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Why ‘Tough Love’ Doesn’t Always Work With Addiction

Being the loved one of a person battling an addiction can be devastating. One the hand, you want to do everything in your power to “rescue them” from their destructive habits. But then again there is always the risk of enabling, which leads many to turn turn their backs and institute “tough love.” Interestingly that latter approach may do more harm than good, per a new NPR article. According to their research, compassion leads to more successful resolutions.


For the record, the NPR piece focuses specifically on those who have been impacted by the opioid crisis. Speaking to parents, spouses and close friends, they shared several positive examples of the power of empathy. They also cited data from The U.S. National Library of Medicine, illustrating that a compassionate approach is the most effective way to engage drug users in recovery and keep them alive.


Nora Volkow, a director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, also spoke to the outlet and urged relatives (particularly parents) to intervene, even if the loved one is continuing to rebel.


“The concept of letting their children hit bottom is not the best strategy,” she explained to NPR. “Because in hitting bottom they may die.”


One big component of the piece discussed shifting the perception of addiction. We all know how dependencies tend to be stigmatized and users often feel embarrassed or ashamed. But more professionals in the scientific community are speaking out and labeling it how is should be called: a chronic medical condition.


That is particularly where the compassion comes in. Once loved ones understand that this is a problem that the addicted person simply can’t control, they should approach it like they would any other medical issue.


“If a child had cancer, parents wouldn’t disengage with them or be angry with them,” Volkow added in the article. “So I do think it aligns our scientific understanding that addiction is a disease and not a moral failure.”


Of course, we all understand how every situation is unique and sometimes there are dangers associated with addicted family members. An example was used about potential violence when a person is under the influence, or concern if there are younger children in the home. Safety is obviously of the utmost concern, but kicking that loved one out in the streets can be a hasty solution.


We too believe in a compassionate approach to addiction. If there are worries that this is something you, as a loved one, cannot tackle alone, please reach out and let the trained professionals at Valley Recovery Center be your guide.