The Myth of Drug Addiction:
“I’m Only Hurting Myself.”

A drunk man thinks he’s only hurting himself.

There’s a common opinion among those who are addicted that they are only hurting themselves. That’s the way they see it and that’s the excuse they use when they want to rebuff others trying to get the person into rehab. Family will hear this person say: “Just leave me alone! I’m only hurting myself!”

“Just leave me alone! I’m only hurting myself!”

Chances are pretty good the person actually believes this. But anyone around an addicted person knows the utter falsity of this belief. There’s a large circle of people (and animals too) that suffer right along with the addicted individual.

Why Do They Make this Claim?

There’s a couple of reasons. First, the idea that they have neglected and harmed the people they love is unbearable. Even when a person gives the appearance of being heavily influenced by drugs or drinks, his (or her) heart is still beating. He still loves his friends and family. The only way he can face each day is to deeply bury the knowledge of how severely he’s harmed his loved ones.

Believe me, when this person gets into a rehab and starts learning how to feel real feelings again, his guilt related to this harm is going to surface. This is why it’s so vital for a rehab program to have a specific approach to helping a person recover from this guilt. It’s also good for the person to gain the life skills on how to rebuild these relationships. For some people, recovery is likely to include atoning for these past wrongs. If he doesn’t find a way to resolve this guilt, he may never give himself the chance to be happy in the future.

There’s another reason it’s possible to be this far off the mark. And that is, of course, the effects of drugs being used. Drugs and alcohol reduce awareness of one’s environment, responsibilities, emotions and much, much more. As drug use increases and gradually turns into addiction, the individual’s awareness is driven down. Emotional and physical pains are kept masked by the use of more drugs or alcohol.

So who else is suffering?

Spouses: Spouses of both sexes suffer neglect and various types of abuse. An addicted person will manipulate a spouse so it’s possible to continue to use drugs or drink. Inquiries into where all the money went or why the job was lost will be deflected and the spouse will often be harshly criticized for failure to understand or support the addicted person. Of course, there’s many cases of terrible physical abuse, violence and even death.

Children in homes with addicted parents often suffer abuse.

Children: The very best case scenario is that a child with an addicted parent will get less than that parent’s best attention and concern. At worst, there’s no way to measure the kind of tragic abuse and chronic neglect children suffer in a home when one or both parents are addicted. Not infrequently, children die when they are left in the care of a drug-using parent or caregiver.

Friends: Very often, the same kind of love exists between friends as within a family. When an addicted person begins to lose his life to addiction, it hurts his close friends. Friends want so badly to help but may lack the powerful leverage family members have. Still, there are occasions when friends are the ones to help an individual decide to leave drugs behind in favor of a healthier, sober life.

Pets: Loving animals in the home suffer neglect and abuse and may be poisoned by drugs left around the home. Animals, especially dogs, may find cannabis products around the home and need emergency veterinary care to save their lives. Animals may even be abused by implanting drugs in their bodies and then shipping them to another country.

Employers: Those who are addicted struggle with declines in their responsibility and morality. They may steal from their employers, go missing for days or create a hostile work environment. There will be a higher number of work-related injuries and more damage to jobs and materials when some workers are impaired.

An employee drinks at work

Employees: When the owner of a company is addicted, the harm goes in the other direction. The employer may divert funds from a business to support the addiction. Management efforts may become erratic or destructive. At worst, the business may go bankrupt, depriving employees of their jobs.

Neighbors and the community at large: Some addicted people can stay high-functioning for quite a while, but addiction is going to eventually take a severe toll. As we’ve seen already, responsibility and morality are going to suffer. The shock waves from this damage can easily impact the person’s immediate neighborhood and even the whole community. Some addicted people must commit crimes to get money for the drugs they need. Other people drive while intoxicated or high. Social costs in the community go up as more people need medical support for drug-related illnesses or injuries or shelter due to homelessness. More children arrive in foster care. First responders are burdened by more calls to help those who overdose. And so on.

What’s the answer? The best thing you can do as a friend or family member is to pull out all the stops on getting your loved one into an effective drug rehab as soon as you realize there is a persistent drug or alcohol problem. Waiting for years for a change to happen is not the answer. That just extends the suffering on all sides. If you have questions about what kind of drug rehab is effective, you can contact us.



For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.