We know how it feels like to lose a loved one to drug addiction. To see a loved one lose their identity and themselves to intoxication day by day. Handling an addict, especially from your immediate family, can be an emotionally and physically exhausting journey. You will need external support to bring your loved one back onto the path of normalcy, where they don’t feel the need for intoxication to survive.
The problem with addiction is that it leaves the addict consigned to a life of drugging. What's more, the addict forgets everything life has to offer except the addiction itself. The addict's sole preoccupation becomes his/her drugs. As for the rest of life, the addict lives in complete and utter forgetfulness. Drug addicts forget how to feel, work, play, express themselves, and show concern for others. A hostile world is all they see, and drugs seem to be the answer to all their problems. To addicts, drugs is a magical formula they use to solve their ultimate problem - themselves.
Drug addiction is the inability to stop using drugs in spite of numerous attempts. Your loved one could have exhibited the behaviours below if you suspect them of being an addict:
● They would have developed a strong tolerance towards drugs, i.e., they would need to consume increasingly greater quantities of a drug to experience the desired effect.
● Each time, the amount they consume will increase to the point that it’s dangerous.
● They would experience strong withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug.
● They would continue consuming drugs regardless of any harm caused to themselves and to those around them.
● They will invest all their time to find ways to afford the drug; places to buy, and use the drug.
● They would need to consume drugs to function, for example, they would need it "to get going" in the morning.
The science behind drug addiction:
Drugs release two chemicals in the brain: dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals flood parts of the brain, specifically the reward centre, which gives rise to pleasurable or euphoric sensations in one’s body. Repeated release of large amounts of these chemicals result in the brain decreasing the number of chemical receptors. This decrease inhibits the drug user's ability to experience the initial high. Drug addiction requires increasing amounts to re-experience that initial high, time and again. As a result, addicts will increase their drug dosage in order to chase this feeling. Drugs become the only pleasure, blotting out other avenues of enjoyment. Things that previously brought them pleasure like art, music, and being with friends and family; no longer can compete with the initial high of drug using. This process is called drug tolerance, which demands that the addict takes copious amounts to feel good if not just to feel alive. Drug addiction or dependence is the result of the brain's physiological adjustment to expecting increasing serotonin and dopamine to function at normal levels. This is the reason why addicts cannot give up the drugs without medical intervention because addiction has become part of the natural process of living. To stop using drugs is similar to asking normal people to stop breathing.
Why does your loved one turn to drugs?
The experience of childhood trauma is one main reason for addiction. As a child, not having one's needs met in an unconditionally loving and caring manner could lead the child to later seek that love in the form of chemicals. For example, parental abuse and neglect could push the addict to gain relief by using. As an adolescent or pre-adolescent, they may be trying to gain attention from an inattentive parent or escape an abusive one by using drugs. Examples of child abuse could be in the form of verbal abuse (shouting, talking down, belittling the addict), physical abuse (caning - be it at school/home, violence), and sexual abuse (sexual encounters with the addicted loved one at an age younger than 18 years old/ non-consensual sex with the addict during his/her minority). Such abuse could have happened at home, school, or among peers.
Another reason your loved one might be using drugs is to manage the symptoms of an underlying mental illness. For
example, a person with depression may repeatedly use a drug to "get
high" as an escape from their depressive mood. This process is called
self-medication. The depression wasn't the cause of drug abuse, but it was a contributing
factor. However, not everyone with a mental illness uses drugs, so mental
illness alone is not the cause of drug abuse. This is the reason why at Solace Sabah, we try to look for co-morbidities or underlying mental disorders that could either be causing the addiction or has occurred as a result of addiction.
Drug abuse could be the result of being around another drug user (be it a family member or friends), or having the presence of drugs at home.
Other factors which might force your loved one to choose drugs:
● Unstable home environment, often due to drug abuse or mental illness of the parent or another family member.
● Less than nurturing home environment – usually shame-based relationships with parents and other family members.
● Use of drugs by friends / peers
● Behavioural problems combined with poor parenting
● Poor achievement in school
● Apparent ambivalence or approval of drug use in the school, peer group, or community
Denial is when your loved one becomes defensive about their addiction and will justify their right to use. If they have a legal prescription in hand, it becomes even easier for them to justify their actions. Denial is food for addiction because active addiction can only thrive in the logic of an addict’s denial. Denial has to be broken and realised in order for recovery to seep in. At Solace Sabah, we have interventions that handle specifically with denial-breaking. Usually, group therapy helps to break your loved one's denial in a loving, caring, and social setting.
To keep the denial alive, addicts adapt a strategy of thinking called “Euphoric Recall”, which uses the positive memories of using to blot any “bad” feelings like loneliness, self-pity, and fear. They avoid the reality of their addiction, while ignoring the times their life turned into a nightmare because of their using behaviour. "Euphoric Recall" makes longing for the drug addiction stronger as it equips the addict with only a positive regard for the using days. It is necessary to replace "Euphoric Recall" with "Dysphoric Recall", or negative regard for using. This process starts when addicts encounter all the damages caused by their own addictive behaviour. We are the only rehab in the world to use a graphic tool to present to your addicted loved ones the problems of their addiction. It's called the "Solace Flower." It's vital to replace the "Euphoric Recall" with "Dysphoric Recall" because addiction returns easily to those who do not see the problem in using.
It’s dangerous because using has replaced living. In denying reality through drugs, addicts have slowly replaced their higher mental and emotional functions, such as their conscience and ability to love, for active addiction. When their spirit is broken, the capacity to feel human is lost. It's almost as if your loved one is over-taken by an outside force of destruction. But, with proper treatment, it's possible to gain your loved one back.
What will happen if they keep using drugs?
Ultimately, it will come down to only two options if your loved one is unwilling to seek help - they could either face death due to excessive use, or go to jail for the use of illegal substances. Drug addicts choose drugs over all else; that includes family and friends. Ignoring all their responsibilities, their employment, hobbies, and interests, your loved one will end up dedicating all their time in trying to seek and use drugs. This only leads to them losing out on friendship and family because of their choices. You will have to watch your loved one distance him/herself from your company, as the effects of the drugs ravage your loved one's body and mind. It's a painful and depressing process of change, isolation, disease, and certain death.
If either you or your loved one is willing to be helped, you can seek treatment at either a rehabilitation center or at a hospital.
A drug addict can be at different stages of their addiction. In order to intervene, we need to understand where the person is in their addictive journey. An addict will always be in a particular stage of change. Knowing where they are gives us an opportunity to intervene correctly.
● Pre-Contemplation - I am not an addict - Most difficult to help this person.
● Contemplation - I might be an addict - The door is open for help.
● Preparation - I am an addict and I want to stop - Provide the help that is needed.
● Action - I am going to stop now - Need of a supportive and clinical environment.
● Maintenance - I am going to stay stopped - Constant motivation and encouragement.
Mostly, if you have come searching for help and not your loved one, they are in denial of their problem. You must be wondering how you would convince your loved one to come to us. At Solace Sabah, we can perform what we call an intervention. Professionals are trained to use motivational interviewing, giving the drug addict the ability to reason their addiction themselves and prepare them for treatment and recovery.
To read more about denial and intervention at Solace Sabah, read this:
What is withdrawal management (Detox)?
Your loved one will continue to use drugs in spite of extreme negative consequences . They cannot physically or psychologically function without drugs. When they are not using drugs, they face what is known as withdrawals, which tend to be extremely dramatic.
A worrisome area for a family is how their loved one would deal with withdrawal symptoms as the effects are somewhat traumatising. Without proper medical assistance, some withdrawals can cause severe pain such as with heroin and other opioids.
Some noticeable symptoms of withdrawals include, but are not limited to the following:
● Seizures and tremors
● Hallucinations and delirium
● Heart attacks and strokes
● Fear, paranoia, anxiety, and panic
● Pain, stiffness, muscle aches, and spasms
● High incidence of respiratory failure, Myocardial Infarction, convulsions, aggression, and suicidal attempts
● Increased appetite
● Sleep difficulties
At Solace Sabah, with our extremely effective and scientific withdrawal management, the experience your loved one will go through will be extremely subtle to the mind and body. We have a host hospital with medical professionals who know how to deal with chemical detoxification, according to the latest scientific and international standards.
Before your loved one enters the treatment stage, they must let go of the physical dependence they have with drugs in their system. Every patient undergoes a managed withdrawal procedure to be free from the physical grip of drugs in order to understand the effects and consequences drugs have had on their lives when they come to treatment at Solace Sabah. This is called detoxification.
To understand withdrawal management (detox) at Solace Sabah, read this: