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The Role Denial Plays in Drug Addiction Treatment

Those who need help for a drug addiction might be unwilling to accept the seriousness of their situation for some time. They may be unable to accept that they actually have a problem, which can make it impossible for family members to get them into drug addiction treatment.

Denial is a defence mechanism employed by the brain to protect the individual from facing reality. Denial is common among people diagnosed with all sorts of illnesses and conditions, not just drug addiction. Sometimes people practice denial after being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as cancer; others may be in denial after finding out they are pregnant.

When it comes to drug addiction, denial is very common. While it may be obvious to everyone else, the person with the addiction may be oblivious to the fact that his or her drug use is a big problem and one that requires help. Even if the addict can see that his or her life is a complete mess, it is likely that denial will mean he or she will blame everything but the drug use. As long as the addict continues to practice denial, it is unlikely that he or she will be able to move forward into drug addiction treatment.

What Causes Denial

People do not deliberately deny they have a drug addiction out of stubbornness. As mentioned above, it is often a subconscious defence mechanism employed by the brain to protect the person from the reality of his or her situation. Denial can be so strong that many addicts are unable to see that they have a problem even when it is clearly obvious to everyone else.

When a drug addict practices denial, it can be so tough to break down, that family members and friends can be left feeling frustrated and angry. They cannot see how their loved one continues to deny the problem exists when to them it is so clear that the person’s addictive behaviour is the root of all their problems.

Obstacle to Drug Addiction Treatment

When an individual has a drug addiction but cannot see it, loved ones will be unlikely to get him or her to accept the idea of drug addiction treatment. If the addict refuses to recognise that addiction is an issue, he or will not even contemplate the idea of rehab.

There are many reasons addicts deny their problem, but perhaps one of the most common is the fact that stereotyping of addiction still exists. The fact that most people’s idea of what constitutes drug addiction is incorrect only exacerbates the problem.

Most believe drug addicts to be well-known to police or have a criminal history. They are under the impression that the addicts are always high on drugs, steal from family and friends, or shoot up down dark alleyways. Some believe that all drug addicts do not work, do not wash, and come from a poor background.

This stereotypical image of what a drug addict is often fuels denial among those with the addiction. If they are high functioning addicts, with good jobs, loving families and nice homes, they may be unable to classify themselves as drug addicts and will not even consider the idea that they may need drug addiction treatment.

Breaking Through Denial

The only way to get an addict into drug addiction treatment if the individual is in denial is to break through this barrier. Drug addicts are often great at justifying their behaviour and will have a host of excuses as to why they act the way they do. Some will tell you that they have a tough job, and the only way to unwind is with drugs. Others blame an unhappy marriage or a horrible boss for their miserable life.

Still others believe that life would be boring if they did not take drugs, or feel that they cannot function without these chemical substances. Denial means that they will never see that the real reason they are miserable is that of their drug use.

Defeating Denial through Breakdown

In some instances, an addict will be able to break through his or her denial by hitting rock bottom. It could be that he or she is faced with an undeniable situation such as the complete breakdown of a relationship or a serious health issue relating to his or her drug use. In this situation, there will be no way to continue ignoring the problem and the problem of drug addiction treatment may be something that is finally considered.

The best scenario for family members is if their loved one manages to break through denial themselves. However, in some instances, drug addicts are still practicing denial even when they have agreed to enter a programme of drug addiction treatment.

Help Is Available

The good news is that addiction counsellors and therapists are experienced when it comes to helping patients break the cycle of denial. They use a method known as motivational interviewing. This type of therapy helps patients to accept the destructive path they are on. A non-confrontational and supportive approach is used, and experienced therapists will also help to increase the person’s motivation to get well.

Gentle questioning and probing are used to encourage the patient to confront themselves. The patient learns how to evaluate his or her own behaviour and, in most instances, this can be enough to motivate them to overcome their addiction.

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