Why It’s Important to Realize that Addicted People are Wounded People

Why It’s Important to Realize that Addicted People are Wounded People

The term “addict” evokes a wide range of stereotypes, but exaggerated media portrayals and misinformed stigma do not reflect the realities of modern addiction. Prescription drugs represent the fastest growing segment of illicit substance abuse, and Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports show that emergency room overdoses now split evenly between prescription and illicit drugs. While pharmaceuticals increased substance abuse numbers overall, many illicit drugs remain immensely popular. The club crowd still abuses party drugs like MDMA, newer drugs like K2 and bath salts are gaining traction and heroin made a comeback following new opioid painkiller restrictions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2014 even noted that aging baby boomers caused a statistical spike in drug use in the over-50 age bracket. Today, the addict is as likely to be a neighbor, co-worker or family member as it is a junkie wallowing in some inner-city alley. In the past, ignorance led people to mischaracterize addicts as weak willed, resistant and selfish. The behavioral effects of addiction certainly manifest in negative ways, but more and more people now realize that addicted people are also wounded people.

Several Things You May Not Know about Addiction

To describe addicts as wounded is not to imply moral flaws, deficient character or any other negative attribute. Rather, the term wounded refers to the fact that addiction is a form of brain disease that physically alters neural circuitry. Many people do not realize this or many other surprising facts about addiction, including the following:

  • Substance abuse affects the brain stem, cerebral cortex and mesolimbic system
  • The frontal cortex and underlying white matter connections suffer the brunt of the damage
  • The neural circuitry involved in brain reward physically changes during addiction
  • Drugs bind to specific receptors normally used by naturally occurring chemicals
  • Substance abuse shuts out the natural chemicals and reduces their production
  • Repeated substance use also desensitizes and/or shrinks the targeted receptors
  • Most addicts have genetic traits that predispose them to substance abuse risk
  • Neurobiological abnormalities may link addiction and mental health disorders
  • The biochemical changes impair decision making and limit the addict’s capacity to recognize the problem

Addicts essentially damage their brains and central nervous systems, and the cumulative effects can harm their physical, mental and social health.

The Importance of Understanding Addiction

Are you making someone’s addiction worse? You might if certain things are happening, including the following:

  • The use of empty threats, guilt trips and passive-aggressive behavior to push for change
  • Enabling the addiction by making excuses and providing cover for intoxicated behavior
  • Blaming the addiction for perceived moral shortcomings, weakness and failure
  • Convincing yourself the addict will turn things around if just given enough time

People often exhibit these types of behavior when they misunderstand addiction. Conversely, grasping the nature of the disease and the wounds it causes can empower loved ones to provide effective help. Informed individuals can confidently cease enabling, set bottom lines, help affected family members and stage an intervention. Furthermore, loved ones who understand addiction know they will have a vital role providing social support during the aftercare recovery process.

Free Addiction Hotline

Our admissions coordinators are ready to help. We are available 24 hours a day to discuss addiction, mental health disorders, interventions, warning signs, treatment options and other related issues, and we can even check health insurance policies for rehab benefits. Our helpline is toll-free so please call now.