Contrary to popular belief, addiction is an illness that can affect almost anyone, and those who do go on to develop this illness often do not realise they are in trouble. When it comes to alcohol or prescription medication in particular, it can be difficult to tell when a line has been crossed. Those who have moved from habitual use to problem use often cannot recognise the signs and symptoms of addiction in themselves.
Addiction is a progressive illness that occurs gradually over time. Many individuals will start off with drinking one glass of wine at the weekend, before increasing that amount to two glasses. Before long, they have a glass of wine every evening. As they continue to drink alcohol, their bodies will become tolerant to the effects, meaning they will have to drink more to achieve the feelings they desire. When this happens, they are in danger of developing a physical dependence, followed by addiction. Once addiction occurs, the individual will be unable to exert any control over his or her use.
The Effect of Addiction on the Family
Many people believe that addicts are only hurting themselves and that they should be left to their own devices. However, this is never the case; for every one person with an addiction, it is estimated that a further five people will be negative affected. Addiction has a considerable impact on children as well, and the NSPCC has recently released figures that show a sixteen per cent increase in the number of reported incidents where parents have been caring for their children while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Figures also show that there is one report every hour, with the NSPCC receiving 8,552 reports of substance misuse among parents in 2016. As a result of this, a Christian expert is now calling for churches to be on the lookout for ‘subtle’ signs of substance abuse among members.
Chris Wood, who works for a Christian rehab centre, said that those who work with addicts would not be surprised at the figures. He added, “Actually, it’s probably quite a lot more than that, to be honest; those are the ones that are reported. It all depends on what you mean by abuse or neglect; some of its overt – you can see dad ranting at the kids in the street – but a lot of it is far more subtle than that.”
Passing on the Habit
Mr Wood described the effect that parental addiction can have on the family and said that many children of addicted parents would go on to develop addiction problems themselves in later life. He said parents unwittingly pass on the habit and explained, “Often a lot of our guys coming through here will not know who one or the other parents are, or would have been brought up in a house where both parents are active heroin users and are around needles.”
He said that churches could assist members with addiction in a number of ways. He went on to say, “Churches are not brilliant at helping addicts. If you can’t be honest and open at church because you feel too embarrassed, then something really needs to be done about that. There is so much addiction out there that we need to recognise that prayer is the most powerful tool we have. How do you deal with the drunk that walks in and starts spoiling the service? It’s not easy – you have to think about the majority of people in the service but at the same time that guy is hurting, and the church can go a long way in understanding why people get in that state.”