How Denial Can Work in Drug and Alcohol Addiction

How Denial Can Work in Drug and Alcohol Addiction

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Drug and alcohol addiction can be harder to define than most people realize.  When does a habit cross the line into drug addiction?  What about people who smoke marijuana on a regular basis, are they actually addicted to the drug or do they merely have a habit of smoking the stuff?  Is a habit a good thing and an addiction a bad thing?  And so on.

To better define our terms we would probably do well to define what we want out of life and what makes us happy.  This can get really tricky, however, and any addict who is hooked on a chemical needs to take the time to really think this through and be honest with themselves about it.  It is pretty easy to smoke weed every day, for example, and say “yes of course, Marijuana makes me happy.  Duh!”

Let’s think about this.  For example, consider all of those people on the planet who are addicted to smoking cigarettes.  Just think about their addiction for a moment.  For one thing, the typical pack-a-day smoker is seriously addicted.  They are physically addicted.  And if they do not get a cigarette all day long, they start to go a bit crazy.  They get really irritable and cranky, for one thing.  There are other withdrawal symptoms, of course, and these will vary a bit from person to person.  But here is the key and here is what we need to think about: if you ask a cigarette smoker if cigarettes make them happy, they will undoubtedly say “yes, cigarettes make them happy.”

This is denial.

It is denial because the cigarettes don’t actually make them happy, but they perceive this to be the case because they are hooked on them.  When a smoker goes for about an hour without a cigarette, their body starts to go into withdrawal.  So the person lights up a cigarette in order to avoid nicotine withdrawal.  This is not “pleasure from smoking,” this is simply avoiding the pain of withdrawal. To say that the cigarette is actually “making them happy” is denial, because what they are really doing is avoiding pain.  They are like a hamster caught on a treadmill, having to smoke just to feel normal.

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Now is marijuana the same thing as this?  Not even close.  There is not, in most smokers, any physical withdrawal symptoms with marijuana.  But guess what?  There are psychological withdrawal symptoms, and those are even more powerful than physical symptoms.  So addiction can be very cunning, and make us believe that a real psychological dependency is only a mere “habit,” when in fact we are depending on the chemical to deal with our every day life and cope.

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