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What Makes Addiction So Complex and Hard To Overcome?

It’s not unusual to become frustrated with family or loved ones who struggle with addiction. There is a huge stigma against addiction that exists, in part, because many people feel that drug abuse or addiction is a moral failing. But, people whose children, siblings, or other loved ones suffer from addiction can gain empathy by understanding the complexities of addiction and the reasons that recovery can be difficult. At Destinations for Teens, we understand that drug addiction is a disease. Treating teen addiction requires a unique approach.

More Than a Matter of Willpower

When someone suffers from addiction, it can be impossible to use willpower to abstain from drugs or alcohol simply. Drug addiction changes a sufferer’s brain, creating compulsions to use. Over time, these changes can make it impossible to resist the impulse to take drugs. Additionally, the brain’s reward system can become compromised by drug abuse and addiction. When a person takes opiates, he or she experiences an intense feeling of pleasure. Those who become addicted seek out the sensation repeatedly. But, over time, opiate use can inhibit the brain’s ability to produce its own painkillers and the feel-good chemical dopamine. The addiction sufferer becomes unable to feel good without the help of opioid drugs. Addiction is also rarely a health problem that exists on its own. Many people who suffer from addiction also have a mental illness. When this occurs, individuals need dual diagnosis treatment. This form of treatment for co-occurring disorders (the term for when an individual is dependent upon a substance and experiencing a mental health issue like anxiety or depression) addresses each issue simultaneously. By doing so, dual diagnosis greatly reduces the risk of relapse while improving an individual’s physical and mental health. Drug use can exacerbate or mask symptoms, making treatment difficult until a full and correct diagnosis is reached. Long-term drug use can also lead to other health problems such that range from malnutrition to digestive disorders to brain damage. Seeing these in a family member can be extremely painful.

Social Problems of Drug Use

In addition to what is going on inside the sufferer’s body and mind, there are negative social repercussions to deal with. In some cases, a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol will behave in ways that alienate parents and friends. Someone who is feeding an addiction may resort to anti-social behaviors to get money to sustain drug use. You may find your child asking for loans or gifts of money or selling treasured family heirlooms. There are many signs to tell if your loved one is struggling with addiction. Other times, he or she may steal cash, checks from your wallet, or drugs from your medicine cabinet. People in this situation rarely restrict theft to family. If they steal from others, arrests and jail can follow Plus, since drug possession and sales are themselves illegal, it is not unusual for a loved one who is struggling with addiction to have a criminal record. All of these negative effects can spiral outward to involve other parts of your family member’s life. When your child has a drug conviction, the negative effects include:

  • Ineligibility for student loans
  • Ineligibility for housing and other aid
  • Other assistance options making a full re-entry into society difficult

Many employers will not hire a person who has been charged or convicted of drug use. Because of the difficulty involved in reestablishing secure networks, relapses or resistance to treatment can be common.

Finding Help and Lasting Health

The good news is that our understanding of addiction continues to evolve. Modern treatments give us a framework to treat your loved one as a whole, rather than simply to put a band-aid on drug use. By addressing physical and mental health, social wellness, and a strong support network, we build a better framework for lasting sobriety and a full re-entry into society. Destinations for Teens offer numerous paths of therapy and treatment for adolescents and young adults to address their physical addiction as well as their mental health issues. You and your family have options thanks to our several teen treatment centers in California:

Contact us at 877.466.0620 to learn more about the disease of addiction.


  1. Retrieved from on 4/03/15
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse Addiction Science: From Molecules to Managed Care Retrieved from on4/03/15
  3. American Society of Addiction Medicine Definition of Addiction Retrieved from on 4/03/15