Here at The River Source, we’re always stressing the importance of understanding addiction as a disease. Not a failure. Not an end. Not a choice. The sooner that addicts and their families understand the nature of addiction, the better they can help each other and achieve lifelong sobriety.
Here are some of the most interesting facts about addiction that we think everyone should be familiar with.
Fact #1: Addiction is common.
It’s estimated that 1 out of 8 Americans struggle with addiction. The actual figures may be higher, since this only refers to the number of known cases. For many families of addiction, they deal with the matter privately. They may feel embarrassed of their loved one’s behavior, and they end up isolating themselves. But, this can be unhealthy for everyone involved.
Do NOT feel alone. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to a friend or person in the community, take part in a support group. The fact is that addiction is very common, and there are many people who are willing and able to support you and your family.
Fact #2: Addiction is a disease, as classified by the American Medical Association.
Even though many people know that addiction is a disease, they don’t quite grasp the concept. Addiction is like diabetes or heart disease; some people are more at risk for addiction than others. If these people experiment with drugs, they are more likely to fall into the cycle of abuse. When this happens, the person is no longer in control.
What families need to realize is that these individuals need immediate help, and even after treatment, they need continued support and education. Sometimes, it’s best when a loved one does exit the relationship (such as in a marriage), but they can still support the recovery. Also, addiction doesn’t just go away. Even recovering addicts need extra special support in times of stress, as they could easily return to self medication.
Fact #3: Addiction leads to more deaths and disabilities than any other cause.
Many cases of drug abuse do not end well. Lives are lost or changed forever because of accidents or drug overdoses. That’s why it’s important to take addiction seriously. If you’re suspecting that your loved one has a dependency, even though they are denying it, don’t wait until something bad happens to step in. Stage an intervention NOW.
It’s true that you can’t force someone into treatment, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage the idea and continue to offer your support in getting sober. If your loved one is resistant, it’s time to step back and make sure that you are not enabling their habit (giving money, providing a place to live, calling them into work, etc.). The only unfortunate point is that it takes many addicts to hit rock bottom before they have the will to seek treatment.
Fact #4: Addiction is expensive, but many addicts have jobs.
The average drug addict needs $200 each day to support their habit. This type of money can get expensive over time, which is why some addicts resort to unthinkable measures such as stealing from loved ones, engaging in theft or robbery or even partaking in prostitution. Surprisingly, the drug abuse is often able to go on for some time before anyone notices, because 70% of people who use drugs are employed.
Employment doesn’t last long in some cases, considering that absenteeism, decreased productivity and staff turnover are more prevalent. But, until the addict is fired or quits their job, they often have the money to spend on a drug habit and will hide it from their loved ones.
Fact #5: Addiction is treatable and manageable, but not curable.
Addiction is a lifelong disease, so once a person is diagnosed, they will never be “addiction-free.” Now, we don’t say this to be negative. We want addicts to recover from their addiction and lead full, sober lives. We want them to learn healthy coping mechanisms and life skills that avoid the need for self medicating. But we also want them to understand that they have to work hard to keep living a sober lifestyle.
In many cases of relapse, it’s when the recovering addict gets too confident that they return to their old ways. As the addict, you don’t want to assume you can hang with old friends, visit places of past use or even have a few beers without paying the consequences. You must always remember that you are at risk for addiction, and that you have to be especially diligent about the choices you make, the friends you associate with and the activities you pursue.