Defining Addiction or Abuse
There is a difference between drug/alcohol abuse and drug addiction. The difference is not that great, but it’s important to understand when a person goes from abusing drugs to being addicted to drugs.
What is drug/alcohol abuse?
The easiest way of defining drug/alcohol abuse is observing that a person uses a drug for something other than a medically prescribed purpose. That is, they have a habit of taking a drug to “get high” or “feel better.” They take more than prescribed amounts. They take the drugs for recreation.
Some “drugs” that are used for recreation may not be prescription meds, or over-the-counter medications, or even street drugs. They can be common, everyday chemicals. For example, people inhale glue or solvents to get high. People want to have a mood change, to feel good.
Professional drug counselors will tell you that any use of illegal drugs is drug/alcohol abuse. Those drugs are illegal because they are potentially very addictive and harmful to a person’s health. That broadens our definition of drug/alcohol abuse even more. Therefore, any illegal drug use, or any use of prescription or non-prescription medication use beyond what is prescribed by a medical professional, or any use of a chemical to get high, is drug/alcohol abuse.
There are some drugs that are used to relax, to feel good, to be sociable. Alcohol is the most common drug used in America for this purpose. It’s legal, and if taken in moderation, is not harmful. But alcohol is addictive and probably more lethal then most people realize. p>
Almost any substance can be abused. Cigarettes, caffeine and other common, legal substances are abused by people every day. Sometimes the line between use and abuse is fuzzy. For example, people might go to the tavern after work and have a couple of drinks with their friends. Is that abuse? Some might argue that it becomes abuse when it becomes a regular, daily occurrence. Too many cigarettes, too much coffee, too many diet sodas. The line is determined by the person.
We will now try to determine when drug/alcohol abuse becomes Defining Addiction. When a person is abusing a drug/alcohol they are making a choice. They choose to get high. When a person goes into addiction, their choice is either severely limited or taken away entirely.
The 12-Step process begins with a very important statement, “We admitted we were powerless…” You can insert the drug that is doing the damage. When the drug/alcohol takes over, when a person’s life is all about getting the drug and taking the drug, when nothing but the drug matters, that is addiction.
Part of the Defining Addiction; a person might develop a physical “need” for the drug/alcohol, or a psychological craving for the drug. The first step in the 12-Step process ends with:
“that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Powerless and unmanageable are the hallmarks of Defining Addiction. The addicted person might even holler and scream that they are in control, that they can “handle it,” or that every other person who is watching is wrong and only they are right. Sadly, addiction is easier to see from the outside looking in. There are medical explanations of addiction, but suffice it to say that addiction owns the addict. They have no choice about use. There brain has been “rewired” to the point that if they don’t use , they can’t function.
From the perspective of the addicted person, they have to take the drug to feel “normal” or to feel “good.” There is no choice. People do things they normally would never think of doing. They steal money. They become prostitutes. They break off relationships, even the ones with those they love the most. Why? The drug is dictating their life. They have a disease of the brain AND a disease of their sole. Without detox, treatment and recovery it isn’t likely to change.
Troubled Kids, Likely Victims of Addiction
We all have an image of the kind of kid that gets into trouble with drugs. They are the kids from the “other side of the tracks,” or those who are a little out of step with the natural flow of high school culture, or they are the “bad kids.” These stereotypes are all commonly offered by adults trying to get their hands around the drug problem in their community. Allow me to paint a different picture.
Troubled Kids could live in your house. They participate in school plays, play in the band, score touchdowns on the football field, or excel in mathematics competitions. They are the boy and girl next door, the kids who were brought up the right way by the right kind of parents.
Troubled Kids are VERY common now.
The divorce rates are high, so it has gotten to the point that at least half of the kids are from broken homes, bouncing back and forth between parents, the new boyfriend and as a result are left to figure out life by themselves.
Divorce is a curse on children, a kind of emotional death sentence that is pronounced on the day dad finds a younger woman. It is the beginning of an emotional roller coaster that begins the day mom decides she doesn’t love dad anymore. Our courts make it so easy to rip families apart.
Divorce is common place, so much so that any marriage that lasts more than a few years is the exception to the rule. Kids don’t necessarily choose to share their feelings, nor are they necessarily capable of fully articulation their emotions, but they are susceptible to thinking that the momentary relief they think they receive from drugs is an acceptable way of dealing wit their circumstances.
OK, maybe there is no divorce involved, but why would Johnny turn to drugs when he has so much going for him? Mom and dad may be successful people and Johnny has every privilege, so why isn’t that enough? I see this all the time. So often Johnny is never told “no” and has never earned anything.
Didn’t get to choose their parents!
He does well in school, which is important, but as long as the grades are good, mom and dad are satisfied. As a football coach I see these kids a lot. They want discipline and structure. Even when we go through our rigorous conditioning drills, they respond favorably because they want to be led.
Then there are parents on the other end. A special education teacher told me the chilling story about a high school freshman girl he was trying to help. She was failing all of her classes and he wanted to talk to her parents. There was no father, so he called mom to tell her the situation and to try to come up with a plan to help the girl.
He told me that every sentence included the “F” word and the woman screamed at him, cursing him at every turn. He told me, “At risk kids may want the help, but when their parents have that attitude, there is little we can do.”
Troubled Kids come from any kind of home, in any community. For a variety of reasons, and peer pressure may be at the top of the list, they make bad decisions that can lead to drug/alcohol abuse and dependency.
It usually starts with alcohol or marijuana, but reports of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine use are by no means remote. Think of it this way, Mexican drug cartels exist because American kids buy drugs. Put aside the stereotypes for a moment and understand that any kid can get into trouble.
There are parents who try to keep on top of their children’s activities, and who have done everything to try to show them a proper and healthy way to live. They are proactive and understand that public schools and even private, religious schools, can be the marketplace for a variety of deadly substances.
So many teachers I know feel isolated, frustrated because they see the situation for what it is and can’t get through to parents. Some parents deny that their child would ever do “something so stupid,” and some parents blame the schools and the teachers, claiming “It’s their responsibility to teach our kids.”
We live in a society that believes there are no absolutes, no objective truth. Everything is relative. We are a secular nation and so only secular solutions are allowed to be discussed. Every generation that has ever existed has had its troubled teens, but in the absence of religion, in the absence of firm community standards, and in the absence of the virtue of personal accountability, the percentage of troubled Kids can only increase. It’s hard enough to be a teenager, but pile on broken families, drugs, sex and no values and you have a recipe for emotional stress.
Kids are hard-wired to rebel. It’s part of the experience. Kids will be teens, which is why adults have to be the adults. Even in a perfect world, some Kids may fall into the troubled teen category, but in the absence of traditional Judeo-Christian values, or the anti-drug teachings of Islam, where is a teen going to turn for counsel?
How can divorced parents claim any moral authority?
How can a parent who curses a teacher for caring and trying to help, have any right to judge the school system? The best start to find a solution to the problem of troubled Kids is to love them enough to make the tough choices.
So now what?
Whether a person is abusing drugs/alcohol, or addicted to drugs/alcohol, it’s a problem. It is not a problem that a mere “I’ll cut back,” or “I can handle it” is going to solve. Perhaps a person can recognize that their drug use is really abuse and they will stop on their own. God bless them. But most people can’t. They need professional help.
They can talk to their doctor and maybe get a recommendation on a treatment program. There are social service agencies that deal with abuse and addiction. There are treatment centers. There is Alcoholics Anonymous. Recovery from abuse and addiction is vitally important. Seeks professional help and guidance.
For More about Defining Addiction click here
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