Drug abuse is one of the worst addictions that have badly hit our society. Such addictions eat up happiness, finances, peace of families, and of course, it costs the health of the addicted. Medicircle is conducting an exclusive series against drug abuse and speaking to eminent de-addiction specialists, psychiatrists, and therapists to spread awareness about the treatment of addicts.
Vandana Hiranandani is Administrative Director and Family Therapist at Anatta Humanversity, which is an exclusive, luxurious alternate life treatment facility for those afflicted and affected by addiction to alcohol and drugs. As an experiential family therapist, she is an excellent counselor helping co-dependents (spouses, parents, children, and friends) of chemically dependent people. Vandana coordinates and offers help and counseling to both dependents and co-dependents, on issues related to fitness of the mind, body, social, interpersonal, and spiritual growth. As an excellent administrator, she has extensive knowledge of macro and micro-planning, managing, and designing public information systems as well as client relation programs. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the organization’s corporate image and identity.
Identify the red flags
Vandana mentions, “Looking at the red flag is important in youngsters or family members who seem to be addicted, and hand-holding is required to make them come out of drug or alcohol addiction. One has to identify the behavior which is new like:
- Increase in monthly expenditure
- Behavioral changes – irritability, throwing tantrums, etc.
- Isolation – the person does not like attending family functions or does not wish to meet friends or relatives when they are home
- Eats more sweets
- Food intake increases to double the amount and despite that, there is a feeling of hunger
- Sudden low grades in class
- Stony, glazed eyes
The first sign of significant change in behavior should be enough to move ahead to help instead of waiting for more signals or things to worsen,” says Vandana.
How to approach the problem of addiction in a loved one?
Vandana advises, “We should deal with positivity with people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. The addict is baffled too with his / her addiction but is not able to come out of it. They need a compassionate approach to help them out. Choose the best time to discuss this matter with them. The most appropriate time is when the person wakes up and is yet to take his first dose of what he/she is addicted to. At that time their frame of mind would be more conducive to have a logical discussion. You should not reprimand, scold, beat or look down upon the person rather show them understanding and build trust that you are there to help them out. It should be a solution-based approach.”
She further emphasizes, “It is very important to visit an addiction specialist yourself first and talk to him/her to get ideas about how to help the addict come out of the situation. After that, introduce the idea of going to the specialist or counselor to the addict and explain that it would be good for mental, psychological, and physical well-being. That would be the beginning of the end of the suffering of yours and the addicted loved one of yours. Since they are human beings, dealing in the right way with the latest attempt and holding on to them with compassion will ultimately help you as well as them to win the battle,” says she.
The severity of withdrawal is connected to the type of substance and period of use
Vandana explains, “Withdrawal means coming out of the substance or drug abuse. It may vary from a couple of days to a fortnight or more than that depending upon the substance one is addicted to. During that period a person would face physical problems like strong headache, stomach ache, excessive diarrhea that sort of drains out the person, cramps, shaking tongue, abnormal movement of eyeballs, trembling of hands etc., The psychological impact could be mood swings. The person might have bouts of anger and would be tough to deal with.
Withdrawal should always be under professional supervision and with support from family and friends because due to extreme physical and psychological problems there is a big tendency in the addict to jump back to addiction. Mild doses of medications could be given to deal with withdrawal. While withdrawal is happening, counseling can begin so that while the body is suffering, the mind starts settling down. While physical problems subside, psychological-emotional traumas of withdrawals might take 6 – 8 weeks or more to subside,” says she.
What happens to the children who are born to mothers who are addicted to drugs or alcohol?
Vandana informs, “If women are pregnant and addicted to substances or drugs, the child who is born suffers for no fault of his / her. Such children can frequently shake or have tremors. The chances of them becoming addicts later on in life are high. Because of the substance that has gone into them through the mother inside the womb and poor levels of nourishment, such children could be born unhealthy with brain damage, low weight, and there could be a lack of freshness on their faces unlike other children.”
Life of children of mothers who are addicts
Vandana mentions, “Due to the addiction of their mothers, children experience very unhappy childhoods. There is money problem and related strains at home. There are fights which are emotionally and psychologically strainful. Mother is not in the right zone or frame of mind to take responsibility for the children and amidst all this, the elder child becomes automatically responsible for the younger siblings resulting in extreme anger upon the mother and the situation which has landed him/her in such circumstances. Such children mature fast and their life choices might get wrong out of self-pity."
Vandana points out, "There is research that after growing up, people with such childhood get drawn towards people who are addicts and choose them as life partners. This is because subconsciously they feel that since they have not been good enough or have been inadequate in fixing the problem of the parent, they should at least take someone else out of it."
Vandana emphasizes, "Family members of people dependent on drugs or alcohol are known as co-dependents. Co-dependents should always seek therapy first because if they are well-equipped emotionally and psychologically, they would be in a better position to take care of the dependents. They should not be shy about seeking the help of the therapist,” she says.
Life at Anatta Humanversity
Vandana informs, “Firstly we ask the people who have come for rehabilitation that why do they want to quit. When we understand that it is purely on their willingness and that it's no more pleasure rather; a pain to them, we introduce them to 8-12 weeks of detoxification program with mild medication.
After that we introduce alternate life therapy programs including activities like meditation, creative writing techniques, cooking, swimming, having fun sessions like jokes, etc., sharing, relating, and talking to them. They are not left alone. There is a counselor living 24x7 with them; always available to listen whenever they wish to talk whether it's 2 pm or 2 am. They are treated with complete dignity and compassion.
We provide experiential counseling which means, we share stories of how we have come out of something that was troubling us and how it is possible for them to achieve that as well. So, we walk the talk and do not preach. Counselors always give them the feeling that “I can feel and understand what you are going through" so that they can connect easily. Connection is the key to help out a person from addiction. We help them out of the habit of drug abuse and fall into the habit of life without drug abuse. Once the person connects the process becomes easier. They can find themselves back. They are gradually able to find their joys and happiness back. There are 6 hours of therapy every day and then a person is free to do whatever he/she likes to do. We provide them an environment of home away from home. Even I am in constant touch with them by either staying with them in the centers or having zoom sessions training them to live without any kind of dependency,” says Vandana.
(Edited by Amrita Priya)