Talking Health & Wellness - Kenneth W. Faistl, MD, FAAFP
Kenneth W. Faistl, MD,FAAFP
Raritan Bay Medical Center
3 Hospital Plaza, Suite 314
Old Bridge, NJ 08857
What would you like people to understand most about addiction?
Addiction is the loss of ability to control one’s life because of reliance on something else such as drugs or a lifestyle activity (gambling, eating, sex, shopping, etc.) Addiction is a neurobehavioral disorder. The condition is beyond the person’s control because, as is the case of a drug use disorder, the substance has taken over. The substance impedes the person’s ability to make decisions that are wise and thoughtful.
What should you do if you suspect your child is addicted or is becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol?
If you are suspicious – perhaps money is missing or medications are disappearing from your medicine cabinet – you need to investigate further. Consider your child’s behavior: are there troubling changes in school or are their friends getting into trouble? These are definitely signs that it’s time to take action. However, in order to get your child help, you must confront them in a way that will emphasize your concern.
If at all possible, both parents should approach the child together. Remind each other that neither of you is to blame; there should be no finger-pointing. Instead, you must present a united front. Remember, this is not about either of you; it’s about your child who needs your help. You will be far more successful if you work together and approach your child in a non-punitive way.
What should be expected when confronting a child who is suffering with drug or alcohol addiction?
When you confront them, there will be denial and pushback. You have to approach them by saying, “We are concerned about you as a person and we want to get you the help that’s needed so you don’t get hurt.” However, be ready for confrontation and backlash. Rest assured, this won’t be easy – but it may be the most important conversation you ever have. Your child must engage in their own treatment for it to be effective in the long run. Therefore, forcing them into rehab (whether residential or outpatient) will be far less effective than convincing them that they need help and you are going to do everything you can to help and support them.
Are there any effective treatments for drug addiction?
If someone you love is addicted to drugs, it’s important to focus on the fact that this is a treatable disease. Start by involving a physician, preferably one who believes in a holistic approach to mental and physical health. Appropriate treatment for a drug use disorder has three parts: engagement and treatment, therapy and lifelong care.
First, the person must get off the substance by entering into a rehabilitation program. There are effective residential and intensive outpatient facilities available. (Most accept a wide variety of insurances.) Doctors in rehab are able to use medications that successfully allow a person to get through withdrawal from the addictive substance. Next, once the person has been detoxed, they can engage in their own treatment. Group and individual therapy sessions can help build self-esteem and effective defense mechanisms so the person can avoid the things that drove them to the addictive behavior in the first place.
Finally, addiction recovery is a lifelong process. It’s critical to make sure the person becomes involved in a long-term care program such as AA or NA because 12-Step programs are an important part of lifelong care.
Some helpful websites: Drug Free America Foundation (dfaf.org), the Step Up Program (tepupprogram.org), Alcoholics Anonymous (aa.org), and Narcotics Anonymous (na.org).
Dr. Kenneth Faistl is a board-certified family physician with added qualifications in geriatrics. He is also board certified in addiction medicine. He is the medical director of New Hope Foundation, a residential and outpatient alcohol and drug rehab facility in Marlboro, New Jersey.