In American culture, the mythical cowboy seems to provide a model for how all adults should live. This rugged person makes individualized decisions, and lives with the consequences, without accepting help from anyone. Even when times are tough, the cowboy refuses to give in, and even enemies develop a grudging respect for the way in which the cowboy’s problems seem to melt away by the end of the film. It’s a powerful image, and it’s understandable that some people buried deep in an addiction might cite the cowboy as the reason they don’t need treatment. These people may feel as though they should handle their problems without help. Some family members might even think of the cowboy when they attempt to confront the addicted person. Perhaps, these family members think, I should let this person make choices alone without my interference.
Addiction is one situation in which the cowboy scenario simply doesn’t apply. Addictions are dangerous, and they can be strong foes that are hard to fight off alone. This article will outline some of those dangers, as well as steps families can use to help their addicted loved one see the value in addiction treatment.
Drug Abuse Prevalence
Addictions can be isolating, placing a wall of lies and deception between the addicted person and everyone that person cares about. As a result, people who are addicted may feel incredibly alone, as though no one else in the world could face the same problems they face or understand the issues they’re struggling with. In reality, addictions in the United States are remarkably common. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 7 percent of the population was dependent on alcohol or had problems with alcohol use in 2010. In this same year, 4.5 million Americans met the clinical criteria for abuse or dependence on marijuana, and 1.9 million met the criteria for abuse or dependence on painkillers.
Each time the substances were available to them, the rats went right back to use. It’s clear that many people are developing addictions to the substances they use each year, and multiple studies have indicated that addictions form due to chemical changes in the brain over which the user has no control. In one such study, published in the journal Behavioral Brain Research, rats were given access to drugs and alcohol, and then access was removed. This was repeated, again and again. Researchers found that addicted rats stayed addicted for the rest of their lives, and they had changes in chemical levels in their brains for the rest of their lives. They could not modulate their intake of the substances they were addicted to, no matter what the researchers did.
Humans are not rats, of course, but the addiction process might look much the same in a human as it does in a rat. A human chooses to take drugs, the drugs elicit changes in the brain and the addiction takes hold. Since this pathway is so clear and easy to follow, it makes sense that the more people who take drugs, the more people there would be who are addicted. The SAMHSA report shows a disturbing trend here as well, as illicit drug use has increased from 8.3 percent in 2002 to 8.9 percent in 2010. This seems to indicate that addiction will be a part of modern life for many years to come.
Dangers of Addiction
Addiction can be devastating to the well-being of the person who is addicted. For example, a study in the journal Substance Use and Misuse found that quality of life scores for people addicted to heroin was universally poor, regardless of gender or age. The one thing these people had in common was their addiction, and it seemed to make their lives less than ideal.
It’s easy to understand why, as an addiction can cost a person his/her:
- Parental rights
Substance addiction can also be deadly. In 2009 alone, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were nearly 4.6 million drug-related visits to emergency departments due to drug use. Some people received care for their drug use, but it’s likely that others did not receive help in time. Addicted people often need to take very high doses of the drugs they are addicted to in order to bring about the results they crave. Sometimes, addicts walk a fine line between feeling the effects of the drug and overdosing on the drug. Once tiny hit, just a bit too large, could cause them to stop breathing. It’s a risk addicts take, almost every day. In addition, illicit drugs aren’t regulated by governmental agencies, so addicts never know if the drugs they take are pure or tainted. People who obtain tainted drugs may face ill effects due to the drugs they abuse.
Drug Abuse Costs
The need for drugs, for a person in this stage of addiction, supersedes the need for everything else, and as a result, all of the money the person has goes toward the drugs the person wants. Addictions can be disastrous for an addict’s income and savings account, as drugs are often incredibly expensive. For example, according to USA Today, a pure gram of cocaine cost $137 in September of 2007, and a pure gram of methamphetamine cost $245 at the same time. People who are addicted to illicit drugs may need to resort to theft to keep their addictions alive, after they’ve drained all other forms of money available to them. They may spend the family’s money on drugs, leaving children with no food and the entire family with no place to live. It can spell financial ruin, in just a short period of time.
The cost of addiction doesn’t end with the addict’s pocketbook, however. The entire community foots the bill for addiction, when crime resources, health care expenditures and impact to the workplace is taken into account. Using this yardstick, the Office of National Drug Control Policy found that the economic cost of drug
abuse in 2002 came in at an estimated $180.9 billion. This is a staggering amount of money to be sure, but other national organizations have reported that the final cost is much higher. For example, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America places the cost of illicit drug use at $193 billion, which is similar to the price the country pays due to chronic conditions such as diabetes. Communities with high rates of addiction may pay an incredible price for those issues, and they may be at a loss as to how to turn the tide.
There is a silver lining in the discussion of drug abuse costs: Multiple studies have demonstrated that the cost of treating an addiction results in a benefit to the society. In one such study, published in the journal Health Services Research, researchers found that substance abuse treatment costs $1,583 and is associated with a societal benefit of $11,487. If some of the costs mentioned above include costs to treat addiction, it’s quite possible that investment will reap huge rewards in the future.
When to Intervene
Someone with a substance abuse problem is usually reluctant to acknowledge the struggle they’re going through, especially when confronted. As a result, many talks with an addicted person end with tears, yelling or worse. People who have been through these conversations multiple times might be leery to bring the topic up again, even though they might know the addiction issue is huge and must be stopped. Sometimes, hiring an interventionist can help turn the cycle around. While loved ones may have the most complete picture of the addiction, that image may be clouded by emotion. A pro can remain calm and objective, and perhaps break through to the person who needs help.
An interventionist is a professional addiction counselor who has experience in building up effective conversations with people who have addiction issues. An interventionist can help the family to:
- Understand what an addiction is
- Determine how to talk about the addiction with the addicted person
- Hold that talk without resorting to yelling
- Encourage the person to get needed help
Ideally, an interventionist will escort the person to a treatment center when the talk is over, but sometimes, smaller steps toward recovery are just as transformative. For example, some interventionists focus on convincing the person with the potential problem (the “identified person” in professional parlance) to simply agree to a professional evaluation. This could be a small step that leads to a greater understanding for that addicted person.
Families who don’t like to idea of holding a dramatic intervention, much like the ones seen on television shows, may hold smaller, private conversations about addiction. An interventionist can help the family to plan these informal chats as well.
Drug Rehab at The Oaks at La Paloma
Reading about addiction, and the price people pay due to their addictions, can be frightening. There are many people who can help, however. If your family is dealing with an addiction issue, we’d like to help you at La Paloma. When you work with us, you can rest assured that your loved one is getting top-notch care. Our staff is experienced in drug addiction, and we keep a low staff-to-client ratio, assuring personalized care. We also use a dual diagnosis approach, dealing not only with the addiction but any mental or emotional conditions that led to substance use in the first place. A newly renovated drug detox wing is available for those who need it, with medical supervision allowing for the safest possible experience. Length of stay is determined on an individual basis, with the staff choosing the program that allows for the greatest level of long-term success. At The Oaks at La Paloma, continuing care is part of the plan, assuring that recovery is lasting long after you leave us.
If you or someone you know is in need of treatment for drug addiction, contact The Oaks at La Paloma at our toll-free number.
Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about the treatment process, financing and logistics.