Drug addiction is characterised by the compulsive use of drugs in spite of the negative consequences. And these penalties can be devastating – job loss, divorce, arrests, and health problems.
So why do drug addicts continue to use regardless of the costs? The answer lies partly in the presence of “withdrawal symptoms” which is one of the hallmarks of drug addiction. If the addict stops using drugs abruptly they may suffer very unpleasant physical symptoms. So the addict will be caught in the trap where they are forced to use to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
The other major contributor is denial. The tricky thing about denial is that the addict absolutely believes their own denials. Some people say that denial is an acronym for “Don’t even know I am lying”.
Denial is an unconscious defense mechanism that protects us from a reality that’s too painful to acknowledge. Drug addiction rehabilitation has the task of dismantling the mental processes associated with denial. This is a important aspect of the treatment process without which rehab will fail.
How do addicts deny their drug addiction?
- Rehab patients make excuses to justify their drug addiction.
They may blame their using on any number of things – feeling sad, past trauma, stress, their parents and upbringing, or even the weather!
- This justification is a form of denial.
The addict is not willing to admit that they are using drugs because (s)he is unable to stop. Making excuses is a fairly overt form of denial – the addict may say things like “I’m not a serious addict; I only use drugs because of the stress at work”.
- A more subtle form of denial is minimizing the consequences of drug addiction.
When people minimize their consequences they downplay how bad their problem has been. The unspoken rationale behind this seems to be that if drugs are not a problem in life then they can continue using.
- Patients in drug addiction treatment may minimize the quantities they consumed.
This can be overtly dishonest through misreporting the quantity in order to make their problem seem less severe.
- Drug addicts also intellectualize their problem and blame others for it.
Once a person is dependent of drugs it’s best to seek in-patient treatment for effective rehabilitation.
Working through denial of drug addiction
One way that a rehab counsellor can overcome this form of denial is by obtaining collateral information from a friend or family member. The collateral information will likely be more accurate about the nature of the problem, since the family member has nothing to fear from exposing the addiction.
Another way that denial of drug addiction can be overcome is through the group therapy process. Addicts are very good at spotting denial in other addicts. By coming together as a group each member will have the opportunity to receive feedback from her peers. This feedback can expose blind-spots that the addict may not have known about.
This will help to overcome denial as the logical fallacies that support it may be drawn into question.
The group process can also help break down denial of drug addiction simply by providing an environment where it is safe and acceptable to admit to the nature of the problem. A group of supportive peers, all of whom acknowledge their problem, will provide social support to an addict battling with denial.
Denial really can interfere with your drug addiction treatment. Think about it – if you don’t accept that you have a problem then how can you work on it?
The good news is that an addict can be in complete denial when they arrive at the treatment center and still benefit from the program. In fact one could go so far as to suggest that even somebody who arrives willingly at treatment could still have some level of denial in the form of “reservations”.
So don’t panic if your loved one is in denial, the treatment centre will be able to help them through it.
If your loved one is in denial of his/her problem and you would like expert advice on how to help please contact us today. Our addiction treatment consultants will give you independent advice drawn from years of training and careful research.