Drug addiction is an enormously complex issue, and it’s important to understand that it’s never something that happens in a vacuum. One does not simply become an addict on their own, and live in their own little world, experiencing a pleasant and individual euphoria. It always affects other people, and usually quite intensely, even those friends who seem to have only a tangential relationship with the addict. There is also a very popular misconception, one that’s shared by users and non-users alike, that the addict is only hurting herself or himself. It’s not only a disease that takes the soul away from the addict, but it also works to destroy the lives of those around at the same time.
One of the more subtle affects, and one that’s easily overlooked, has to do with personal and psychological development. When the addict enters into the addiction, growth stops. This doesn’t mean only the times when the drugs are in the system, but as soon as they enter into that kind of obsessive thinking that begins very quickly. Most addicts will deny this when it starts to happen, because it is an extremely terrifying experience, and it’s one that can go on for years and years. While this is happening, all emotional responses are stunted, and the usual gamut of normal human attachments do not form as they should. More often than not, they are based on fear and various forms of manipulation.
There are other more obvious affects on friends. Strange behavior and deep isolation can take their toll on any relationship. The naked truth of addiction is that it is a ride where no one has control. The addict is most certainly taking their loved ones with them along for the ride. They don’t get to feel the same sense of euphoria, though, but only get to experience the fear, the disappointment, and the loss. There are programs in recovery that are devoted solely to those who are close to an addict, either in active addiction or recovery. Here, there seems to be a very peculiar dynamic that forms between addict and non-addict, and the personality types that come from these relationships can actually learn to have very healthy lives together once recovery enters the picture. Either way, it is an enormous toll on friends and loved ones, but in this there is also a possibility for healing.