"Only half of drug- or alcohol-addicted family members seek help -- but when they do, 82% get better, a survey of American families finds." (Daniel J. DeNoon, "Family Poll: Half of Addicts Seek Help," WebMD Health News, August 18 2006)
A Gallup poll, the USA Today/HBO Family Drug Addiction poll, interviewed 902 U.S. adults who said that a member of their immediate family is or was addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The major findings:
- 51% said their addicted family member never sought treatment.
- 41% said their addicted family member has "overcome" his or her addiction.
- 65% said a family member admitted an addiction to them -- but two-thirds of the time, only after they confronted the addict.
- Once a family member admits his or her addiction, that person is more likely to seek treatment than those who do not admit their addictions.
- Three-fourths of addicts were alcoholics, while 30% were drug addicts. Some were addicted to both drugs and alcohol.
- 23% of addicts who sought treatment went to a rehab center; 17% went to AA meetings, classes, or 12-step programs; 11% sought psychological counseling; and 8% went to hospital programs.
- 82% said that their addicted family member got better after treatment -- including 38% who reported their family member made a "complete recovery."
1. The first step in getting help is admitting the problem.
This may very well be the most difficult aspect of recovery.
Drug and alcohol addiction have traditionally been looked down upon in many communities around the world. A lot of the reason for this is lack of education. People mistakenly believe that addicts lack the willpower to quit or that they simply enjoy being under the influence of these substances. Of course, those misconceptions are far from the truth. Addiction is a disease that causes real changes in a person’s brain and body. Dependent people need to face the reality that, without help, this disease will worsen.
The addict certainly can't be counted on to help him or herself. If an addict had the coping mechanisms necessary for self-regulation, he or she wouldn't have become an addict.
In truth, many addicts are afraid of going to seek help because they associate the act with weakness. They have deep feelings of shame and guilt about their addiction. They hate the very thought of being labeled "dependent." And, some may already be so deeply buried under substance abuse that they don't even realize they experience these emotions.
Dr. Phil suggests that addicts ask themselves "Why do I do it?" to acknowledge their purpose for the behavior. He says people can't change what they don't acknowledge. He believes people need to answer this question to take first steps: "What purpose does the behavior serve for you? If you're an alcoholic, you're not just drinking because you're thirsty. Admit to yourself: 'I'm medicating myself for anxiety, depression and pain. It numbs me to life.'" (Dr. Phil McGraw, "Seven Steps To Breaking Your Addiction," www.drphil.com, 2009)
Dr. Phil continues, "You (dependent) understand at a conscious level, at an intellectual level that your addiction is unhealthy, yet you continue and this perplexes you...You may need to count on others to help you think rationally."
Bringing family members together for education and support is important in helping people get on the road to sobriety. Family members often provide great support. But, many experts agree that one of the biggest mistakes that families make is trying to keep an addiction a secret and dealing with it alone. "The disease of addiction is tricky and sophisticated, and recovery begins with the family. Most families don't have the tools or the knowledge needed to help an addict overcome his or her dependency without the help of an outside professional." ("First Steps: How To Get Help For Yourself or Someone Else," TLC, Discovery Communications, 2011)
Mark Samuels of the Texas Drug Rehab writes:
"What most drug addicts suffer from is not the addiction itself (which is bad enough), but denial of the addiction. The first thing people always say is that they can quit whenever they want to (and they can't) or that it isn't really affecting them (it is) or to simply tell people to butt out of their lives and leave them alone.
"The second thing that most people will say is that it would cost too much to go into rehab, they don't like talking to other people and butt out of their lives. The whole thing leads to a lot of stress and bad feeling which can be accompanied by a spike in drug activity. It usually takes a good sharp shock and lots of support to overcome this huge hurdle; such as being kicked out of a home, losing children, losing jobs or being hurt. (Mark Samuels, "Dealing With Addiction: The First Step," ezinearticles.com)
2. The next step can be making an appointment with a general practitioner.
The first point of call can be a GP (family doctor). GPs probably have the best access to the services and treatment dependent people need to get better. Patients may be panicking about whether they can trust their doctor to keep their problems confidential, but most GPs have a confidentiality policy. Patients can find out what it is, so they can decide whether they feel comfortable seeking advice.
A GP may refer patients to a mental health professional for an evaluation that may help to assess the problem and determine a course of treatment. A psychiatric evaluation may provide the medical treatment that a co-occurring mental illness will require.
In 2004, as reported by a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there were 4.6 million adults with both serious psychological distress and a substance use disorder of which 41.4% received treatment only for mental health problem; 5% received treatment only for substance use problems; 6% received treatment for both mental health and substance use problems; and 47.5% did not receive any treatment. These numbers are astoundingly high and seem to make it obvious that more attention needs to be paid to the proper treatment of people with co-occurring disorders.(Pedro Church, "Co-Occurring Disorders -- Addiction and Mental Health Treatment Issues, www.zimbio.com, Health, September 27, 2011)
Also, mental health support groups can provide the reassurance that addicts are not “crazy” or “unlovable.” These groups offer strong evidence that addicts are not alone in dealing with their problems.
This blog entry is, by no means, all inclusive. Some first steps are discussed here. Many rehabs and extensive programs go far beyond these simple steps to start dealing with dependency. I am not a counselor or a medical professional. I am merely offering some basic information for help. So many times people look for a place to begin -- here are some "baby steps" that may serve some purposes.