Tough love is Nonsense and Only Worsens Drug Addiction

medical professional addictionWhether you’re a parent, partner or friend, you might be told that a drug or alcohol addicted person you care for needs tough love. Don’t believe it. Love has always been understood as the gentlest of emotions. You might have to be tough in war, politics, business or some other place, but love is the wrong place. Love is a place where you can drop your guard, care unconditionally, and show your softer side. Isn’t that right?

Yet today we hear time and again that love ought to be tough. Of course, this “wisdom” is typically directed at the most vulnerable members of society: a seventy-year-old wino, a drug addicted working girl, a street kid or a welfare single mother. Funny how our culture is much less inclined to get tough with those who could handle a hit: the CEO, the pro athlete, or even the one advocating tough love.

Why Tough Love is Pure Nonsense and Serves Only to Worsen Drug Addiction

Ask any addiction expert – please, someone both honest and competent – and he or she will undoubtedly tell you that positive reinforcement, love and support, are much more likely to help someone overcome an addiction than any cold approach. As a person myself, I can honestly say something that all of humanity has long understood (though not always practiced): treating people kindly is a good thing; being mean is not.

Isn’t all that “tough” nonsense the very thing that drives millions toward drug and alcohol abuse? And now, apparently, the solution is to provide more of the same. Rather than debate the issue, I will simply identify a very unpleasant reality: many take pleasure in degrading others, and are grateful for any self-righteous excuse available. This way, they can avoid the shame, avoid the blame, but still achieve the same sick pleasure.

If this approach offends, consider whom we address. It’s all they understand. See, when we’re at war we get tough. But when reaching out to those who may be weaker or less fortunate, the preference is being gentle. They’ve had it “tough” enough already, and we’re not here to add to the damage.

This point of view comes from also knowing that if we kick out loved ones out into the street they are more likely to use more not stop. What if the addict you are attempting to “cure” is a heroin addict? They no longer have clean water to use when they are using. Do you know what that means? They might use pond water or toilet water in a public restroom.

Here’s the deal, dead people cannot recover. If you tell an addict that you don’t wish to speak to them anymore unless they get help all you are doing to taking a sane voice out of their life. Who are they listening to now? Who do they see live without using drugs? Probably no one.

If you love someone suffering from drug addiction learn about harm reduction. Teach them about it. If they are using opiates get Narcan (naloxone) and tell them never to use alone. Of course you don’t ever want to hand an active user cash because they will just buy drugs, but feeding them and loving them…what is wrong with that?

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Written by Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)

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12 thoughts on “Tough love is Nonsense and Only Worsens Drug Addiction

  1. I respectfully dissagree. Does the author have loved ones who are/ were addicts? Was he an addict? I’m asking to find out where his self proclaimed “wisdom” comes from. Each case is an individual case. Each substance is different. There are no experts in this field.

    • CC,

      You are entitled to your opinion as is the author of this article. Personally, I think whether or not tough love is appropriate depends on the addict. However, the author does make some excellent points so instead of criticizing it, I suggest telling us which part of the article you disagree with and why. Make a counter-argument instead of telling us why the author is “wrong”.

      Peace and Love

      William – Publisher of this Community

  2. Loving my son through his addiction has literally kept him alive.
    He told me specifically that if it weren’t for my loving him while he hated himself, he would have killed himself.
    He is on his 6th re start. He had 20 months clean and then i don’t know what happened.
    He is in partial hospitaization and he actually smiled a genuine smile yesterday.
    15 days clean. Praise God and i will never threaten to revoke my 💘

  3. Tough love doesnt work. My whole family did this to my nephew. He ended up couple states over from Ohio in St Louis. Yes he wasnt in their homes or stealing from them anymore. He was no longer their problem. He would do detox then had no where to go but back on the streets. Vicious cycle. I tried to help him for over 10 years. I was 1000 miles from him. I flew there to see him even brought his grandma. I wish i would have brought him home with me. Instead his ashes from his dead body was sent to me. He overdosed on heroin. He was facing going back to jail for petty possession and trespassing into abandon building charges. st Louis gets very cold, i remember talking to him one night and he just really needed a blanket. The shelters fill up or you have to have a phone to be contacted for availability. He was very frighted to go back to jail as he was a sick addict and not a mean person. Said they picked at him in jail. Jail did not help him. Well he is dead now. So yes, tough love is not helpful. You back them in a corner with no way out. Only place I have seen that has the right model for assistance is the dream center in los angelos.

  4. adding a comment, i notified the counselor at the last rehab place he was at that he had passed. The counselor said “Maybe a blessing in disguise” Please dont ever say that to anyone. It will never be a blessing my nephew died. I loved him so

  5. At what point when enough is enough? when you give total unconditional love and support. All the while encouraging treatment, housing, feeding, supporting the love one who refuses to work, who will not respect simple house rules, who sneaks in drugs & alcohol to your home using there. Who once they have rested up have eaten well will start horrible drama and fight to take off not saying where they are going be gone for weeks on binge till their friends are tired of them and run out of money come home to to rest and eat up only to do it again and again. We do not have any kind of life the family the ones who love and care so much for them. We live their life being taken advantage of used and abused WHAT IS THE ANWER AND SOLUTION TO THAT?

    • I believe you can force him into a rehab, check and see if he has any mental illnesses. It’s very possible he has them.

  6. A young man that I know has been fighting his drug addiction off and on. He’ll do good for about 8 months then relapse a little. He is actually incarcerated at this time and has been in there since he was 17. Unfortunately they don’t have a lot of professional help on the inside other than psychiatrists which just want to give them medication. I’ve told him if he can clean himself up and be drug free should he parole that I would help him get back on his feet back giving him a solid foundation which he didn’t have as a child. I’ve know this young man for about 12 years and he does really have a good heart. He has recently had a relapse and has told me that he has got himself in a jam and owes money and wonders if I can help. I’ve written a letter to him but haven’t sent it as yet but basically told him how disappointed and upset that this has made me and what upset the most was that he’s asking me now to help him get out of a jam. This was like a kick in the gut to me. I told him that I do not want to be pulled into this lifestyle in anyway ever. I’ve said that I would try to help him this time but didn’t know how I was going to do that but that to never ever ask again. I told him that I obviously care what happens to him and that I’m still willing to help him when he get out but that he needs to work on getting clean. I told him that I would help him but not support him and that he would need to get a stable job and go to work everyday. I know his work ethic which is great so I’m not worried about him not working if he can get himself clean.
    My questions is, am I wrong in trying to help him get out of this jam to make sure he’s safe letting him know that this is something that he can never ask me to do again?

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