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Questions and Answers About Addiction

What is addiction?
Addiction is a brain disease that affects many people and many families. You may hear other words used like alcoholism (for people addicted to alcohol), substance dependence, or substance abuse, etc. People who have the disease have lost control over their alcohol/drug use and can lose control over their behavior when they are using. People who are addicted cannot stop without help like treatment and recovery.

How does addiction start?
Doctors believe that addiction runs in families and that maybe it is a combination of having genes that run in our family along with things that happens in that person’s environment. Some people start out drinking just a little bit, but then find that they cannot stop over time. Some people find that they feel calmer when using drugs or alcohol and then believe they need them to feel good. However, once someone loses control over the substance, and they get the brain disease of addiction, they need help to stop.

If addiction is a disease, why doesn’t a person who is addicted just go to the hospital?
Sometimes people who are addicted don’t know they have the disease. Even if they start to think something may be wrong, they may not believe that alcohol or drugs is the problem. Often, the person will blame other things or people because the disease lies to them and tells them they are not addicted. And…realizing that they are addicted can be scary! The good news is that once addicted people understand that alcohol or drugs is the problem, they can ask for help.

How do I know if someone is addicted?
All kinds of people can get addicted to alcohol or drugs. They can be any age, have all sorts of different jobs, and live in all sorts of different places! Most of the time we can tell if someone is addicted by their behavior. You may notice an addicted person telling lies or slurring their words. Perhaps that person is breaking promises or sleeping a lot. There are many symptoms in addiction and everyone is different. If you think a loved one may be addicted, talk to a safe person about your concerns.

What is the cure for addiction?
There is no cure for addiction, but there is hope! The disease process of addiction can be halted by stopping the use of alcohol and drugs and getting help with treatment and recovery (T & R). People who are working a treatment and recovery program are called “recovering addicts [or recovering alcoholic, etc.].” Recovering people can have happy and healthy lives if they stay with T & R!

Can family members make an addicted loved one stop using drugs or alcohol?
No! The addicted person must ask for help from people trained to treat the disease. No one can be forced to accept help, no matter what family members say or try to do. Family members cannot give addicted loved ones the help they need, but they can cheer their loved one on! Family members can, and need to, ask for their own help, and create their own T & R plan to feel better!

How many children in the United States have parents who are addicted?
About eleven million children in our country are growing up with at least one parent who is addicted to alcohol! That’s a lot of kids, and that’s only counting alcohol! There are probably a few kids experiencing addiction in their families just like you in your class right now! And remember, there are many adults, (17 million in the United States with parents addicted to alcohol), who grew up with parents who were addicted too.

So…now that I know I can’t make my addicted parent or family member stop drinking or using drugs, what can I do to help myself feel better?

One of the most important things you can do is talk to someone you trust about the problem. Trusted people may include teachers, counselors, coaches, clergy members, or even a neighbor. Have a list of people and phone numbers you can call if you need help.

Learn more about the disease of addiction and participate in a PITCH 4 KIDZ program and monthly Clubhouse activities. Visit the PITCH 4 KIDZ website to continue learning more about ways you can cope with the disease of addiction in your family. And most important, take care of yourself!

If you are older, you can join a group for kids who have addicted parents called “Alateen.” Alateen has meetings all over, just like a club, where kids can share ideas on how to cope with addiction in their house. You can also ask if there are any Alateen groups at your school.