to their decisions.
Addiction and dependence as a disorder
Please read – The biology of addiction, if you haven’t already.
Addiction is not a mindset, it is a disorder of the brain. A disorder that alters motivation and makes it incredibly difficult to stay off addictive substances and behaviour. It is important for sufferers and their close ones to understand that beyond an arbitrary point, the user has little or no control over his substance use. A never-ending cycle of intoxication, resentment and anticipation drag life into an uncontrolled spiral. If you are diagnosed with an addiction, remember that it isn’t a label, it is not a judgement of your intelligence or personality. It is a medical diagnosis, just like any other medical diagnosis. The sole intention of the diagnosis is to help you get the treatment you need. If you are open to it, you will begin seeing how substance use has taken over your life. The behaviour of those who are addicted often put incredible pressure on the whole family unit. Spouses, parents and children often undergo significant distress and suffering.
You and your family will need help! This help can come in the form of therapy or medication. It is quite a challenge to beat the addiction cycle. Awareness is the first step to get started.
Several addictive substances produce long term changes in the body and brain. Sudden cessation of intake may lead to uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous problems. Withdrawal states hamper one’s ability to quit addictive substances. The gradual taper from addictive substances rarely works. Most people will require help in the form of medication to help them transition to a drug free state.
Those who suffer from addictions and their loved ones need to understand that addictions require treatment. Just like any other medical illness that one may undergo, addictions need to managed with care and empathy. Appropriate treatment gives sufferers the best chance of staying sober.
What sufferers and their families do not need is criticism, humiliation, threats or punishment.