Why Early Intervention is Crucial for Recovery
Knowing when to intervene with your loved one’s addiction is difficult. You might be waiting for them to realize they need help themself, or you could have already had countless fights over the need for them to seek treatment only to have them withdraw even more.
Helping a loved one with substance abuse is never easy, and the conversation can be difficult to even bring up, but early intervention is crucial to a successful recovery. The sooner someone is able to recognize their substance use is a problem, the better off they’ll be.
Consider addiction like a speeding car. It’s easier to brake when you’re going 30 miles an hour than 80. Likewise, early intervention has a better chance of leading to recovery.
Before you decide how to stage an intervention for someone, here is some information to better illustrate why reaching out as soon as possible is the best decision.
The Progressive Nature of Addiction
Although many people still argue that addiction is a choice, the real answer is far more complex. While a person does have a decision to make in terms of both abusing drugs and getting help to quit them, addiction is a biological, psychological and social problem. Today, contemporary treatment centers recognize the varying factors that lead to and perpetuate substance abuse.
The biopsychosocial model of addiction proposes that genetics, mental health and a person’s environment all factor into their likelihood to develop an addiction and how that addiction will affect them.
Mental illness, which we now also know has strong genetic influences and biological ties can cause someone to experience a substance use disorder. Depression, anxiety and addiction have the highest connection. People may turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with their symptoms. Sometimes, self-medicating is easier and more affordable than traditional therapy. Others may not even know they are suffering from a real condition and only seek ways to alleviate their discomfort.
Regardless of the initial reasons that prompt someone to start using in the first place, substance use disorders are progressive. Misuse leads to abuse, which in turn leads to addiction and a physical dependency. The brain eventually requires the drug to feel “normal,” which is why no one can omit the physical nature of addiction.
People make a choice every day to continue using, but the choice is influenced heavily by their existing mental health conditions as well as their psychological and physical dependencies. There’s far more going on beneath the surface, so people who want to help their loved one have to understand that.
The sooner you intervene, the easier it is for someone to avoid the harmful side-effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal. They will also be less reliant on their substance(s) of choice to function, making it easier to integrate therapeutic treatments and healthy coping mechanisms.
The Importance of Early Diagnosis in Co-Occurring Disorders
Psychological disorders and substance abuse are highly common, but there is a difference between dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorder. Although the terms may be used interchangeably at times, the real difference lies in the origin of the mental illnesses involved.
A dual diagnosis is given when someone has two separate mental illnesses at the same time, for example, a substance use disorder and bipolar disorder. With co-occurring disorders, mental illnesses are intertwined with substance abuse. They could be the driving force behind someone’s addiction, or they may have developed due to the psychological and neurological effects of substance abuse.
When people struggle with a mental illness, drugs or alcohol can become their primary source of comfort. While the progressive and all-consuming nature of addiction ultimately worsens their mental health, they may feel like there is no possible way for them to survive and cope without having drugs or alcohol.
Addiction and co-occurring disorders form a vicious cycle of pain, suffering, and guilt. The best way to help someone is to have them be properly diagnosed as early as possible. With a dual diagnosis treatment facility, individuals can receive personalized care that addresses not only their present substance abuse problems but also their psychological symptoms.
From CBT for depression and anxiety to medication for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, personalized mental health intervention is crucial to help someone sustain their recovery.
How to Talk to Someone About Their Addiction
Bringing up substance abuse is a challenge, even if the person in question is your close family. You might be afraid of making them angry or having them shut-down as a defense. It’s not uncommon for people who are struggling with an addiction to deny it. Much like the five stages of grief, working through addiction happens in different ways. They may be sequential, or they could be out of order. People may move in and out of them repeatedly before progressing.
The earlier you are able to reach someone and plant the seed of hope in their mind, the better off they’ll be. The best thing you can do is first avoid enabling addiction at all costs. Many parents find themselves covering for their adolescent or adult children, providing excuses to work and school or even hiding their paraphernalia. They believe that by offering them shelter, they can give their child a safe environment that will eventually lead to the realization they need to get help.
Unfortunately, enabling does not ever awaken people to the need for change. It only reinforces their addiction by making it more convenient. Instead, you must offer support for their recovery without condoning their addiction. This can look like offering to help them find a recovery center, taking them to and from treatment and attending family therapy together.
How to Get Help
Anyone speaking to someone with an addiction should do so with respect and patience. Allow the person to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without arguing them or trying to prove yourself right. Addiction is not meant to be used as a weapon; it is a problem that someone is up against, and one that requires support and acceptance if they are ever to build up the strength to face it.
A licensed drug and alcohol rehab like Ethos can help families and friends of addicted individuals by providing support, early intervention resources, and professional advice. We can help your loved one receive treatment at our residential facility, which features dual diagnosis treatment and access to a sober living community in Los Angeles.
To learn more, contact us today at 323.942.9996.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.