Smoking, Boozing etc, what starts as a fun activity for most of the early years of their life, doesn't remain the same for some. They start off just out of curiosity, peer-pressure or to impress others but few unlucky ones land up with addiction.
Is it just a bad habit, which needs to be broken? Most of the addicts and their families actually think so. But this is far from reality.
During the initial stages of smoking or drinking, the person can control it but regular and heavy use over a prolonged period itself induces a lot of changes in one's brain structure and function, so much so that the person loses control over his using. At this stage, it crosses the realms of voluntary behaviour to a land of "no control", where all the behaviour of the person gets dictated by his alcohol, cigarettes, weed etc.
Is it a real illness which needs treatment?
World Health Organisation regards addiction as a long-standing illness (very much similar to diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma), which cannot be completely cured but can be kept under control with proper treatment and care. If untreated, it can worsen. So it has been aptly described as a permanent, progressive, cunning and baffling disease, which can rob an addict, of his precious years of youth, especially if the disease starts early. In people who get hooked on to addiction in the late years of life, anxiety, depression, bipolar or other psychiatric illnesses needs to be considered.
How does one know whether he is addicted?
- Person starts to need more & more quantity of alcohol or drugs to get the same kick.
- Person starts to get cravings & intense desire to drink or use at places or timings where they shouldn't be using.
- They start giving more & more importance to their alcohol & drugs & start neglecting important responsibilities including work & relationships.
- In case they try to stop using they get a withdrawal reaction in form of restlessness, poor sleep, anxiety, tremors, intense craving.
- They start exhibiting behavioural problems in form of abusiveness, aggressiveness.
- Many alcoholics start doubting their spouse's fidelity.
- Their whole life starts to revolve around their alcohol or drugs.
- Inspite of facing adverse consequences due to drinking or using, they cannot stop it.
Can an addict get better?
Addiction is treatable. With timely & proper treatment & counselling, it is possible to stay away from alcohol or drugs.
Just treating the episode of drug-using is not enough but long-term lifestyle management and working on the vulnerabilities of the addict too is needed to maintain the gains of the treatment. The vulnerabilities which include poor coping skills, poor problem-solving skills, poor social skills, impulsivity, personality problems needs management as well.
Thus with timely and proper treatment, care and family support, it is possible for the addict to remain away from these mood-altering substances and lead a meaningful life.
"Don't hate the addict, instead, treat the disease"