How to Support a Friend or Family Member Suffering From Drug Addiction

Drug AddictionIn attempting to understand the dizzying maze that is addiction, the importance of the role of friends and family quickly becomes evident. Any hope of a permanent, stable recovery for an addict involves the support of others – either those already in his or her life or those gained in structured recovery settings. The myriad of problems associated with addiction, the overwhelming information about it, the different approaches to recovery, the complications of dual disorders, and the societal obstacles and influences an addicted person faces all pale in comparison to the family and interpersonal dynamics that can sabotage and complicate or enhance the road to recovery.

For friends and family, making the distinction between supporting and enabling an addict is usually the main task, and it is a daunting one, but success in doing so results in an informed, structured, healthy safety net of acceptance for a loved one. While the addict must make the choice to become well, friends and family must make the choice to support him or her appropriately. This clarity is difficult to achieve, but there are many educational resources and programs – both formal and informal – that can help a friend or family member keep this commitment of support.

The science of addiction is always evolving, resulting in an ever-deepening understanding of it and ever more sophisticated treatment approaches. It is incumbent upon those who are committed to a recovering person to stay abreast of information and trends by continually reviewing the work of such entities as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For the most part, though, this knowledge probably won’t have a dramatic effect on one’s relationship with an addicted person, but it may help in solidifying other basic approaches of support.

Heroin AddicvtionEducating oneself is important, but changing ways of interacting weighs more heavily in helping an addicted person. Friends and family are appropriately supportive when they focus more on their own reactions to a loved one’s addictive behavior than on the person or behavior itself. For example, an addict who does something illegal should suffer the resultant penal and/or monetary consequences without interference from friends and family. Also, friends and family members are truly supportive when they can view their loved one as separate from his or her addictive behavior. This manifests in their ability to establish boundaries and set limits on the behavior without negatively engaging or shaming the loved one. Supportive friends and family members encourage the addictive person to get help and offer their services in doing so, but they are not forceful. Finally, they especially encourage situations and settings for themselves and their loved one that places them among those who are making the recovery journey with success; for example, participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.

While personal responsibility is at the heart of recovery – and recovery cannot proceed without it – a paradigm shift for friends and family toward a lifelong partnership of awareness and informed effort on behalf of the recovering person is critical. The woven web of roles and interfaces in his or her interpersonal systems will probably require an overhaul and a concerted effort on behalf of friends and family to place the addicted person above themselves by continually adjusting their expectations. Unfortunately, among the losses an addict often faces are his or her relationships, and these will need to be replaced by other formal and/or informal relationships that require an ongoing commitment. This is because an addict’s recovery is always a group process in one form or another.

The Essentials of Psychopharmacology

The purpose of this article is to provide a philosophical analysis of the field of psychopharmacology.

First, a formal definition of the discipline is derived from opinions expressed by psychopharmacologists. Psychopharmacology is the scientific study of the (interaction) effect of drugs, to the extent it can be known by science, on mind and behavior of the organism. Brief descriptions are also given of the subdisciplines of psychopharmacology, and different views on psychopharmacology are surveyed.

Second, the aim of psychopharmacology is considered. Psychopharmacology is a practical science, like experimental medicine, to which it belongs because of its affiliation to psychiatry, and its aim is to gain, through the scientific study of drug effects, a better understanding of the neurophysiological bases of human mind and behavior, normal and abnormal, with a more or less distant view on therapeutic action, especially with regard to the problems posed by mental illness and substance abuse. The priority of a therapeutic aim over a strictly epistemic aim is also discussed.

Third, the discipline is assessed along the lines of therapy in man. The tendency in the discipline to focus strictly on the neurophysiological bases of mind and the related tendencies to consider behavior without reference to its mental underpinnings and to rely to a great extent on animal research give a picture of man in terms of natural science which leaves out his mind with important consequences for therapy. Moreover, attitudes underlying research in the discipline and psychology in general contribute to exacerbating this disregard of human mind. In brief, a psychopharmacological approach can perhaps “cure” disordered molecules and disordered behaviors, but fails to reach the mind of man, mostly at the characteristic level of reason, and should correctly be seen as a useful–albeit necessary, but in itself insufficient–adjuvant in a broader psychotherapeutic approach.

Finally, the tendency to draw conclusions about human nature exclusively on the basis of unqualified psychopharmacological knowledge is attributed to a defective outlook in psychology, and the importance of a more balanced view in which to integrate research findings is stressed.

Assorted Topics

How do MDMA (ecstasy) and alcohol influence mood and cognition? A critical review of the evidence

This is a guest article by Kamila Wita – you can find more of her work at the Rethink blog. Have you ever wondered what effects alcohol and ecstasy have on those people (or perhaps yourself) who do it for fun, treat is as some sort of a sport or perfectly normal part of student activity.

Receptor Downregulation

Before reading any further, be sure that you have read the posts on how neurotransmitters work, and how cocaine, alcohol and opiates work. These articles and their associated videos/animations give you essential background information to this post. So we’ve discussed how neurotransmitters work through their affinity for particular receptors on the post-synaptic celft.

How cocaine, alcohol and opiates work in the brain

Before reading further, it would be helpful to have first watched the video and read the discussion on how neurotransmitters work. Go do that and then come back here. As explained in the previous post, there are several ways that drugs can cause their effects in the brain, and a few of those were expounded [...]

How neurotransmitters work in five minutes

I’ll go over the basics of drug action in more detail later, but for now here’s a nice video that explains how neurotransmitters work in the brain. Have a look at this, it’s only 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Don’t worry about me I’ll just wait for you to finish.

Why is smoking addictive?

“I finally overcame my will power and started smoking again.” – Mark Twain There’s no better way to start an article than to quote a long-dead writer with a moustache; especially when he (or she – women can have moustaches too) makes a good point in an ironic way.

Smoking doesn’t relax, it stresses

Contrary to popular opinion, smoking isn’t relaxing. The evidence shows smoking actually causes stress, rather than reduce it. That “aahhhhh” feeling when you light up, is an illusion. If you’re a smoker reading this, it’s hard to prove this to you, because from your point of view, you have a certain level of stress.

Does smoking impair cognitive function?

I saw an anti-smoking pop-up the other day. It mentioned some of the classic health problems associated with smoking, to try to put people off. As usual though, none of the less-well-known problems were mentioned. This is the sort of thing that gets drilled into peoples heads on substance abuse treatment programs, because many people.

Weeding out the bad data on productivity

As many of you know, I’m in the process of writing a book: a psychology study guide to be precise. One of the things it will cover is time management, planning, productivity; that sort of thing. While researching this chapter I remembered an interesting study that Tim Ferriss mentioned on his site.

Meditation is effective in the treatment of substance abuse

Cravings are funny things. If you’ve ever tried to abstain from chocolate, fizzy drinks, or burgers you’ll know that it’s not a simple matter of not doing it. The brain is designed for an age when sugar and fat were scarce. Check out the guy below, climbing up a 40 metre tree and getting stung.

Piracetam – The classic nootropic

Piracetam is a nootropic – a compound used to improve mental performance in some way. They’re often called (and sold as) “smart drugs.” The name derives from the Greek words nous and trepein, meaning “mind” and “to turn” respectively. Or so Wikipedia says at least. You may be familiar with the concept of smart drugs.