When it comes to substance abuse, those affected often find it difficult to admit that they have a problem. It may be that they are ashamed or embarrassed about being labelled as an ‘addict’, or it could be that they simply do not believe themselves to be one.
It is easy for those with no experience of addiction to think that all these affected people need to do is stop drinking alcohol and then everything will be okay. However, it is rarely that simple. If it were, there would not be any addicts in the world.
How addiction changes the brain
Those who abuse chemical substances are at risk of developing an addiction, which is an illness of the brain. It has nothing to do with willpower, and those affected are unable to stop even if they want to. Alcohol is a mood-altering substance that causes the brain to release the feel-good chemicals that we know as dopamine. For some individuals, dopamine is released in very large quantities when they consume alcohol, which makes them want to enjoy the feeling again and again.
Over time, the brain adapts and starts to expect alcohol. If the expected dose does not arrive, it will react, causing a number of withdrawal symptoms. Nevertheless, these symptoms tend to subside relatively quickly once the person drinks alcohol again.
As the function and structure of the brain changes, so too does the behaviour of the individual in question. He or she may begin exhibiting alcohol-seeking behaviour to the point where other things in their lives start to take second place.
Effects of addiction
Addicted individuals might find that once they start drinking, it’s hard to stop. They will find it impossible to resist the urge to drink alcohol once it arrives. No matter how much they promised themselves or their loved ones that they would not drink, once the urge hits, they can think of nothing else but satisfying it.
Those with addiction are unable to make sound judgements or think rationally. Their personalities change drastically and they often do things that would have been unheard of before they started to drink alcohol at unhealthy levels. Many family members comment about how they no longer recognise the addicted person.
Resistance to recovery
Knowing how addiction changes the way a person acts and behaves, it may be hard to believe that some people are reluctant to give up the chemical substance that is having such an adverse effect on their lives. Nonetheless, many individuals with addiction are unwilling to commit to a programme of recovery. It could be that they are afraid of what it will mean for them. They think it is going to be too hard and will look for reasons why now is not the right time.
It is important for family members and friends to be aware that recovery can only be successful if the addict wants to make the changes required for sober living. If not, he or she will sabotage their recovery, even without meaning to.
Many alcoholics will blame others for their situation. They will have plenty of excuses ready to present to their loved ones or medical professionals when the need arises. They may not believe that their situation is actually that bad and will be of the opinion that their loved ones are making a big deal out of nothing.
Denial is common among alcoholics, but it is also something that those with other illnesses such as cancer or drug addiction often practice. It is frequently a way of protecting themselves from the truth of their situation because, by ignoring the problem, they do not have to face the fear of reality. Denial is a defence mechanism and is very common in addiction. However, it is important that it is addressed as soon as possible so that the addicted person can get the help he or she needs to overcome their problems.