Long term drug and alcoholic abuse causes physical damage such as neurological damage, mental health problems, liver disease, anxiety and depression as well as certain cancers. A family that has a member that is a substance abuser needs coping strategies and need to understand the addiction disease and that an addict will cause chaos within their family unit.

Addicts, do not choose to be an addict, the same as one would not choose to have cancer. Drug and alcohol dependency go hand in hand with environmental and genetic causes and dependency is not a question of willpower. A substance abuser will keep using substances, irrespective of the consequences due to the brain pleasure system which produces chemical changes. The mesolimbic dopamine system in the brain is the trigger that causes an addict to feel good and forms the basis of the addiction disease.

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The Addictive Brain Response

With the repeated overuse of drugs or alcohol, this stimulates the pleasure system and an addict loses the ability to satisfy and control their cravings. There are millions of people in South Africa the require treatment for substance abuse and dependency, that creates a feeling of frustration, anger, helplessness and guilt feelings within the family and circle of friends. Learning about and understanding the addiction disease can help eliminate emotional and social stress placed on a family.

Families of addicts should carry out as much research as possible as well as join support groups. Recovery programs held by SHARP rehabilitation centre, help families deepen their understanding of substance abuse by sharing experiences and making families understand that they do not have to do this alone. Statistics have shown that around 18% of adults have grown up with an alcoholic in the home and around 45% have had dealt with an alcoholic.

Children that have grown up with an alcoholic or drug addict have a far higher chance of becoming a substance abuser and falling victim to the addiction disease. There are strategies families can use to help restore balance of which one is learning to detach with love. Families need to allow an addict to make mistakes and learn from them, as opposed to helping the addict avoid their addictive behaviour and consequences.