Parent's / Guardian's Guide
We are living in a world, which has become extremely complicated, fast and demanding. Our lives are constantly affected by it. As a result we humans feel emotionally turbulent, insecure and very vulnerable. Our minds are allured all the time with new experiences; something we think will make us feel unique and different. One such experience that allures a young, inquisitive and adventurous mind is the effect of various drugs, including alcohol. The use and misuse of alcohol and other drugs is one of the most controversial issues in our society, and often a source of conflict between generations and between sections of society.
What is drug / alcohol addiction?
The word "addiction" is derived from a Latin term for "enslaved by" or "bound to". Drug / alcohol addiction is a complex brain disease. Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. It is characterized by compulsive, at times uncontrollable, drug/alcohol craving, seeking, and use that persist even in the face of extremely negative outcomes. It is using a substance repeatedly, despite knowing and experiencing its harmful effects. The person using the substance cannot control the urge to use it and needs increasing amounts to achieve the effect he/she craves for. Nobody starts out intending to develop an addiction, but many people get caught in its snare. Today, addiction is recognized as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. On abruptly stopping use of the substance the person can experience withdrawal effects like watering of nose and eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, sleep disturbances, aches and pains and epileptic fits, seizures, etc.
Addiction can result in a number of harmful effects on one's physical as well as psychological health.
List of Physical Problems caused by addiction / substance abuse:
Strokes and heart attacks.
Cancer (esophagus, lung, kidney, oral, liver, breast, head & neck.
Depression and amotivational syndrome.
Perforated or deviated septums.
Urinary tract infections.
Brain damage or malfunction.
Increased heart rate and skin temperature.
Impaired muscle control causing poor coordination, slurred speech, impaired motor skills.
Dizziness, vomiting, vision problems.
Loss of consciousness, respiratory arrest and death.
Acute Effects on Mental Abilities:
Judgment is frequently the first mental capacity affected by drugs/ alcohol. Poor decision making, rapid decision making, not being realistic in decisions is common;
Poor attention and concentration;
Loss of inhibitions - say things or do things that we normally would not;
Exaggerated emotion (anger, fear, anxiety, sadness); and/or,
Blackouts with loss of memory for events.
Similarly mental illnesses like Depression, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Bipolar disorder (or manic depression), Borderline personality disorders, Schizophrenia, Suicidal tendencies, Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), Agoraphobia, Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), Phobias, Domestic violence, Child abuse, Hypersomnia, Sleep disorders, Psychosis, Depressive illness and anxiety disorders are also much more likely in a drug / alcohol addiction.
Drug/ Alcohol addiction affects the personality of the individual and he/ she may indulge in petty crimes, like stealing, shoplifting, commercial sex or other socially unacceptable behaviors just to support his/her habit. He/ she might gradually drift away from his friends and family members moving in a circle of other addicts. He/she may also leave or be thrown out of his/her job/education/career and may even end up in prison.
How does it start?
Drug / alcohol addiction can start off when a person tries a drug / alcohol and as he/she keeps using, the brain will want more and more from it. Addictions get very serious later on and they also change the way a person thinks, Drug / Alcohol addiction commonly starts in the adolescence. It is the period during when an adolescent experiences a number of physical (hormonal), social and psychological changes. There are also many emotional reasons for drug / alcohol addiction such as depression, rejection, etc. It is not a simple answer. There are usually multiple reasons that lead a person into drug / alcohol addiction. A new study reveals that people who are addicted to a substance started drinking or using drugs before they were 18 years old.
Some factors which lead to addiction are- curiosity / experimentation of alcohol / drugs, peer pressure, recreation, as a novelty, social rebelliousness, early initiation / exposure to drugs / alcohol, poor control, sensation seeking (feeling high), poor stress management, low self-esteem, child / parent loss or other traumas, as a relief from fatigue or boredom, to escape reality, no interest in conventional goals, psychological distress, physical or mental illnesses, etc. In some cases it might start as an interesting experiment or as a dare. In other cases, if a person cannot share his/her anxieties and insecurities with someone within the family he/she may seek comfort outside the family. He/she might start using drugs/alcohol as a way to assert his/her independence or to seek refuge. The truth is that drug / alcohol addiction can start at any age and can affect any type of person. If the right circumstances are available and if the individual seizes the opportunity drug / alcohol addiction can be a real possibility. Very often addicts keep using despite having serious intentions of stopping. But even more so, without help, trying to stop can be just as dangerous as taking drugs / alcohol.
Some reasons why people get addicted to drugs or alcohol could also be:
Desire for newer experience.
Insecurity or inferiority complex.
Too much of pampering.
Lack of proper attention.
How will you understand whether a family member or friend is using drugs / alcohol?
Sadly, many times we don't find out until a tragedy, such as a drunken driving accident or an overdose, has occurred. And then we're left wondering why we didn't spot the signs of addiction earlier. Knowing these 22 secret signs of addiction can help you prevent that from happening. If you give proper attention and observe your family member or friend, you will be able to notice some unusual traits and behaviour. Some of the traits could be very common. Those traits should be considered individually. If the individual has really got addicted to some drug or alcohol then some or all of the following traits or behaviour can be noticed:
Aloofness from the family and general family activities. Fascination for spending time alone. Could spend long time in the bathroom.
Unsatisfactory progress in his or her studies.
Sudden loss of appetite and body weight.
Loss of awareness towards health and hygiene.
Finding excuses to stay away from home for as long as possible. For example, leaving home early or coming home late.
Going around with a new set of friends, whom you have not seen or known before.
Giving up or limiting social, occupational or recreational activities.
Extreme mood changes – happy, sad, excited, anxious, etc.
Resorting to distress, anxiety, restlessness or violence.
Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of day or night.
Financially unpredictable, perhaps having large amounts of cash at times but no money at all at other times.
Asking for money too often. Becoming greedy for money. Stealing household things. Compulsive lying. Losing moral values.
Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, odd cell-phone conversations.
Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce or control substance use.
Frequent occurrence of body pain, running nose, watery eyes, nausea, loose motion, restlessness, etc.
Dark patches below the eyes, drooping eyelids, vacant look in the eyes and expressionless face.
Walking with faltering steps, talking faintly and unclearly.
Often feeling drowsy or sleepy.
Marks of needle in the arms, legs or in other parts of the body. This will mean that the individual is injecting drugs in the body.
Carrying strange looking packets with him/ her.
Too many cigarette burns in the clothes and on the tips of fingers.
Developing rashes on the body.
What will you do if you suspect your family member or friend of using drugs / alcohol?
Let us assume that you have noticed all or quite a few of these above mentioned traits in your family member or friend and you suspect him / her of using drugs / alcohol. It is natural to be tense, scared and perturbed about the thing. You will have to handle it very carefully. Please do not resist yourself by thinking that it is impossible for the individual to do such things. Remember, anybody can fall prey to drug / alcohol addiction, as anybody can fall sick with flu or common cold. Please do not ignore the situation by thinking that the person will come out of it naturally, the person may not have such a strong will power.
At the same time please do not overtly react. Do not show any outburst of anger, emotion or fear. React to the situation with calmness and caring. Talk to the person, try to be intimate with him / her and try to find out how deep has he / she has gone into it. Try to create a caring and warm atmosphere at home and spend as much time with the effected person as possible. Try to be a friend to him / her. Your love, attention and patience can work wonders in this kind of a situation.
Individual addicted to drugs/ alcohol needs your help and support and not your anger and criticism.
He/ She may become addicted and should be treated, not ridiculed.
It is difficult to get rid of an addiction without help.
How can the Family and Friends help?
For many people, the biggest and toughest step towards recovery is the very first one: deciding to make a change. Family members and friends have an important role in the rehabilitation of drug / alcohol addicts. It is natural to feel angry, embarrassed or ashamed but it is not going to help if we take our anger out on the patient. We need to be supportive and understanding of his/her problems; however do remember that family members and friends might be manipulated into helping the individual get drugs / alcohol, so be careful about it.
It is a good idea to give the individual a sympathetic hearing of his/her problems and help in solving those; furthermore he/she will need constant help and supervision to start learning new skills, on the road to a new life. You are not responsible for the person becoming dependent on drugs, nor can you make the person stop using. What you can do is change how you are dealing with the situation.
Do not be dismayed and fall apart if you find out that a family member or friend has become an addict. That is certainly not that end of the road for him / her. Timely admission to a de-addiction centre can save the career of that person.
Do not hesitate to come to us for help.