Is It A Disease Or A Decision?
“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Oscar Wilde
We’ve all had falls from grace, which is why we don’t judge. No one “decides” to become an addict. Addiction is a disease. The word “addiction” is commonly used to describe behavior that has become compulsive or out of control. An addict will crave their addictive substance or behavior, feel powerless to stop it and continue the behavior despite the consequences.
While a substance or behavior may start out as pleasurable, it eventually destroys a person’s health and well-being. The addict’s behavior also impacts family and friends in a negative way. A person can be addicted to a substance physically, such as narcotic addiction, or psychologically, such as sex or gambling addiction. There are many forms of addiction. Even shopping can become an addiction if it takes over your life. An intervention is the start of breaking those bonds. Addicts can be addicted to more than one substance or behavior at a time, or may have what’s called “dual diagnosis” of suffering from both addiction and other mental illness (such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, or other diseases).
Intervention Partners has helped people struggling with all types of addiction and compulsive behaviors:
- Alcohol – This legal drug contributes to some of the worst problems in our society such as domestic abuse and DUIs. Alcohol is easy to obtain and accepted as a social enhancer. Alcoholism is a chronic disease. There are alcoholics who maintain employment, or lead what looks like a normal life, but are binge-drinking on weekends. If someone can’t control their drinking, or they are hiding their drinking, it’s time to seek help.
- Prescription Drugs – The increase in addiction to prescription drugs such as narcotic painkillers is a wake-up call that physicians and pharmaceutical companies need to heed. Patients who are prescribed prescription drugs and become addicted will go to a number of doctors to get their drugs. They will also purchase those drugs on the street, meaning a law-abiding citizen has now committed a criminal act.
- Street Drugs – Commonly used street drugs include: cocaine, crack, heroin, amphetamines, methamphetamines or crystal meth, marijuana, synthetic marijuana (K2 or Spice), Salvia, Mescaline, Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) LSD, Solvents (glue or paint thinner), PCP, MDMA (Ecstasy), and newer designer drugs like Bath Salts or Spice. All of these are physically or psychologically addictive, or both. Many of these substances are dangerous and can lead to mental illness and death. For a more comprehensive list, check out the National Institute on Drug Abuse Commonly Abused Drug Chart.
- Gambling – Compulsive gamblers are people who can’t stop, even when they have lost it all. This represents an impulse-control disorder. Problem gambling is any form of betting that gets out of control, and it isn’t limited to betting at casinos or the racetrack. Many people have developed a gambling problem at their local convenience store, purchasing large amounts of lottery tickets. Gambling can destroy entire families as the addict gambles away life savings or borrows money to keep playing the games.
- Compulsive Sexual Behavior – Sex or love addiction is one of the least understood compulsive behaviors. It is the one that most people have difficulty talking about because it is so personal. How do you distinguish an addiction to sex and love from what we call normal attractions to others? Addicts have few boundaries and engage in risky promiscuous behavior. They need to have sex or love in the same way a drug addict needs drugs. An intervention of this kind requires a great deal of sensitivity.
- Eating Disorder – We all have to eat, and food is all around us. That makes it very difficult for someone with an eating disorder to get control of their addiction. Anorexia, binge eating, bulimia, compulsive eating, dieting or exercising can be life threatening illnesses. As with any addiction, someone with an eating disorder may not recognize or admit that they have a problem, but an intervention can help change all that.
- Compulsive Internet Usage – We love the Internet. You found us here. When does surfing the net become an addiction? When someone spends so much time online that it is a detriment to their quality of life, or impacts their family, their job or other activities in a negative way, they may be addicted. You may need a professional to help you determine if someone is addicted to the Internet or just working away secretly on the next great American novel.
- Compulsive Gaming – Internet games or video game addiction has become more of a problem, especially with teenagers and young adults. Even younger children can be on the road to addictive behavior if you don’t help them learn to put limits on their gaming activities. Living in a virtual world can be preferable for someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. If your loved one is living in that world and excluding people in the real one, they may be addicted.
- Dual Behaviors/Addictions – Addiction and mental health issues are often concurrent. Someone with a dual diagnosis has a mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or a personality disorder combined with an alcohol or drug problem. In order for treatment to be effective, both the addiction and the mental health disorder have to be treated. While alcohol and drugs can cause mental health problems, they’re sometimes consumed as a way to self-medicate and control symptoms of another disease, which can ultimately lead to addiction. A team of healthcare professionals, an interventionist, and family members need to work closely together to help an individual who has a dual diagnosis.
- Codependency – While you are seeking out strategies to help your loved one achieve sobriety, it is healthy to ask yourself if you are in a codependent relationship. If you support or enable the other person’s addiction or behavior because you can’t live without them, you may be a codependent. This disorder is sometimes called the “disease of the lost self”. In a codependent relationship, the person may see themselves as the rescuer. They may suffer from low self-esteem and become addicted to the situational drama, consequently ignoring their own personal growth or problems. The other person’s problems become their escape and in a way, their addiction. During consultations, an interventionist is quick to notice signs of codependency and will work with individuals on breaking that pattern of behavior.
Please reach out to Intervention Partners for help. We are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to answer your questions. Contact us toll-free at 818-290-7361 or through our contact form. You can also visit us at our office in Encino, CA.