The consequences of addiction are harmful and destructive for everyone involved.
The problem may be excruciatingly obvious for family and friends, but for the person struggling with addiction, the problem may be impossible to comprehend.
There is much speculation regarding the root cause of addiction. Regardless of how it starts, the psychological effects of addiction can be devastating.
The implications to cognition often present with denial, distorted, obsessive and grandiose thinking.
The effect on cognition can be devastating. The parts of the brain that are associated with addiction are also involved in memory, learning, and reasoning.
The effect is twofold; it both damages neural connections and alters other connections in such a way that the addictive substance’s pleasurable effect is basically burned into the user’s memory.
This effect can make it difficult for the person to recover, but with abstinence the brain will heal. The healing process just takes time.
Denial of the addiction is extremely common and, unfortunately, is not something that everyone overcomes.
The denial might manifest itself as a student who abuses a prescription for ADHD amphetamines and tells themselves that it is medicine and they need to take more than prescribed.
The denial is a defense mechanism that allows the person who is using to continue to do so. The drug user’s brain is actually telling him or her to deny that there is any problem because the brain actually believes that it needs the drug to survive.
The person may fear admitting being addicted because then they believe that they will have to stop using. The person may attempt to convince themselves and others that they do not have a problem, however, that in and of itself indicates that there is in fact a problem.
The problem is actually in the mind of the user and he or she will need help seeing the situation for what it is.
Distorted thinking is a given with people who are suffering from the disease of addiction. The diseased brain tells the person that all that matters is the drink or drug.
There are many ways that thinking may be distorted. The thought process may fall into such categories as generalizing, catastrophizing, blaming, personalizing, and “all-or-nothing” thinking.
The person’s thinking is often elaborately distorted, both in how they view themselves and in how they believe others view them. The distorted thinking usually works to excuse negative behavior, such as using drugs and alcohol to excess.
The addicted person may even believe that no one is being harmed by his or her use of alcohol or drugs.
Obsession occurs in cases of addiction. The addicted person may spend all resources to obtain the substance of abuse. This often manifests in a complete takeover of the user’s life by the substance.
Eventually, it is all that the person thinks about and everything else is seen through a lens of how their using is perceived, whether their drug of choice is welcome or opposed, and whether a person, place or thing helps obtain more. A person who is using may change friends, jobs, and anything else that is seen as a threat to his or her using.
The addicted person often feels that they desperately need the substance, even to survive. Due to this extreme emotional attachment to the substance, the person may believe that everyone should work to help them obtain more or, at the very least, not stand in their way.
Grandiose thinking is characterized by the belief that what matters to the individual must be of the upmost importance to everyone else. This thought pattern is best described as exceptionally selfish and self-centered.
The person may truly believe that their needs are as important to everyone else as they are to themselves. Everything is about them. Grandiosity is often a companion to obsessive thinking, with which thoughts are centered on the substance of abuse.
Hope for the Hopeless
A person that is addicted and actively abusing a substance can be extremely difficult to communicate with openly, honestly, and productively.
For people suffering from the disease of addiction and their loved ones, the more that is known about the disease, the better the chances for recovery.
There is hope and recovery is possible.