Many people think that all an addict has to do to get clean is to stop using. They can get angry and frustrated when their loved one continues to use, even when it causes such negative consequences. The reality is that is simply isn’t that easy. If they could so easily stop using, who in their right mind would miss the birth of their child because they are out using drugs, put themselves into significant debt or blow-off their already frustrated partner on a date because they want to get high?

At first, drug taking and drinking is usually a choice. When the quantities and regularity at which you use them increase, it can turn into an addiction where the ability to control the intake diminishes. Most addicts begin by thinking that they could stop if they wanted to, and it’s only after repeated failures to stop that they may begin to see they have a problem. Because of long-term drug and alcohol use, there are significant changes in the brains structure. These changes can lead to many behavioural changes in the user which causes an inability to control their drug-taking impulses. Since these brain changes persist long after the person has become sober, the risk of relapse especially early on in recovery, is still quite high.  For most types of drugs and alcohol, the brain only returns to normal functioning after around 12 months of sobriety, but this can vary depending on individual circumstances.

Understanding that addiction has a such a fundamentally biological component helps explain why they may not be able to stop on their own. Work stress, family issues, physical pain, social encounters and even smells can all trigger a person to feel intense cravings to use, without the person even being aware of the trigger.

At this point you may feel hopeless, but all hope is not lost. The fact that you are reading this and wondering how to help, proves that there is still hope for your loved one to recover. First, you will need to accept the fact that your loved one may not be able to stop on their own. When you have accepted this, you can begin the process of helping them get into treatment. Research shows that active participation in rehabilitation treatments is an essential factor in creating positive, lasting results and can help even the most heavily addicted users. Whether it be counselling, out-patients programs or residential programs, there is help available when your loved one is ready to accept it.