Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Why do drug abusers live in denial?
"Denial is a common characteristic of many people struggling with substance abuse. It involves refusing to accept the reality of their addiction and its damaging consequences. There are several reasons why this denial occurs:
Fear: Admitting a problem means confronting the reality of addiction, including the perceived pain of withdrawal, the work of recovery, and potential stigma. Fear of these challenges can drive a person to deny their problem.
Guilt and Shame: Addiction often brings feelings of guilt and shame. Denial serves as a defense mechanism to avoid these difficult emotions.
Cognitive Impairment: Substance abuse can physically alter brain function, impairing judgment, memory, and self-awareness, making it harder for individuals to recognize or admit they have a problem.
Perception of Normality: If substance use is a daily occurrence, it can seem normal to the person doing it. They may think everyone else is doing the same or that their usage is acceptable or controlled.
Rationalization and Minimization: Individuals with substance use disorders often rationalize their behavior ("I only use on weekends") or minimize the consequences ("I still have my job, so it's not a problem").
Avoidance of Responsibility: Acknowledging the addiction implies a responsibility to change. Denial helps avoid this responsibility.
Can I go cold turkey to stop abusing opioids?
While going "cold turkey," or suddenly stopping the use of opioids, might seem like a fast way to begin recovery, it's generally not recommended due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms and potential health risks.
Opioid withdrawal can be intensely uncomfortable and, in some cases, hazardous. Symptoms can include severe cravings, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements. In severe cases, withdrawal can lead to serious dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.
Furthermore, abruptly stopping opioid use can significantly increase the risk of relapse. The discomfort of withdrawal symptoms may make it more difficult to stay abstinent, and an individual may be tempted to use again just to relieve these symptoms. If a person relapses and takes the same dose they were previously accustomed to, the risk of overdose is high because the body's tolerance to the substance has decreased.
For these reasons, opioid withdrawal should ideally be managed under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which includes medications like methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), and naltrexone, can be used to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These medications work by acting on the same brain receptors targeted by opioids, but they do so in a safer manner that helps to manage withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.
In addition to MAT, counseling and behavioral therapies are typically part of a comprehensive treatment program for opioid use disorder. These approaches can help individuals develop the skills and strategies needed to maintain recovery in the long term.
When do you walk away from a loved one that is a drug addict?
Deciding to distance yourself from a loved one who is struggling with addiction is a deeply personal and difficult decision. There's no universal right or wrong answer, as it depends on the individual circumstances, the severity of the addiction, the impact on your wellbeing, and other factors. However, there are a few circumstances where walking away might be the appropriate course of action:
- Self-preservation: If the relationship with the loved one is causing significant harm to your mental, emotional, or physical health, it may be necessary to establish boundaries or distance yourself for your own wellbeing. Remember, you can't effectively support others if you're not taking care of yourself.
- Enabling Behavior: If your actions are enabling the individual's substance abuse rather than supporting their recovery, creating distance might be beneficial. Enabling can include covering up for their substance use, providing financial support for their habit, or repeatedly rescuing them from the consequences of their behavior.
- Lack of Respect for Boundaries: If your loved one consistently ignores or disrespects boundaries that you have established, it might be time to consider distancing yourself.
- Abuse or Violence: If your loved one becomes abusive or violent under the influence of drugs, prioritizing your safety is crucial. In such instances, it's critical to seek help from local authorities or a domestic violence hotline.
- Unwillingness to Seek Help: If your loved one consistently refuses to seek help, denies they have a problem, or repeatedly relapses without making an effort towards recovery, it might be necessary to consider distancing yourself.