Understanding Addiction Archives - Hader Clinic Queensland

Medicinal vs Illicit Cannabis

A Jekyll and Hyde drug: learn the differences between the benefits of medicinal cannabis and the harms of using cannabis as a drug of addiction.

Over the past decade there has been a push to decriminalise cannabis across the world, and the in favour of decriminalisation cite that the drug is not as addictive as alcohol or nicotine, that cannabis exerts positive medicinal properties in the treatment of pain and medical conditions such as epilepsy.

In Australia, cannabis has been legalised for medical use under strict prescribing conditions for certain medical conditions and recreational cannabis use is illegal. Does the positive medical benefits for some outshine the potential harms of recreational cannabis use?

Marijuana or cannabis refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant.

Cannabis acts a depressant drug, which slows down communication between the brain and the body. The active ingredient in cannabis is THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). It is usually smoked or eaten. THC achieves its mind altering effects by substituting itself for natural brain endocannabinoids, and mimics (and enhances) their effects. It works through the same chemical pathways that we use to modulate thoughts, experiences and emotions. As THC floods the entire brain, rather than acting in a targeted manner like natural endocannabinoids do, cannabis can seem to make the most boring activity take on technicolour meaning.

However, there is a dark side to these effects – excessive use of cannabis shuts down the brain’s intrinsic release of endocannabinoids to compensate for excessive stimulation. The consequences of excessive use impair our ability to attach meaning, value or importance to our experience. Worse still, excessive use in adolescents can render permanent damage. The Washington Post reports that teen cannabis users are 60% less likely to graduate from high school and are at substantially increased risk for heroin and alcohol addiction, not to mention seven times more likely to attempt suicide.

The Washington Post’s Judith Grisel also reports that the best documented medicinal effects of cannabis are achieved without the chemical compound that gets users high.

She states, “the notion that cannabis is not addictive is false as the brain adapts to cannabis use as it does to all abused drugs, and these neural adjustments lead to tolerance, dependence and craving – the hallmarks of addiction”.

The effects of cannabis are felt immediately when smoked, however the potency of a particular batch of cannabis cannot be quantified, which adds to the danger. In large quantities, cannabis use causes blurred vision, clumsiness and paranoid delusions which are amplified if use is long term.

Drug users often combine cannabis with other drugs or alcohol and cannabis is often used when “coming down” from methamphetamines. Using cannabis with other drugs promotes drug dependency across all of the substances used. This is why cannabis is often referred to as a “gateway drug” for escalating dependence on other substances. Cannabis in conjunction with methamphetamines can worsen the paranoid delusion and psychosis that occur with each single substance use. Combined with alcohol or opioids, cannabis use can heighten these substances depressive effects. Concerningly, this combination promotes respiratory depression (excessively slowed breathing), which can increase blood carbon dioxide levels and induce respiratory arrest – the cessation of breathing, which is potentially fatal.

To conclude, it is important to differentiate between the risks of using cannabis recreationally as opposed for controlled medical use. No amount of drug use is safe and if you’d like to know more about cannabis dependence please feel free to call The Hader Clinic Queensland for an obligation free consultation.

  1. https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/cannabis/
  2. Grisel, J. May 25 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/25/feature/legalizReferences:ing-marijuana-is-fine-but-dont-ignore-the-science-on-its-dangers/?

The Physical Effects of Cannabis

Cannabis or marijuana is the most commonly used drug in 12-17 year olds and the younger the user, the greater the chances of becoming addicted to it are, even when the physical effects of cannabis negatively affects your health.

Cannabis is often referred to as a gateway drug and users will often experiment with other harder drugs once they have tried cannabis.

It is therefore very important to address any addiction issues or concerns before further drug experimentation.

About Cannabis

Cannabis also known as weed, dope, grass or pot can be smoked or vaped, but also used in food and drinks.

It is used mostly for pleasure or recreation; however, it is becoming more and more popularly prescribed by doctors to treat a number of medical ailments.

The physical effects of cannabis on your body may vary depending on the way the drug is ingested.

If inhaled, the drug enters the bloodstream immediately and can make its way to your organs and brain. This can happen in seconds or minutes.

If you eat or drink products that contain cannabis, it must first go through your digestive system and liver before making it into your bloodstream, which can happen in minutes to hours.

The main active ingredient of cannabis is THC, which stimulates the part of the brain which responds to pleasure. As a result, dopamine is released, which creates a relaxed and euphoric state.

This is also known as a ‘high’. THC can also help with pain and nausea or cause a reduction in appetite or insomnia, which is why marijuana is sometimes prescribed medically.

Physical Effects of Cannabis

Cannabis has a significant impact on the brain and the body, which means it can quickly become addictive. The physical effects of cannabis include:

  • Affect your ability to form new memories
  • Increase your appetite
  • Slow your reaction time and cloud your judgement
  • Have respiratory effect such as irritating your lungs, burning your mouth or throat, and increase your risk of bronchitis
  • Effect your circulation by increasing your heart rate and expanding your blood vessels, causing redness of the eyes
  • Release dopamine to trigger euphoric feelings and heighten your sensory perception
  • Alter your ability to process information and impair your judgement
  • Weaken your immune system making you vulnerable to infection
  • Impact your baby if you are pregnant, reducing their memory, concentration, and problem-solving abilities
  • Make you frightened, anxious, paranoid or panicked
  • Negatively impact your mental health by increasing the chances of depression or worsen existing mental disorders
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Poor memory
  • Addiction

Mental Health Effects of Cannabis

There are many mental health effects as well as physical effects of cannabis use.

As cannabis is a psychoactive substance it can also have significant effects on a user’s mental health.

In some cases these can be more severe than with other ‘harder’ drugs. The mental health effects of cannabis include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Nervousness
  • Aggression
  • Anger

Cannabis Addiction

Roughly one in ten individuals who use cannabis are at risk of becoming addicted. Being addicted to cannabis means you will continue using the drug even if it negatively effects your health, work life, home life, finances or relationships.

The chances for becoming addicted to cannabis are higher the younger you are. Addiction rates also increase if you use the drug heavily.

If you become physically dependent on marijuana, you will experience withdrawal symptoms that may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach and digestive system
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Irritability
  • Depression

Detoxing from Cannabis

The first step of cannabis addiction treatment is detoxing – the process of letting the body remove the drugs in it. Detox should be professionally supervised to safely manage the withdrawal symptoms of the physical effects of cannabis use.

Depending on the addiction history of the individual, but especially when other drugs of addiction are being used, a medically supervised hospital drug detox is recommended.

A hospital detox is usually necessary where poly drug use (concurrent use of multiple substances) is present.

Because there are both physical and psychological components of cannabis addiction, a psychosocial recovery program should be used in tandem with hospital detox for the best outcome.

 

Sources:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10575775/
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2777817

Why You Shouldn’t Self-Detox

When it comes to detoxing from drugs or alcohol, should you choose to self-detox or undergo a medically supervised detox and withdrawal program

There is only one answer; detoxing and withdrawing from drug use should only be done under a specialist medically supervised program.

Choosing to self-detox or trying to stop “cold turkey” (meaning you simply stop using drugs and/or drinking) can lead to drug and alcohol users putting themselves at serious risk of harm, both physically and mentally.

When a person has used alcohol or drugs over a sustained period of time, sudden withdrawal can send the body into shock, which can lead to life-threatening seizures and cause permanent brain damage.

Addiction is a disease

To understand why self-detox is a bad idea, you have to understand how addiction works.

Addiction is a disease that affects users mentally and physically; they become dependent of their substance of choice to function normally.

Sustained substance abuse means the user’s body becomes accustomed to a certain level of toxicity and adjusts its workings accordingly.

So, when you self-detox there are several physical risks as your body tries to cope with the sudden change.

Common withdrawal symptoms

Common symptoms experienced by users going through acute drug and alcohol withdrawal in the early stages of detox include:

  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Severe headaches
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Joint pain
  • Feelings of despair, depression, fear

These symptoms occur when the body attempts to regain a state known as homeostasis.

Attempting to self-detox can be gruelling on you and anyone who might share your home. In fact, the experience can be so jarring that many users are reluctant to try detox again should they relapse after unsupported withdrawal.

Why choose a detox program

  • Specialist detox facilities are prepared to deal with the dangers of withdrawal and their detoxification programs are designed to minimise the risk of permanent damage and ease the discomfort of early withdrawal.
  • They also provide abstinence-based programs that focuses on patients’ long term recovery free of alcohol and drugs.
  • The detox programs are supervised 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by a medical team.
  • The Hader Clinic’s detox and withdrawal program is covered by all leading private health care funds.
  • Access to mental health support
  • Quick admission
  • Pathways to long term addiction recovery treatment

Getting help

Remember, no one chooses to develop a substance abuse problem and everyone is worthy of help. While you may have good intentions to try self-detoxing, it is always recommended to detox safely under medical supervision.

For more information on detoxing and available detox programs please contact the Hader Clinic Queensland on 1300 856 847.

 

Is Addiction a Disease?

Is addiction a disease? Yes it is, but unfortunately it is still a popular opinion that addiction is a choice rather than a chronic disease.

This adds to the considerable social stigma addicts and their friends and families face every day, which sometimes acts a barrier for those seeking addiction treatment.

How is addiction a disease?

It is absolutely true that you can’t “catch” addiction like a common cold or virus nor is it a moral failing. Addiction will always start from a decision to experiment with drugs or alcohol, however, when we look at the way addiction works, this is the only major difference between addiction and what we accept to be a disease.

While the act of using a substance is a choice, the process of becoming an addict is not.

No one chooses to develop a substance abuse disorder; addictions evolve over time, changing the brain function and even the brain structure of the user, until quitting is no longer simply a matter of will power.

Most addictive substances overstimulate the production of chemicals that occur naturally in the brain – such as dopamine, adrenalin, endorphins, serotonin – thus giving the user feelings of euphoria and heightened confidence.

Once the effects of the drugs or alcohol wear off, the user is left with a deficit of these chemicals, leading to a steep decline in well-being and subsequent cravings for more drugs to re-establish the sensation of being high and happy.

Depending on how susceptible a person is to the effects of a substance, and depending on their natural capacity to produce these chemicals, the brain will, over time, change in order to accommodate the effects of frequent drug or alcohol use.

Once an addiction has taken hold, it is bound to have negative effects on most areas of the addicts life, much like chronic diseases which lower the quality of the sufferers’ lives significantly.

Addicts are likely to experience physical changes, health problems, social problems and mental health issues as a result of their substance abuse.

Once substance abuse has moved past a person’s control, which is one of the defining characteristics of an addiction, they are going to require professional help in order to be able to break the cycle of addiction.

What difference does it make to treat addiction like a disease?

The biggest upside of recognising addiction as a disease is the instant removal of social stigma.

Addicts are often reluctant to admit their substance abuse issues to themselves or their loved ones, because they fear harsh judgement.

If we understand addiction as a chronic disease, seeking help becomes less daunting and this empowers addicts to take steps towards recovery.

Addiction is not just a physical condition, it is also heavily impacting the users’ mental health, which is why holistic treatments for substance abuse disorders are required for successful treatment.

Addicts beginning the recovery process require not just medical supervision in order to manage their physical withdrawal symptoms, they also need in-depth therapy and mental-health support in order to beat their cravings, break destructive behaviour patterns and understand the triggers that might lead to relapse.

Can addiction be “cured”?

Addiction, much like chronic disease, can not be cured in the traditional sense, however a successful addiction treatment program will address not only the physical, but the emotional, social, psychological, and spiritual aspects of recovery. This helps the recovered addict manage their addictive behaviours and prevent relapse.

Recovery is not possible until a person can recognise the triggers for their addictive behaviour. Identifying and eliminating or minimising triggers is an important step in the journey of recovery.

Sources

https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/brain-health/science-says-addiction-a-chronic-disease-not-a-moral-failing
https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/02._webcast_2_resources.pdf
https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/addiction-science

How Effective is Rehab for Drug and Alcohol Addiction?

So how effective is rehab for drug and alcohol addiction? Put simply, very. Residential addiction treatment is the most effective form of drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Drug and alcohol rehab is considered successful when the person is abstinent from drug and alcohol use, and they can manage their addictive behaviours. The person’s quality of life will improve as they are able to live their life normally and free from addiction.

How we assess how effective addiction treatment is

There are several criteria to be considered when assessing the effectiveness of addiction treatment for drugs and alcohol, including:

  • Abstinence from drug and alcohol use
  • Improved and sustained employment
  • Higher performance in studies
  • Healing relationships with friends and family
  • Cessation of criminal activity
  • Improved mental health
  • Improved emotional state
  • Improved physical health

Addiction recovery is a life-long process and unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and feelings of defeat and hopelessness. It is important to understand that every day of sobriety and every improvement, no matter how small, constitutes a win.

How to maximise the effectiveness of addiction treatment?

Long-term recovery and behavioural changes are significantly more likely if the complete rehabilitation process is completed. This process includes:

  • Medical detox – the process of removing the substance from the body and managing the acute withdrawal symptoms safely under medical supervision.
  • Psychosocial education program – a range of psychological therapies, including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and strategies on how to manage the person’s addiction.
  • Residential treatment – a period of 30 to 60 additional days spent at a treatment facility, where the education, counselling and therapy program is continued, equipping the person with the life skills necessary to live a normal life free of drugs and alcohol.
  • Transitional housing – a safe, secure, and supportive living environment designed to help the person integrate into normal life. The person is supported through regular group meetings, individual counselling sessions, and daily AA and NA meetings.
  • Aftercare – support is always important for a recovering addict, so aftercare still involves regular meetings and check-ups with GPs and counsellors.

Relapse does not mean failure

Recovery is a process and, unfortunately, sometimes a relapse can occur. However, a relapse does not mean the recovery process has failed.

A relapse can occur as an isolated incident or involve several weeks of engaging in addictive behaviours. It is important to recognise the signs of relapse and act quickly.

This could involve medical detox, and readmission into residential rehab.

Even though relapse can occur, long-term recovery is possible. Recovery isn’t easy – but it’s possible

Support and help is essential

If drug and alcohol use is impacting your ability to live a fulfilling life, support and treatment is available. To find out what help is available, please get in touch.

 

Sources

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-effective-drug-addiction-treatment

Eleven Signs Your Drinking may be More Than Social

Spotting the warning signs of unhealthy alcohol consumption can be difficult; because alcohol is everywhere and drinking is not just socially accepted but somewhat expected in Australian culture.

It is easy to find a good excuse to have a drink. Knock-off drinks on a Tuesday, big nights out on the weekend, birthdays, engagements, work functions, Sunday afternoon barbeques… the list goes on.

There is a fine like between social drinking and habitual drinking; and while it can be confronting to take an honest look at your drinking habits, it is nonetheless an important thing to do.

If you are suspecting that your drinking habits are getting out of control, or if you feel like you are developing an alcohol dependency, it might be time to re-think your drinking behaviour. It’s never easy to address uncomfortable truths, in fact, it can be hard to know where to start the process.

The following questions are designed to kick-start your introspective – take your time and answer honestly. Remember, you are not the only one going through this; and it’s never too late to get help and change.

How much are you actually drinking?
When we talk about alcoholism, we usually distinguish between heavy drinkers and binge drinkers. Per current definition, heavy drinking constitutes more than four standard drinks per day/fourteen standard drinks per week for men and three standard drinks per day/seven standard drinks per week for women. The term binge drinking describes less frequent but very hard drinking behaviour; more than five standard drinks within two hours for men, four or more for women.
If you exceed the weekly or daily limits, you might be at risk.

Are you drinking on your own?
If you no longer require company to drink and have started drinking regularly on your own at home, it might be time to start monitoring your intake more closely. There is nothing wrong with a quiet beer or wine on the deck after a hard week; however, if you feel you can’t unwind without alcohol, this could mean you are developing a dependency.

Are you drinking secretly?
Secrets are never a good thing when it comes to alcohol consumption. If you feel you must lie about how much and how frequently you drink to avoid judgement, it’s time to put on the breaks and rethink your behaviour.

You might think you are protecting your loved ones, friends, and colleagues by bending the truth about your drinking habits; but at the end of the day, transparency it always the best policy.

Do you feel guilty about drinking?
Problem drinkers are usually in denial about their unhealthy habits; however, even the most powerful denial can’t keep feelings of guilt at bay.

While some might describe drinking as a ‘guilty pleasure’, once the guilt takes over there is nothing pleasurable left – and if you’re not drinking for pleasure, you might be drinking for the wrong reasons.

Is your drinking causing problems?
To be clear, you don’t have to be a rock-bottom level alcoholic to acknowledge that your drinking habits are problematic. Even seemingly small things can be red flags for alcohol abuse.

Do you spend more money on alcohol than you should? Are your drinking habits causing arguments with your partner? Have you missed work or school because you drank too much the night before? Have you engaged in unsafe behaviour while intoxicated?

There is no shame in admitting that things have spun out of control; but the sooner you acknowledge these issues the sooner you can address them.

How often do you think about alcohol?
Are you spending a disproportionate amount of time thinking about when you will have your next drink/where you will procure your next drink/how soon it will be socially acceptable to have a drink? Do you think about having a drink as soon as you wake up? Do you worry about not being able to have a drink until much later in the day?

If alcohol is a source of anxiety and rumination, you might need to consider seeking help to adjust your drinking behaviours.

Are you experiencing extreme mood swings?
Alcohol abuse doesn’t just impact your physical health, it also destabilises your mental health.

If you find yourself getting snappy and agitated over small things, impatient with loved ones and generally unable to cope with life’s little annoyances, your drinking habits could be part of the problem.

Even high-functioning alcoholics – who are holding down a job, paying the mortgage and maintaining relationships – aren’t immune to mood swings; so, if you’re reactions are out of character and out of your control, it might be time to seek help.

Do you drink first thing in the morning?
Feeling the need to have a drink as soon as you wake up and being unable to resist this need is a huge red flag. Drinking in the morning often translates to ‘drinking to feel normal’, which is the very definition of alcohol dependency.

Can you stop yourself from having ‘just one more’?
Drinking alcohol becomes a problem when you are no longer in control of your intake. Often this means going out for ‘a drink’ and staying until the bar runs dry or the money runs out.

If you can’t stop drinking once you have started, it can be a sign that your alcohol consumption has moved outside your control; and that professional help might be needed to change your habits.

Are you neglecting your responsibilities?
Alcohol dependency tends to get in the way of fulfilling your responsibilities.

You might be late to pick up the kids because you got waylaid at the pub. Perhaps you missed an important meeting because you overslept with a hangover. It could be something as simple as not contributing to the housework because you are too busy having a relaxing drink (and then some) on the couch.

If you find that you prioritise drinking over everyday tasks, it is time to examine your behaviour and get help.

Is the fun gone?
Can you still enjoy yourself without having to drink alcohol? Do you still get pleasure from simple things, like hanging out with your partner on the sofa or having a quiet coffee or walk with a friend? Or are ever-present cravings and thoughts of alcohol getting in the way of having a good time sober?

No one deserves a joyless existence; and there are many options available to help you break this cycle of misery. The Hader Clinic Queensland can help you with Alcohol Addiction Treatment today.

What are the Signs of Addiction?

Addiction is a serious issue, whether it be to alcohol or drugs. It can be difficult to recognise if you or someone you know has an addiction problem, and when they need residential addiction treatment.

Addiction is defined as a chronic disease which affects many of the brain’s functions such as reward, motivation and memory. If you have an addiction, you will crave a substance or type of behaviour, and you will ignore the other areas of your life to maintain your desire.

Common signs of addiction are:

  • You have a lack of control or an inability to stay away from the substance or behaviour
  • You experience decreased socialisation or you pull out of commitments or ignore your relationships
  • You ignore other risk factors such as sharing needles despite being aware of consequences
  • There are physical effects such as withdrawal symptoms or requiring a higher dosage to feel the effect

The intensity of your addiction may depend on how long it has been going on or the type and amount of the substance you use. Individuals without addictions can often identify a negative behaviour and remove it from their life, however if you have an addiction, you will find a way to justify the addiction rather than getting rid of it.

In order to get help, you must recognise the signs of addictions. These may be physical, mental or emotional. For example, you may experience changes in your personality, your weight, or how your loved ones act around you.

There are many types of substances you can be addicted to. It may include one or multiple of these:

There are also various behavioural addictions, such as:

  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Video games
  • Internet
  • Sex
  • Working

Whatever it is that you are addicted to, it is important to recognise the signs early on and seek help if required.

Often, individuals with addictions show signs, such as:

  • Lacking interest in previously enjoyed hobbies
  • Neglecting loved ones
  • Missing important events
  • Taking risks
  • Ignoring consequences of actions
  • Keeping secrets
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Change in weight
  • Memory loss
  • Changes in mood
  • Aggression

Addictions can severely impact your life. For this reason, it is important to reach out and get help, so you can begin to move forward with your life and go down a healthier path.

If you’re struggling with an addiction, The Hader Clinic Queensland can help you understand how you can get on the road to recovery.

How to Help a Friend Suffering From Addiction

Before your friend or family member enters residential addiction treatment, you need to know how to recognise the signs of addiction and know how to help.

Having a loved one struggling with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol can be a harrowing experience. It’s easy to feel hopeless, helpless and isolated; but it’s important to remember that you are not alone and help is available – for your loved one as well as yourself.

How Can You Tell?

It can be difficult to see the signs of substance dependency. Addicts are often very good at concealing their substance abuse and this can lead to you questioning your instincts and suspicions. That said, there are some fairly reliable indicators that something is not right.

Changes in Behaviour

Addiction is a brain disorder and can have dramatic effects on your loved one’s behaviour. Persons addicted to drugs and/or alcohol may:

  • Become usually withdrawn
  • Isolate themselves from friends and family
  • Lose interest in their usual social and recreational activities
  • Struggle to meet the demands of work and/or school
  • Exhibit dramatic mood swings
  • Become overly defensive when the subject of substance abuse is raised
  • Experience financial difficulties
  • Experience relationship difficulties
  • Seem agitated and restless for no reason
  • Exhibit bizarre sleeping patterns

Physical Symptoms

It’s not easy to distinguish the physical symptoms of substance abuse from symptoms of regular ill-health. However, your loved one may be struggling with addiction if they:

  • Exhibit sudden weight loss or gain
  • Get unexplained shakes
  • Have a constantly running nose or the sniffles
  • Have red or bloodshot eyes
  • Have frequent nose bleeds
  • Appear to be experiencing withdrawal systems
  • Need to consume increasingly large amounts of drugs and/or alcohol to feel the effect
  • Present with small or dilated pupils
  • Slur their speech

Evidence

Apart from physical and psychological warning signs, drug and/or alcohol abuse also comes with physical evidence (i.e. paraphernalia). Some things to look out for are:

  • Blackened spoons
  • Discarded syringes
  • Hand-rolled cigarettes with a rolled-up cardboard filter
  • Singed bits of foil
  • Discarded wrapping (i.e. small pieces of clingwrap, cardboard or foil)
  • Pipes or home-made smoking paraphernalia (i.e. plastic bottles, light bulbs or drink cans)

How Can You Help?

Before you attempt to help a loved one struggling with addiction, it is important to understand that it is not within your power to force them to make a change. While you can absolutely be supportive and caring, the decision to stop has to be made by the addict. That said, there are a number of things you can to in preparation to help them when they are ready to accept they have a problem.

Be Realistic

Breaking the vicious cycle of addiction isn’t easy. Even once an addict has sought help and gotten clean, the recovery period extends far beyond the first step of detox and rehab. Set-backs and relapses are to be expected – so, you need to be realistic in your expectations to avoid unnecessary disappointment and distress.

Healing from addiction takes time and no matter how supportive you are, there will be times when your loved one will seem ungrateful or just straight-up cruel in their responses to your efforts. Try not to take it to personally and disengage from confrontational exchanges as soon as you can. There is little point in getting into an argument; it is much better for everyone involved to drop the subject and try again once tempers have settled.

Timing & Tact

Starting a conversation with a loved one about their substance abuse requires some planning and finesse. Some strategies that can be helpful include

  • Never try to have this conversation when your loved one is drunk or under the influence of drugs
  • Meet in a neutral space to talk – however, stay away from places that serve alcohol or facilitate drug use
  • Be prepared to listen without judgement
  • Describe the effect your loved one’s addiction has on people close to them. For instance, an addict may not be concerned with the damage they are doing to themselves; but they will be horrified to realise that their substance abuse and associated behaviours are hurting their children/colleagues/partner
  • Do your research on drug and/or alcohol recovery services in your area before you have this talk. If your loved one is receptive, you can direct them to these services for the next step in getting help.

For more information on helping a friend or family member struggling with addiction, download our free Family Guide to Addiction.

Addiction and Families

Wherever there’s an addict in the family, there’s often a sea of conflict within that family occurring behind the scenes.

The family home can be a soft place for the addict to land, yet, for the family, it means bearing the weight of their loved one’s addiction.

Family life with a member in active addiction is a rollercoaster – and many of us, when faced with this situation don’t know which way to jump. Should we be compassionate, deal out tough love, kick them out of home or set a healthy boundary?

Often other family members will feel like they’re caught between a rock and a hard place – they want to help the person with their addiction, yet conscious to not become an enabler.

Addiction reroutes rational thinking patterns in the brain, moving them from the rational frontal cortex to the ancient limbic system which is responsible for urgent impulses like flight or fight or immediate gratification.

It’s often worth remembering that addiction is a disease that can coerce an addict to behave in ways that are incongruent with a stable family life – they will steal, lie, threaten and manipulate you in any way possible so that they can access what they think they need to fulfil their urge to use.

Like wishful thinking will not cure cancer, you cannot love your addicted family member well. Often, loving your addicted family member involves letting them know that you unconditionally love them, but that you are not going to support their active addiction, and the accompanying behaviours that occur as a result.

This is where seeking professional help can help family members establish firm boundaries with their loved one, yet retain a sense of compassion and love.

Here are a few tips for families who want to help a loved one in active addiction.

Educate yourself about the disease of addiction and how it can play out in family life

Addiction thrives in isolation and secrecy, so getting things out in the open can help initiate change. By learning about addiction, families are better able to encourage and support an addict in recovery, rather than enabling their addiction or persecuting them for their disease. Understanding the disease of addiction is the first step towards improving dysfunction that can develop within family relationships as a result.

Seek treatment before they do

This may sound odd, but by attending a program that focuses on the role of the family in addiction, you can learn what helps and what hinders. Seek individual therapy for yourself or attend a Family Drug Support group.

By doing this, you will have the support of other families who are experiencing similar situation with their loved ones. Changing your own behaviours around addiction can assist in eliciting change in your loved one.

Contact Hader Clinic Queensland for information about Family Support Groups in your area such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.

Learn to set appropriate boundaries

An individual in active addiction will engage in temper tantrums, emotional blackmail and threats to get their own way. Even though it can be painful, it’s important to let an addict experience the consequences of their own behaviour – whether that’s dismissal from a university course or employment all the way through to a few nights without shelter or money on the streets. No addict will ever recover without experiencing consequences of addiction, boundary setting or being told “no”.

Learn more about the role you play in your loved one’s addiction by requesting a copy of the Free book, ‘Am I Living with an Addict?

Involve the experts

If you’re having trouble saying “no” to your addicted family member, then you may be feeling guilty about saying “yes” because it’s “just too hard” or you want to give them “one last chance”.  In this scenario, you’ve been manipulated by your loved one’s addiction to keep enabling it.  Involving professionals such as The Hader Clinic Queensland, can help you stay the course when the going gets tough – because often the disease of addiction presents unexpected challenges.

Look after yourself first

Loving someone with an addiction can be exhausting, heartbreaking and mentally draining which makes it easy to feel hopeless and adrift. Ensure that you’re engaging in self care activities that fill your cup – like coffee with a friend, a movie or a weekend away. Setting healthy boundaries with your loved ones will ensure you get time to look after yourself as well.

Consistency is important, and the message to your loved one should always start with, “I love you. Because I love you, I can only support your recovery and I will not support your addiction”.

Showing love for yourself and setting healthy and appropriate limitations lets your loved one know where they can go to seek help, whilst maintaining your personal agency and health.

Want more information? Contact the Hader Clinic Queensland on 1300 856 147 for further help. Ask about our free book, “Are you living with an addict”?

JJ’s Addiction Recovery

JJ is a support worker at our addiction treatment centre and has lived experience of addiction. Sometimes it takes an addict to understand how best to support another addict.

Hi, my name is JJ. I’m a support worker at the Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential facility. I love my job which entails supporting addicts in the early stages of recovery.

At the height of my addiction, I was a poly user – that is, I used anything and everything I could lay my hands on. I was in foster care at eight years old, and moved from institution to institution until 2002. I was stuck in the cycle of addiction, I didn’t know any different.

Fortunately, my first stint at rehab taught me about the Fellowship and how to create order, structure and routine in my life.

I got married, ran a successful business, owned a few houses. Life was sweet until 2014, when I began to have some marital issues. I fell back into drugs trying to cope.

My ice addiction cost me my home, my businesses, my marriage – basically everything I’d worked hard for in my life.

However, my love of the fellowship, and again, attending rehab, got me back into the swing of working my daily program and staying clean. In fact, I’m a month off knocking over five years today.

I think residential rehab is possibly the best tool to allow recovery to happen. The benefits of stepping out of everyday life to focus on healing yourself and recovering from addiction are priceless.

Residential rehab removes all outside worries away and removes the distractions that can distract someone from their recovery.

Additionally, a good rehab program has all types of programs to help you get back into life as a recovering addict, rather than someone in active addiction. Working on fitness, cooking classes, cleaning, doing your washing – it all helps create a positive routine.

Plus, there’s the mind work and programs that help undo all the negative self talk and blaming, for example, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m a lost cause where using is concerned,” and “it’s my family’s fault that I turned out this way”.

Rehab makes you stop and look at yourself critically without the pressure of what the world thinks of you, or what the world has done to you to make you sink this low.

Of course, we have some people that have been using for a long time. Sometimes it takes a while to adapt to a new routine. Half of it is helping people realise that they need to “surrender” and then embrace the concept of living, and working, a daily program to stay clean.

What I love about the fellowship and our rehab program is that it’s evidence based.

Everyone slots into a spot within the fellowship and rehab program seamlessly.

At any one time at rehab and within our therapeutic community, we have support workers, people who are learning to work the program, and people who come and visit on what we call “give back”.

This whole cycle is what makes the fellowship and our rehab work so well.

Five years ago, as I finished my rehab, I wrote down my goals and dreams. Suffering addiction propelled me to wants to lead a different life. I left the construction industry and started doing support work. And I haven’t looked back. Today I really am living the life I dreamed about five years ago.

I believe that being in the grip of addiction can give you the gift of desperation that makes you want to change.

If an addict can continuously remember how bad their addiction had them feeling, along with the feelings of guilt, shame, isolation etc, often it’s a good way of staying clean. It’s far more appealing than having to deal with the fallout from addiction.

People walk down our stairs broken, they start to feel better in addiction. However, some people believe they an just go home and go back to “normal”. We know that in recovery, you’ll never go back to the old “normal”. You need to be prepared to take responsibility for creating that “new normal”.

Once the veil of addiction is removed, often we find that several “home truths” are revealed. If someone can see those truths and understand that they need to behave differently, then we are ahead already.

Many of us try to make ourselves feel better with a narrative that isn’t always truthful – “I’m not that bad,”, “Why should it matter, I’m not hurting anyone,” are a few good ones.

Rehab identifies and challenges these ideas and teaches people the tools they need to manage their behaviours – I reckon drug use a learned behaviour – we weren’t born using – we started and it became a habit.

The other thing to remember is, that in the scheme of things, rehab is a relatively short period of time, when you consider the concept of lifelong abstinence.

That’s where the Fellowship comes in, having a sponsor, and then being able to sponsor others yourself. This is why lived experience of addiction is valuable – it helps people to connect without fear of judgment or shame.

And that is the main thing – connection is the opposite of addiction and the isolation that goes with it.

When clients stay connected to the rehab by participating in programs like our “give back”, they tend to be the most successful at long term recovery.

Recovery and fellowship provide relief from the chaos and pain of addiction and provide us with purpose.

I believe that our Fellowship carries a message of hope to those suffering from addiction and if you’re in this position and reading this, I look forward to sharing that hope with you in person at The Hader Clinic Queensland.

Thanks for sharing my story, recovery rocks!

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