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Addiction: Habits2Have®

Addiction is a powerful disease, but addiction recovery is possible. If you’re wondering how to help an addict or how to help an alcoholic, remember these important habits to have.

1. Treat it like a disease.

Addiction is a brain disease. The best way to help an addict or help an alcoholic is to remember that addiction changes the way the brain works, and it’s the disease causing the person to behave in harmful or hurtful ways. By viewing addiction as a disease, loved ones can better see the problem for what it is and help the addict get the care he or she needs on the road to addiction recovery.

(Learn more about the science of addiction from addiction expert Wilson Compton, M.D., of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.)

2. Lose the stigma, lose the shame.

Too many people delay or avoid seeking addiction treatment because they are ashamed to identify themselves or their loved one as an addict. If you want to help an addict or help an alcoholic, remember that addiction is a disease. An addict is not a person with a weakness, but a person with a disease.

(See how Karen and John overcame their own shame to seek addiction treatment.)

3. Seek treatment.

Addiction cannot be cured, but it can be managed. This is similar to how asthma can be managed but not cured. It’s important to remember, however, that most people cannot overcome addiction on their own. They need addiction treatment

Addiction treatment helps addicts change their behaviors as they pursue addiction recovery. It also provides them with coping mechanisms for handling stress and situations that might trigger a drug craving. Addiction treatment may include medication, individual therapy, group therapy and/or family therapy. Under certain circumstances, addiction treatment and recovery requires admission to a hospital, addiction facility or outpatient program.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides guidance on how to select a treatment program and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a treatment locator.

(In the above video: see addiction experts offer advice on talking to a loved one about addition treatment.)

4. Don’t despair if relapse occurs.

Treatment for addiction is not the same as a cure for addiction. Addiction is a chronic, lifelong disease. Like any chronic disease that requires lifestyle changes, the relapse rates for addiction are high—with as many as half of addicts relapsing after one year.

However, relapse does not mean a person will never become sober or that addiction recovery isn’t likely; it just means that further treatment is needed. For many, relapse is simply part of the overall treatment process.

5. Be in it for the long haul.

In order to help an addict or alcoholic stay sober, loved ones must commit to providing long-term support. The pull of drugs or alcohol will always be there, and the addict must work over the course of his or her life to fight the urges and behaviors that first led to drug use, and avoid the social situations and stressors that trigger the urge for drug use.

Rest assured, though, that the longer a person stays sober after treatment, the more likely that he or she will be able to maintain long-term sobriety. With your support and care from experts, addiction recovery can become a reality in someone’s life.

(In the above video, see experts including Marvin Seppala, M.D., from Hazelden, discuss how family members can support addicts in their recovery.)

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