Addiction is a vicious reality for a large portion of the world’s population. For those that have succumbed to addiction, it can wring the life from their eyes and force them into being people they never dreamed they’d become. For their loved ones, it can be a painful cycle of relapse and recovery, one that is teeming with deceit and dishonesty. Alcohol and drug addiction is a rampant issue in the United States. The heroin epidemic in particular has ravaged every corner of this land, from small towns to grandiose cities. The issue has left many with questions on how to treat the issue or help remedy the effects of addiction in some way.

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It can be difficult, trying to maneuver exactly the right way to help someone with drug addiction while simultaneously ensuring that your own physical and mental health are facilitated and respected. In many circles, the recommended advice that someone can give revolves around doling out “tough love” for the person who is an addict; by that, it implies being strict and stern with the person, and not caving into their demands when they attempt to start their recovery or ask for help from someone. Tough love can be difficult to implement and follow through with, because it requires so much patience and determination from the person engaging with the addict. Yet, in the end, it can be healthy for both the addict and their loved one.

Essentially, the theory surrounding tough love is that it enables the person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol to keep acting the way that they do, through the protection that their loved ones provide. Maybe they ask for money to help with rent, and the loved one thinks that they’re doing them a service by keeping them afloat, when in all reality, that money went towards fostering the addiction and prolonging it. According to a study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, approximately 23.5 million people suffer from the effects of alcohol and drug addiction in America. (American Psychiatric Association, 8) Furthermore, addiction in itself is classified as a disease and a manifestation of mental illness. As such, it is precarious to attempt to navigate dealing with someone who has an extensive drug addiction problem. As James Jeffe states, “Addicts are psychologically bound to the substances that they use. It’s ingrained in their psyche and their minds associate the drugs with their innate survival. It becomes a part of their physiological makeup and as such, it needs to be treated with caution and care. There are no easy routes to handling drug addiction.” (Jaffe, 284) In this regard, it is important to understand the various ways that drug addiction can affect individuals and how they will react when someone tries to break them from their addiction.

A friend of mine had a close loved one who was deeply entrenched in drug addiction and it affected their life tremendously. When I asked them how they had handled the situation, they told me that for years, they and their family had tried to protect and care for the ailing loved one. Yet, it wasn’t until a life-threatening overdose that they realized the power of one’s own devices and the inability they had to truly break the chain of addiction. It was only after they quit relying on their family and realized what the effects of drugs had done to their lives that they were able to analyze the true implications of their addiction in its entirety. As Richard Isralowitz notes, “It’s nearly impossible to work yourself into the mind of a drug addict. They have to work themselves into their own minds and all you can do is be there for support if and when they are able to do so.” (Isralowitz, 122) Catering to and attempting to stop someone from their addiction can be what you think is ideal but it could just potentially foster their continued usage and reliance on the drugs themselves.

Drugs are a powerful entity that can completely enrapture and control one’s mind. From my experience with people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, it’s evident that once someone delves too deeply into a substance, it can consume them. As Daniel Antai-Otong states, “There are few solutions for helping a drug addict. The rates of relapse are significantly higher, depending on the frequency of usage and the amount of outside interference that acts upon their addiction.” (Antai-Otong, 14) Addiction, if allowed, can not only consume the lives of those that have the addictions themselves but those that try to attempt to solve their addiction and the issues that coincide with it.

The subject of drug addiction can be a difficult one for a lot of people; it goes without saying that essentially all of us have either seen or heard of someone who suffers from addiction. With over 23.5 million people addicted in the United States, it has reached a level of epidemic status for the citizens within this country. While someone who is dealing with a loved one or friend addicted to drugs might think that the ideal solution for handling this addiction would be to help protect them and cater to their needs, this could in fact lead to a person’s eventual deeper reliance on the drugs or alcohol themselves. “Tough love” might seem as a brutal or uncaring option, but it could potentially be the only way to force a person to understand the gravity of their decisions and the effects that it has on those that surround them.