drug addict standing by window and sleeping.

Interventions 101: Do Drug Addicts Know They’re Abusing?

A difficult part of being around a drug addict is that they probably don’t consider themselves an addict. While some drug addicts are aware that they have a problem, many don’t view their drug use as abuse. This makes it difficult to help them seek treatment and begin the road to recovery. In this post we go into more detail on the habits of drug addicts and drug abusers.

Understanding why drug addicts do not see the problem begins by understanding how their addiction is impacting their brain.

The Neurological Reason Why Drug Addicts Don’t See the Problem

Human head dots modelAddiction is a complex disorder with many competing theories as to its cause and the best way to correct it. However, one statement is widely accepted as truth for all types of drugs: repeated drug use alters the functionality of the brain. Here’s why:

  • Repeatedly taking recreational drugs creates a massive wave of dopamine to be released in the user’s brain. This feeling of immense pleasure is remembered and prompts the user to continue taking drugs.
  • As usage continues, the feeling of pleasure takes on the same feeling of survival as eating food or drinking water. This is when addiction starts to take root – when it feels like a necessary part of life.
  • Once addiction has taken root, the change to the neurological functions of the brain are well underway. Addicts are unable to think with a clear mind, have normal judgment, difficulty controlling the way they act and even feeling normal without drugs.
  • These altered brain functions make it difficult for drug addicts to realize that they are addicted, or that they have a problem. The addict will subconsciously rationalize their drug use, including not adequately seeing how it is impacting their lives.

The Fuzzy Line Between Use and Abuse

The above process describes the transition from drug user to abuser, but clearly not everyone who uses drugs becomes an addict. That’s because there’s a difficult to see line between use and abuse that addicts are unable to notice that they’ve crossed it. This can be for a few reasons:

The Drug of Choice Slowly Becomes Important

While there are certainly instance where a drug quickly takes hold and becomes an addiction, it’s usually a slower process. It might begin with an occasional joint with friends or cocaine at a party. Over time, the usage increases to become a regular event.

This progression continues until the drug is a daily part of life. This happens so slowly that the addict, and sometimes people around them, don’t even notice.

The Drug Helps Fill a Void

Young girl thinking with glowing brain illustrationMany people start taking drugs because it helps them relieve stress or anxiety. This increases the value of the drug, since it’s doing more than providing pleasure. Alternatively, many people may start taking a prescription drug for pain and then grow to enjoy the way it makes them feel.

Either way, this increased value of the drug makes the line between usage and addiction easier to cross.

Bringing Awareness to the Problem

Some people are able to perceive when they’ve crossed this line, or are approaching it, and help decrease or end their use. However, most addicts who are fully within the realm of addiction believe that they’re still just casual drug users. Helping bring a drug addicts awareness to the problem at hand is perhaps the most difficult, and most important, step on the road to recovery.

If someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, it may be wise to speak to a professional interventionist to discuss possible methods for getting your loved one help.

Intervention ServicesInterventions 101: Do Drug Addicts Know They’re Abusing?

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