In co-addiction, an addict will commonly have one or more persons around them who are in effect “fixated” upon them. It could be a spouse or parent or even a friend who could be described as codependent in that they love and wish to support the addict, yet they feel utterly helpless when it comes to the addiction. They do not know what to do about it. They are at the mercy of the addiction much the same as the addict is. True they are not shooting drugs in their veins, but they are in pain in their own way.
To a large degree, this can be remedied when it becomes clear to both parties that the addiction can be dealt with and the addict can get clean and sober. Another common situation is two addicts, or even a group of addicts, who are dependent on one another, use drugs together, etc. A common example of this is people who constantly drink together. Heroin addicts will tend to gravitate toward other heroin addicts. Addiction treatment must address these issues as they can constitute a serious obstacle if ignored.
A person demonstrating addictive behavior will commonly act more and more selfish as their addiction takes hold – with others around them doing nothing, pretending that nothing is wrong, and even actively supporting (enabling) the addiction. The people surrounding an addict could indeed have their own personal issues to deal with. Who doesn’t? But they need some extra help as the situation has gotten too overwhelming for them.
People who behave in a codependent manner are often described as having self-esteem issues which are manifested in their inability to stand up to the addict. They cannot confront the addict or the problem, nor can they communicate properly about it. Evidence exists that some of the same remedies and therapies used for an addict are just as applicable for those connected to an addict, and there are even groups that specialize in this exact field.
Is It the Brain?
In certain psychiatric circles, co-addiction and codependency are discussed in similar terms as addictive behavior, such as the compulsion to engage in actions that create dopamine or other neurotransmitter release. While that could have some basis in fact, codependency has also been characterized as a disorder or disease of the brain, a statement of obvious concern but little to no merit. In fact, as is the case with numerous other “disorders”, there is no conclusive evidence, no medical test, and no empirical scientific results to indicate any disorder or disease of this kind exists.
Holistic and Evidence-Based Methods
While one could argue incessantly as to the influence of the brain or lack of it, it is abundantly clear that there exists a significant and substantial array of influences and factors when it comes to anyone connected to an addict. The holistic view would indicate that a number of methodologies can be employed to help an addict’s family and friends. We need to look at the big picture. Co-addiction affects many more people than just the addict. Holistic and evidence-based systems exist whereby all can benefit.