Q & A with a Licensed Addiction Specialist
Q. What should I know about addiction?
A. Learn about the Disease Model of Addiction
There are few things as frustrating and heart-wrenching as watching a loved one struggle with addiction. If you have been faced with the problem for an extended period of time, you are probably feeling hopeless, helpless and at the end of your rope. The good news is that there are many ways in which you can help. However, before attempting to intervene, it is important that you understand the Disease Model of Addiction.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (or the DSM-5) is the gold standard when it comes to mental health. The American Psychiatry Association (and thousands of mental health professionals across the country) utilize this text when diagnosing any mental health disorder — including substance abuse or dependence. The DSM-5 lists 11 main symptoms of a diagnosable substance use disorder which can be broken down into four categories: impaired control, social problems, risky use and physical dependence. The DSM-5 also defines addiction as a “chronic and relapsing brain disease,” meaning that there is no known cure (though the condition is treatable). If your family member is struggling with addiction, he or she has completely lost control over alcohol or drug use. Picking up is no longer a choice. As the brain is repeatedly exposed to the chemical, substance use becomes entirely compulsive. This is why someone who is struggling with a moderate or severe substance abuse disorder does not have the wherewithal to “simply stop.” Intervention is often necessary if an addictive disorder has progressed to a later stage.
There is a common misconception in circulation that in order for your family member to get well, he or she needs to hit rock bottom. This is a dangerous way of thinking considering the fact that addiction is a progressive, fatal disease. Imagine that your family member was struggling with another chronic condition like cancer. Would you wait for the cancer to spread before intervening? The sooner the addictive disorder is treated, the better. It is also important to understand that addiction treatment does not need to be initially voluntary in order to be effective. Many individuals enter treatment reluctantly, but once they experience the freedom of recovery, become much more willing to participate. At Guardian, we offer professional interventions to help family members confront their loved ones about their addiction. to learn more about intervention services.