Why Your Loved One is Addicted: Understanding Addiction

A man working on Understanding addiction, contemplating treatment options.

Understanding addiction and why a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol is the beginning of offering support in their recovery. Understandably, it is challenging and emotionally draining when a loved one struggles with addiction. Add to that, feelings of confusion, fear, and helplessness. Moreover, witnessing them fall victim to addiction is heart-wrenching. And also, it’s common to struggle with feelings of anger, betrayal, and deep sadness. 

However, empathy serves as one of the most powerful tools we can wield for our loved ones during this challenging time. Additionally, recognizing that addiction is a disease and not a choice or a moral failing fosters a compassionate, non-judgmental approach. Thereby, enabling us to offer the unwavering support, understanding, and love that our loved ones need to navigate the path to recovery.

What are the Causes of Addiction?

Drug and alcohol addiction is a complex and multifaceted disease that has a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. When understanding addiction, it is important to remember that there is no single cause that applies to all cases of addiction. However, several key contributors are commonly identified as causes of addiction:

Genetic Factors

Genetics plays a significant role in an individual’s predisposition to addiction. Some people may have a genetic predisposition that makes them more vulnerable to developing addictive behaviors when exposed to drugs or alcohol. So, a family history of addiction greatly increases the risk.

Brain Chemistry

Drugs and alcohol directly affect the brain’s reward system and the pathways of neurotransmitter pathways. These substances create intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Thus, leading to repeated use and potential dependence over time.

Environmental Influences

The environment where a person grows up and lives can contribute to the risk of addiction. Factors such as exposure to drugs or alcohol at an early age,  living in a community with high substance abuse rates, and experiencing trauma and stress all increase an individual’s vulnerability to addiction.

Peer Pressure

Peer influence is powerful. Particularly, during adolescence. Associating with peers who use drugs or alcohol tends to normalize substance use and lead to experimentation and potential addiction.

Mental Health Disorders

Individuals with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or ADHD are much more prone to turning to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their symptoms. Treating dual diagnosis at the same time greatly increases successful treatment outcomes and long-term sobriety.

Trauma and Stress

Experiencing trauma, abuse, neglect, chronic stress, and grief increases the likelihood of developing a drug or alcohol addiction. Substance use often serves as a way to self-medicate and alleviate emotional pain for many people.

Lack of Coping Skill

Insufficient coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s challenges can lead individuals to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to manage stress, anxiety, or emotional discomfort.

Socioeconomic Factors

Economic instability, poverty, lack of access to education and health care, as well as limited opportunities frequently contributes to the risk of addiction. Whereas, individuals may turn to substances to escape their circumstances.

Early Exposure

The younger an individual is when they start using drugs or alcohol, the higher their risk of developing addiction. Adolescent brains are still developing, making them more susceptible to the effects of addictive substances.

Marketing and Advertising

Aggressive marketing and advertising of substances, especially alcohol and prescription drugs, has contributed to increased usage rates and subsequent addiction.

Much of today’s opiate epidemic stems from the aggressive marketing tactics used by pharmaceutical companies over the past two decades.

Ways You Can Help Your Loved One

Understanding addiction is crucial when trying to support a loved one who is struggling. Addiction is complex and often misunderstood. It goes beyond mere substance use. By grasping the underlying factors and causes of addiction, family and friends can provide empathy and effective support. 

Ways to offer meaningful assistance include:

  • Recognize it as a disease: Addiction is recognized as a chronic brain disease by medical professionals. It affects the brain’s reward system, impulse control, and decision-making. 
  • Understand the cycle: Addiction follows a cycle of cravings, substance use, temporary relief, and subsequent negative consequences. This cycle perpetuates the behavior. 
  • Embrace empathy: Empathy is a powerful tool. Instead of judgment, offer empathy to help them feel understood and less isolated.
  • Avoid enabling: Enabling occurs by making excuses, providing financial assistance, or shielding them from consequences. While it might come from a place of love, it hinders their recovery.
  • Encourage professional help: Encourage a loved one to seek professional help, such as counseling, therapy, or a treatment program tailored to their needs.
  • Respect boundaries: Recovery is a personal journey, and a loved one might set boundaries as they work through it. Respect their boundaries while continuing to offer support.
  • Educate yourself: Knowledge helps provide informed support and an understanding of the challenges they face.
  • Focus on communication: Nonjudgmental communication is key. Express concerns, but avoid blaming or shaming. Offer a safe space for them to talk about their struggles without fear of criticism.
  • Be patient: Recovery is a gradual process with its ups and downs. Celebrate small victories and show patience when setbacks occur.

Understanding addiction and approaching it with empathy, patience, and knowledge contributes to a loved one’s healing journey. However, professional help and intervention are crucial. So, encourage them to seek the assistance they need to overcome addiction. 

Find Support at Spirit Mountain Recovery

It’s important to recognize that addiction is the result of many factors. And no single factor is solely responsible for the causes of addiction. The combination of genetics, environmental triggers, and personal vulnerabilities makes some individuals more prone to addiction than others. Thus, prevention, early intervention, education, and support systems are critical components in addressing the underlying causes and reducing the risk of addiction. Spirit Mountain Recovery offers comprehensive addiction and dual diagnosis treatment in beautiful Utah.

Contact us today to find support and guidance on helping a loved one who is struggling with addiction.