There are many misconceptions about people who have become addicted to alcohol or drugs. Such individuals are often portrayed as weak, intrinsically evil or otherwise having a poor character. These ideas are often without foundation. People from all walks of life regularly fall victim to serious alcohol or drug addiction. Substance addiction problems do not discriminate. Large numbers of otherwise decent people from all socioeconomic groups have become addicted to alcohol or substances. Paradoxically, individuals from certain highly respected occupations such as medicine, dentistry and law enforcement have particularly high rates of drug and alcohol problems. Some experts in this field have suggested that there may be some genetic predisposition for drug or alcohol addiction. An addiction to drugs or alcohol is never an indication of poor character. Nevertheless, drug or alcohol addiction is a serious problem that destroys many lives. This article aims to discuss some of the important practical issues in overcoming substance addiction. I hope this article also provides you with inspiration to triumph over your addiction and rebuild a happy life. You deserve a rewarding and fulfilling life. A genuine commitment to action in overcoming addiction will be the best and most important decision you will ever make. It is that important.

Many people have experience with a relative, friend or acquaintance suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. Like many people, I have a story to tell. My best friend from high school was a brilliant student. His future seemed full of promise in the emerging information technology industry. In the first few years after school, everything seemed to be going according to plan. When my friend moved away to a different city, the situation changed dramatically. In a new environment, my friend felt isolated. My friend started drinking excessively. Within a short period of time, his work began to suffer. A sequence of events seemed to spiral out of control. Within a few months my friend's self-esteem seemed to completely collapse. His response was to drink even more heavily. Even after he returned home, he continued to drink uncontrollably. Several attempts at rehabilitation proved unsuccessful. He could no longer maintain a regular job. The downward cycle continued at an accelerating speed. A few months ago I received a phone call informing me that my friend had taken his own life. I was devastated and confused. My friend was highly intelligent and had an impeccable character. Somehow he had just completely lost his way. How could such a life of apparent promise come to such a tragic conclusion? Such situations are all too familiar.

Addiction to drugs or alcohol has several obvious harmful effects. These impacts are psychological, physiological and practical. Almost all categories of drugs are directly responsible for specific, medically proven illnesses. Heavy alcohol consumption causes a number of specific and life-threatening medical and psychiatric conditions. Traditional addictive drugs have well-established problems associated with repeated usage. Illnesses linked to some of the newer designer drugs are emerging at a rapid rate. Certainly, these supposedly 'safer' drugs are causing an ever-increasing number of visits to emergency departments across the globe. Frequently these designer drugs are made in underground labs and contain impurities and contaminants with unpredictable effects. A detailed discussion of all the harmful medical effects of different types of drugs and alcohol is beyond the scope of this brief article. I would urge you to learn more about the specific actions and effects of different addictive substances. You will be directed to other more specific sites in the 'Overcoming Addictions' section of our useful links page.

The effects of drug and alcohol addiction are not limited to physical or psychological changes. Addiction has significant harmful impacts on daily life. A drug or alcohol habit can ruin careers and important relationships. Under the influence of alcohol or drugs, many people have serious accidents or make irresponsible decisions that have long-term consequences. Many individuals are forced to lie, cheat or become involved in crime to support their addiction. Poverty is common. Addicts often lose all sense of dignity and respect from other people. Family and friends quickly become tired of the lies and deceit. Daily activities become based exclusively on the urgent need to obtain drugs or alcohol. Lose your job. Lose all your friends. Lose your dignity and sense of self-worth. Miss opportunities. Lose your health. End up in prison. The list goes on. It is definitely time to make a change for the better! Reclaim your life before it is too late. Now is the perfect time to take the problem seriously and stop abusing substances. Think carefully about the benefits of overcoming your addiction.

                   Drug addiction (dependence) implies that the person feels compelled - for                                physiological and psychological reasons or both - to take the drug on a
                   regular basis and feels severe distress without it. 

Thinking of Quitting? Here's why it is a great idea!

It is worth the effort

Dependent on drugs or alcohol, your life cannot improve. Life may not immediately improve but it will get better if you are committed to rebuilding. Your relationships and health will slowly improve. People will usually forgive your irresponsible actions. If you show genuine regret and commitment to treating your addiction, most fair-minded people will eventually respect and trust you once more. Patience will normally be rewarded but sometimes it takes time to convince other people of your genuine intentions. Once people understand and accept your commitment they are often highly supportive. You simply do not know until you try! A new beginning with a clean slate is a real possibility. What can you lose?

You will eventually succeed

Do not underestimate the task ahead. Giving up a drug or alcohol addiction is never easy. Remaining addicted is even more difficult. If you remain determined and firmly committed you will eventually beat the addiction. Ultimately, success depends on your actions and attitudes. Don't become discouraged by a few setbacks. Keep trying and you will succeed if you want it enough. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to control your substance dependency. Start today.

Drugs and alcohol are never a solution, they are just another problem

There are numerous reasons why people develop a substance addiction. Many people abuse substances in a futile attempt to escape from emotional pain and trauma. Certainly it makes considerably more sense to seek professional help and support to overcome the legitimate pain and hurt inside. Regrettably, drowning your sorrows can never take way the suffering. Drugs and alcohol just add to the pain by creating new problems. Another common explanation for addiction is a lack of self-worth. What could be more damaging for your self-esteem than becoming an alcoholic or a drug addict? Surely, it makes much more sense to simply build and enhance self-worth. Giving up your addiction is a great way to start that process. Why create extra problems in your life with substance abuse? Solve the real problems effectively and permanently. You are entitled to a rewarding and happy life. Addicts and alcoholics are not bad people, just people with a medical illness. You deserve support, compassion and help not more problems from addiction to alcohol and drugs.

Celebrate the New You

Imagine how much happier your life could be after you have triumphed over your addiction. You will no longer be forced to spend your days just looking for a drink or a hit. That's right, you won't be trapped by your addiction anymore. You will have time to meet interesting new people and learn different things. Life might just become fun again! There will no longer be a need to lie to people or deceive them. Your finances and health will almost certainly improve. You can feel proud again. You might start a new career or meet a new partner. It won't occur overnight but if you keep looking forward and remain positive good things will eventually happen. As long as you remain addicted, nothing can ever improve. When you stop, many good things can happen. What have you got to lose by trying?

Practical issues

First the bad news. Quitting alcohol or drugs is not easy. It requires courage, strong commitment and patience. Many people have failures before finally breaking their habit. You must take personal responsibility for overcoming your addiction. The success of your healing depends almost entirely on your own actions. Many people however want to help and support you through and ensure your success. Symptoms of withdrawal can be an unpleasant short-term problem but soon disappear. Frequently, social readjustment is needed. Despite these harsh realities, it is 100% worth the effort. Life will only improve if you take the step to beat your habit. Let's talk about some practicalities of beating a substance addiction.

The reaction from friends

Most friends and family are likely to be supportive and offer encouragement. Some of your current friends may be drinking partners or fellow drug users. Peer group pressure is often very strong. Addicted friends may strongly pressure you to continue your substance use. Resist these pressures. Social functions where other people are smoking, drinking or using drugs can be a difficult challenge. You will soon learn to cope effectively with peer pressure in social gatherings. If friends genuinely care about your health and well being they should encourage you to break the habit. Many people find joining a support group really useful to cope with persistent pressure from fellow addicts to keep using. Over a period of time, this peer pressure will decrease and eventually become insignificant. You may even discover that some of your addicted friends may be inspired by your example and quit too! If your present friends cannot accept your choice to break your addiction, find new ones. There is no shortage of genuine people who will provide positive input to your life. Don't waste time with people who do not have your best interests at heart.

Withdrawal and readjustment

In many cases coping with symptoms of withdrawal is an unfortunate reality. It is wise to seek appropriate advice from qualified professionals to help you through this difficult time. Doctors and other drug and alcohol advisers will know how to minimize problems and give you the best possible chance of success. Withdrawal is uncomfortable but worth every bit of discomfort to have an opportunity of a better life! Why remain imprisoned by drugs and alcohol when you can live freely and happily?

Another benefit of quitting your habit is that you will probably have additional time and money that was previously wasted on maintaining your addiction. Manage your time wisely to become involved in enjoyable and productive activities. Learn new things and make friends. You won't get bored and your self-esteem will probably improve. Do not allow yourself to ever go back to the nightmare world of substance abuse.

Failures and successes

Many people require a few unsuccessful attempts before finally breaking a drug or alcohol habit. Do not become dispirited if you have previously failed to overcome your habit. Do not blame yourself or believe that you have failed. The important thing is to keep trying. If you remain genuinely committed and don't give up, you will eventually triumph. You might succeed at the very first attempt. It might take ten failures before success is finally achieved. Either way, it is worth every little bit of effort. Provided you overcome your addiction, the final result is all that matters.

Don't become complacent. Temptation is never far away. In a moment of weakness you might slide back into the twilight world of addiction. Cherish each day and remain involved in activities that enhance your life and self-esteem. Keep up the good work by reinforcing your successes.

Taking the challenge

Only you can overcome your addiction. There are many ways to start. What matters most is to act decisively. The useful links section of will guide you to organizations which can help and provide advice and support. It is vital that you seek individual advice about rehabilitation in a location close to you. Look in your local phone book for the number and make the call that could change your life. Don't procrastinate. A happier, brighter future awaits. Wishing you success and happiness!

By Dr Andrew Rylatt (Medical Doctor)
8th February 2004
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