What You Need to Know About Chemical Dependency in a Loved One
There are numerous reasons why a loved one may develop a chemical dependency on alcohol, prescription, or recreational drugs. They may use substances to escape the pain of depression, anxiety, or stress. Or maybe they innocently begin taking a prescription opioid as the doctor prescribes only to find themselves craving more, leading to addiction and dependence.
Whatever the reason, chemical dependency is an unfortunate reality in today’s world. According to the Addiction Center, almost 21 million Americans are living with at least one addiction, with only 10% receiving treatment.
While chemical addiction doesn’t necessarily mean your loved one has a chemical dependency, there is a good chance their addiction could lead to dependence. And believe it or not, the opposite is true, too. Your loved one can develop chemical dependency without being an addict.
It seems strange, doesn’t it? Don’t worry. We’ll explain the difference between the two.
In either case, seeking addiction or chemical dependency treatment in San Diego (or wherever you’re located) is your best bet for avoiding negative or perhaps even fatal physical, mental, and relational consequences.
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What’s the Difference Between Addiction and Chemical Dependency?
The terms addiction and chemical dependency are often used interchangeably because they go hand-in-hand. However, to ensure you prepare yourself and your loved one for the proper treatment for chemical dependency or addiction, it’s crucial to understand the difference.
When you are addicted to a chemical substance like alcohol or drugs (prescribed or not), your addiction is defined as compulsively using the drugs despite any negative consequences. Addiction involves a mental and physical dependence on a substance.
Mental dependence: when emotional triggers occur, such as a specific situation or event, you experience a conditioned response to use a desired substance.
For example, you see an ex from a painful breakup with a new significant other, having lots of fun. This causes a biochemical response in your brain to take a few shots of tequila and drink yourself into oblivion.
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When you repeatedly expose your brain to a specific drug, you cause actual physical changes in your brain matter. These changes in how your brain behaves cause you to crave the drug, leading to uncontrolled use. This self-destructive behavior can cause you to make poor decisions that hurt you, those you love, strangers, your health, finances, and your work or school performance.
As discussed earlier, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are dependent when you or a loved one is addicted to a substance. Although if you are addicted to a substance for an extended period, it’s highly likely addiction and chemical dependency will end up co-occurring.
When you or a loved one becomes chemically dependent on a substance, your body has a biological reaction to an addictive chemical.
This occurrence is especially common when it comes to prescription drugs like opioids. These prescription drugs bond to brain receptors, resulting in a flood of dopamine, giving you a euphoric, pain-free feeling. It’s easy to understand why this could lead to using them too much and becoming addicted.
In simple terms, the difference between addiction and chemical dependency is that addiction refers to your brain’s chemical changes resulting from uncontrollable substance use. In contrast, chemical dependency refers to your body’s physical dependence on the substance.
So how can you or a loved one develop a chemical dependency without developing an addiction?
When you are chemically dependent on a substance, you can effectively detox the drug from your body, experience withdrawal symptoms, stabilize, and continue with life without obsessing over and craving it. When you suffer from addiction, your cravings and struggles may persist for years after detoxing.
Both addiction and chemical dependency require professional treatment and a strong support system. If you or a loved one is dealing with either, it’s crucial you seek substance abuse treatment immediately.
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Tips for Supporting a Loved One Dealing with Addiction or Chemical Dependency
Watching someone you love battle addiction or dependency is extraordinarily challenging and heartbreaking. But as one of their support team members, it’s essential to do what you can to help them get the help they need.
Here are some things to keep in mind so you can be a solid support system for your loved one.
- Educate yourself on their addiction or chemical dependency.
The more you know about what they’re dealing with, the better you can empathize with them in their situation. You don’t want to encourage them to continue in their destructive patterns. But being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of chemical dependency and addiction could help you speak with them about what you see from an informed perspective.
- Support your loved one but don’t enable them.
Don’t make excuses for someone you love battling addiction or chemical dependence. If their substance use has led to unfortunate circumstances, it’s best not to try to “fix” them. You don’t want to be a part of your loved one’s drug or alcohol problem.
Instead, do your best to show them how their behaviors have consequences, and the only way to attempt to repair any damage is to get professional help.
- Be a part of their professional help search.
One of the most valuable things you can do in supporting your loved one through their addiction or chemical dependency is to help them find a high-quality mental health provider to aid in their recovery.
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- Take care of yourself, too.
When a friend or family member requires treatment for chemical dependency or addiction, your life has most likely been negatively affected. There have probably been some hurt feelings and difficult situations surrounding your loved one’s behaviors.
That’s why it’s crucial that you not only support your loved one in getting the help they need but that you get the support you need. It’s a good idea to participate in family sessions or even get individual counseling as you face this addiction problem in your friend or family member’s life.
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- Don’t lecture them.
Again, we understand that dealing with a loved one who is addicted or dependent on a substance can cause relationship strains. When this happens, emotions run high, and you may be tempted to lecture them and guilt them into agreeing to get help.
It’s important to understand that recovery requires love, patience, and support and your loved one to be willing to get help. It may not happen as quickly as you’d prefer, but do your best to be as supportive and empathetic as possible until they are ready to admit they need help.
- Be involved in their recovery.
Once your friend or family member agrees to seek treatment for chemical dependency or addiction, it’s crucial to keep your support level strong. Keep track of when they need to attend therapy or meetings and perhaps even attend with them. There’s no such thing as too much support when your loved one is trying to overcome addiction or dependency.
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Finding the Best Treatment for Chemical Dependency or Addiction in San Diego
If you are in the San Diego area and looking for high-quality addiction and chemical dependency treatment, you’ve found it here at BOLD Health in beautiful Encinitas, CA. We offer several treatment options including:
- individual therapy
- group therapy
- outpatient detox
- medication management
- intensive outpatient program (IOP in San Diego)
It can be overwhelming to figure out which treatment method would suit you or your loved one best. But you don’t have to worry about that with us. The journey to recovery begins with a comprehensive intake evaluation. But it’s not like any intake evaluation around.
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At BOLD Health, we consider all aspects of our clients before determining the best course of treatment. We look at every person’s genetic, biological, historical, structural, and situational elements, not just their “illness.” That’s how you know you’re getting the best possible individualized treatment program for you or your loved one. It’s not a cookie-cutter treatment program. It’s personalized for every one of our clients.
Contact us for more information about our highly-effective IOP in San Diego or our other treatment programs. We’ll not only support your loved one through to recovery, but we’ll be by your side every step of the way too.
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