Addiction: What You Need to Know

By: Michelle Peterson

Learning that someone you care about is struggling with addiction is frightening, particularly if they have not yet begun receiving help. Helping a loved one through their addiction is not something you should take on without understanding what you’re getting into. You should never attempt to handle a situation like this by yourself.


Addiction recovery is a path that requires many people and a good support network. However, you may be the one to find and gather that support network, meaning you should have a basic understanding of what addiction is, what it looks like, and how to handle related emergencies. Here are a few things you should know about addiction.

Addiction is Easy to Fall into and Hard to Overcome

For someone who has never experienced addiction, it may seem that people who have become addicted to a substance have intentionally harmed themselves and simply don’t have the mental strength to quit. Yet many people actually find themselves addicted to a substance as a result of self-medication or escapism. People who are suffering from an illness, whether mental or physical, may resort to abusing substances in an attempt to control their symptoms.

People who experience things like social rejection, bullying, poverty, or any number of bad circumstances tend to abuse substances in order to escape the negative aspects of their lives. These people aren’t making an intentional decision to become an addict; it is an attempt at self-preservation.

Once addicted, the person is now considered to have a mental illness. Like any mental illness, just thinking the symptoms away is not a practical solution. People with addictions require therapy and support in order to overcome both the addiction and the reasons they began abusing substances in the first place. It is not a matter of merely quitting.

You Should Have an Emergency Plan

If the substance in question can be deadly in large quantities, you should create an emergency plan with your loved one. If you do not include your loved one in the recovery process, they will not feel supported but rather controlled and infantilized. Sit down with your loved one and prepare plans for events including relapse, overdose, or even potential for relapse.

Set up a system for which people to call, when an ambulance is necessary, and information to give hospital staff. Make everyone involved aware of the plan so that other friends and family can also be prepared.

Treatment is Necessary

If your loved one is not receiving treatment, you should be pushing them to get the help they need. Overcoming a mental disorder like addiction is not something someone can do on their own. Even if your loved one seems to be quitting the substance, the conditions that caused them to use are probably still in place, making it likely that they will relapse.

Getting professional treatment for an addiction is not an option, it is a necessity. Work together to find a treatment that will work for your loved one and continue supporting them as they undergo the recovery process. You might also want to look into supplemental alternative therapies. Options, such as aquatic therapy, have been shown to be very beneficial to those in addiction recovery.

Though the knowledge that your loved one is struggling with addiction is difficult to hear, you should keep in mind that recovery is not only possible, but it is probable with proper treatment. Supporting your loved one though addiction does not mean you have to play the part of counselor, it simply means being there for someone who needs you.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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