By Selah Vetter
On March 21, Samford University hosted a lecture on addiction, specifically concerning drugs and alcohol. Samford’s Counseling Services and Wellness Programs hosted the event. Tracy LaForty, a university counselor, led the lecture.
The widespread, detrimental disease of addiction is continuing to affect millions of Americans every year. At the lecture, many students said they knew someone who copes or is affected by an addiction.
According to LaForty, addiction is a choice until it becomes a disease. LaForty said addiction can be hereditary, causing a disposition. There are 11 criteria that determine if someone has an addiction or not.
However, it just depends on how one’s body reacts to the substances. In the brain, the prefrontal cortex controls reasoning. However, substances damage the prefrontal cortex, causing the abuser to have impulsive decisions. Someone who struggles with addiction may not have the willpower to stop because they do not have the braices.
“Addiction is a disease. It shows the same progression as other diseases,” LaForty said.
LaForty also said addiction does not just affect the brain but also relationships. When someone develops an addiction, then they are connecting with substances instead of relationships. In order for someone to continue using, then lying will occur. Family systems are damaged.
“When we use, we cope over those feelings and emotions. I can’t really tell how much it hurts my family and friends. I’m going to make excuses to continue,” Richard Yoakum, the director of Counseling Services and Wellness Programs at Samford, said.
Children of parents who abuse often take on parental roles in order for the parent to not feel guilty. This includes taking care of their siblings.
“One in five children live in a home that is using a substance,” LaForty said.
Family members often become enablers of the addiction. The addict allows the relationship to continue if the family member allows the addiction to continue. This is called codependency. In order for an addict to fully recover, then the family must also become healthy. Co-addicts must know how to interact with the addict. Family members should educate themselves on addiction and attend family counseling. Both the family and the addict have to get healthy in order for recovery to work.
“You need to connect before you can correct,” LaForty said.
Addiction is a chronic disease. The Alcoholics Anonymous program, or AA, has 12 steps to help the addict recover. It is progressive like the disease. Addicts must first admit that they have a problem. They should get out of their environment and go to a rehabilitation center. Boundaries must be established.
Addicts are often consumed with guilt and shame. Due to this, AA meetings start by introducing oneself first by name and then stating one’s disease.
“Identity and name are more important than the disease,” LaForty said.
The perception of addiction is negative due to lack of education and judgement. This often causes us to ignore the fact people we do not associate with addiction can be addicts. Addiction impacts more people than anyone let’s on. Approximately 40 percent of addicts are now women.
“We should start looking at people with more compassion than judgement,” Yoakum said.