My 22 year-old-brother, who is in the final year of his Bachelor’s level, has not been doing well in college. Lately, I’ve noticed he comes home late and drunk almost every day. He rarely talks to anyone at home and gets irritated if we ask him something. He isn’t his normal self. My family is worried. Knowing him, I can say he will not agree to get help. What should we do? -A concerned brother
Answer by Dr Rishav Koirala, psychiatrist, Grande International Hospital
With the information you have provided, the issue points towards addiction. Addiction into some substance (alcohol or drugs) doesn’t mean that the person will have withdrawal symptoms, it may be a symptom of addiction but doesn’t mean its compulsory.
First, it is important to look at addiction as an illness and it should be treated as such. And the sooner you seek treatment, the better. Addiction affects your thinking. It can reach a point where you cannot separate right from wrong, and don’t realize you are harming yourself and the people around you.
In fact, about 60 to 70 percent of those with addiction have additional mental health problems. Either they had it in the past, or they are struggling with a mental health problem right now. A large percentage try to self-medicate themselves using more alcohol. There is also the possibility of developing a mental illness. Those who have anxiety or depression are also more inclined to substance abuse.
The best option is to seek expert’s help for your brother. A psychiatrist can make him understand what’s going on with him and how he can help himself. It is best to seek help now, when the problem is just starting.
Even if your brother is unwilling to acknowledge that he is increasingly dependent on alcohol and refuses help, that shouldn’t stop you and your family. You can go and talk to the psychiatrist yourself in the beginning. The psychiatrist can advise you and offer treatment options for your brother.
Meanwhile, your family members should try to engage and communicate more with your brother. Social interaction and guidance from a person they trust can be of great help for someone with addiction.
In our society, seeking help for addiction can be difficult because of the associated shame and stigma. But you should understand that your brother is suffering from an illness from which he can’t get out on his own. It’s also the responsibility of friends and families to support them and encourage them to seek treatment.
Threats and rebukes will not make them sober. Empathizing with their struggle is a better option.