Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a chronic disease. It is progressive, continuous, and longterm. Alcohol or drug abuse means that a person still has control over whether he or she drinks alcohol or uses drugs. Chemical dependence means that a teen has lost all control over his or her drinking or using behavior.
WHAT IS ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOR?
Teens who suffer from addictive diseases engage in compulsive behavior and gradually lose control of their lives. They continue to drink or use drugs even when they know that doing so will lead to negative consequences. They tend to have low self esteem and almost inevitably suffer from anxiety and depression. If a teen in your life suffers from addictive disease, you have experienced his or her extreme behavior, which can range from depression to exhilaration.
You probably have also experienced the person’s state of denial (“I can quit anytime” or “I don’t have a problem”), dishonesty, frequent disappointments, and series of ruined relationships. These are the hallmark behaviors when a person suffers from addiction to alcohol or drugs.
WHO IS AFFECTED BY CHEMICAL DEPENDENCE?
Alcoholism and drug addiction affect people from all parts of society. They affect rock stars, writers, artists, and homeless people. Victims also include stay-at-home moms, teenagers, and corporate executives. There are addicts who are students at top universities and who are physicians in your local hospital. They may be teachers at your neighborhood school, or salespeople at the local hardware store.
Studies have shown that there is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. About half of all alcoholics had an alcoholic parent. Men seem to be more vulnerable than women to the alcoholic traits of their parents. Women may be more affected by environmental factors (such as financial and life circumstances) than by inherited factors.
WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL AND DRUG USE?
Chronic alcohol abuse produces long-lasting damage in many areas of brain functioning. It damages the person’s capacity for abstract thinking, problem solving, memory, and physical dexterity. It also impairs verbal, visual, and spatial ability. The extent of damage to the brain tissue depends on the extent of heavy alcohol abuse. When the drinking stops, a certain amount of healing is possible.
WHAT ABOUT PRESCRIPTION DRUGS?
Prescription and illegal drugs with psychoactive side effects target the brain and can change a person’s mood. This causes these drugs to be potentially addicting. Some people think that if a doctor true. It is important to tell your doctor if you:
- Are an alcoholic (using or in recovery)
- Have ever been addicted to any drug
- Have taken more than the prescribed dose of a prescribed drug
- Have taken a prescribed drug for a long time
- Take a prescribed drug with alcohol
SIGNS OF DRUG OR ALCOHOL ABUSE
- Using alcohol or drugs every day
- Regularly using alcohol or drugs until intoxicated
- Hanging around with friends who abuse alcohol and drugs
- Leaving drug paraphernalia in one’s bedroom, locker, or backpack.
- Noticeable behavioral changes that include withdrawing from family and friends, sleeping more and falling grades
- Mood swings
- Frequently absent from or late for school
- Low self-esteem; describing oneself as a loser
- Steals alcohol
- Family history of drug or alcohol dependence
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR CHEMICAL DEPENDENCE?
Addictive diseases are often progressive and can be fatal. Fortunately, with the right treatment, recovery is possible. Treatment includes:
- Detoxification. The first phase of treatment of addictive disease focuses on controlling and reversing the physical effects of alcohol or drug use. This can include detoxification or treating life-threatening disorders such as liver failure.
- Psychotherapy. Since addictive disease is primarily a brain disease that results in behavioral symptoms, the main treatment is psychosocial therapy. Treatment usually focuses on identifying and eliminating the irrational feelings and distorted thinking that accompany chronic alcohol or drug abuse.
- 12-step program. Alcoholism and drug addiction are chronic diseases that require a lifetime recovery plan. Most successful treatment plans include a focus on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and involve ongoing, long-term participation in self-help groups. People who have been hospitalized for treatment often continue group and individual psychotherapy after they leave the hospital, in addition to attending 12-step meetings.
WHAT ABOUT THE FAMILY?
Addiction affects every member of the adolescent alcoholic or addict’s family. As the disease progresses and the teen continues to drink or use drugs, it causes a range of emotional, spiritual, and financial problems for almost everyone involved, including family, friends, and coworkers. When the family is ready to begin the recovery process, Al- Anon and Alateen are excellent resources. A qualified family therapist who understands the process of addiction and recovery may also be consulted to work with the family.
WHAT CAN I DO WHEN SOMEONE WON’T STOP DRINKING ALCOHOL OR USING DRUGS?
Sometimes the alcoholic or addict is in such a strong state of denial that the best alternative is to arrange an intervention. This process involves arranging for a professional interventionist to organize a meeting of the family, friends, and employer of the patient. The interventionist helps the group prepare a confrontation that will be followed by the patient entering a treatment center. The patient’s family members and friends usually write brief statements describing how the drinking or drug use has affected them. The interventionist and the group then meet with the patient and read their statements to him or her with the guidance of the interventionist.
These interventions, when managed by professionals from respected treatment organizations, often result in successful treatment of the addiction.