Unless you’ve never been affected by the ugly, destructive reality that is addiction, then you’re likely to know manipulation all too well. And, truth be told, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t been touched by addiction or substance abuse in some way or another.
Because addiction takes such a strong hold on a person, even to the extent of changing their brain chemistry, it’s matched with some pretty disturbing behavioral traits. Manipulation is one prominent addict behavior.
Changing the Brain
To understand how a person could so seemingly easily manipulate their friends and loved ones, we have to first understand that addiction changes the brain.
At the most basic level, addiction can be described as a cycle of highs and lows — at least in the beginning. The addict will take a hit of their drug of choice and experience the high: euphoria, extreme relaxation, or what have you. When the high wears off, the low sets in. To offset the low, they take another hit and achieve the high. It’s a pleasure chase at its finest with the brain’s reward center constantly being hijacked by the drug.
As an addict continues to use a drug and manipulate their brain’s pleasure center, they build up a tolerance to the response. Eventually, as dopamine depletes, the lows start to become unbearable. And that’s putting it lightly. An addict’s brain (and body) can no longer function properly without the drug. They NEED that high to function and survive.
What it boils down to is that an addict’s mind has been so physiologically twisted that the next hit of their drug of choice is more important than anything else. Nothing matters except the high. This is how we come to addict behavior.
Becoming a Stranger
If you know someone who struggles with addiction, then you’ve probably witnessed their disease turn them into a stranger. Addicts develop a plethora of concerning behaviors because of the destructive neural pathways created by their addiction.
Most people make decisions in their daily lives based on heuristics. A heuristic is a practical process of decision-making based on the immediate result. Essentially, heuristics lighten the load for your brain when making a decision. It’s not exactly reasonable to trudge through a deep, thorough cognitive debate for every single decision throughout the day. So, your brain takes a heuristic shortcut in which survival is always the winning factor.
As previously mentioned, an addict will feel as if they need their drug of choice in order to survive. And, in many cases, they physically do (i.e. quitting certain drugs cold turkey without detox can result in death). That heuristic shortcut comes into play and an addict will justify anything on the fact that they absolutely need access to their drug of choice.
Examples of Addict Behavior:
- Avoiding responsibility
These are just a few manipulative behaviors an addict will employ to gain access to their drug of choice.
When this becomes the process of “decision-making,” your addicted loved one quickly becomes a stranger. Cue the “I don’t even know him/her anymore” thoughts.
Victims of Manipulation
Generally, addicts manipulate those closest to them: friends, family, and other loved ones. An addict may ask for favors, deliberately cause rifts between people, threaten to harm or kill themselves and so on. It’s not that the addict is a bad person; his brain has been hijacked beyond any sense of rationality.
While loved ones are primarily at the receiving end of addict behavior, it’s not uncommon for addicts to extend their manipulation on anyone who has power to grant them access to the next hit. For example, addicts may manipulate psychiatrists into writing a prescription and fueling their addiction.
There are many reasons why a doctor would write a prescription for someone struggling with addiction. For starters, an addict is certainly capable of manipulating others into believing he or she has changed or is not even an addict in the first place. Addiction is also commonly found with co-occurring disorders, including anxiety and depression, which are often treated with prescriptions. A psychiatrist may be qualified to treat such co-occurring disorders but may lack the training and knowledge to diagnose and/or treat addiction.
It’s important for loved ones to understand that manipulation — along with other destructive addict behaviors — doesn’t define your addict’s character. It is a very prominent byproduct of addiction. It’s also important to realize when the behavior is being employed, as the desired result solely fuels the addiction.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, our counselors are available 24/7 to help: 855-997-4702