What is Addiction?

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.


Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

What is the Medical Definition of Addiction?

An addiction must meet at least 3 of the following criteria. This is based on the criteria of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and World Health Organization (ICD-10).(1)


  1. Do you use more alcohol or drugs over time?
  2. Withdrawal. Have you experienced physical or emotional withdrawal when you have stopped using? Have you experienced anxiety, irritability, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting? Emotional withdrawal is just as significant as physical withdrawal.
  3. Limited control.Do you sometimes drink or use drugs more than you would like? Do you sometimes drink to get drunk? Does one drink lead to more drinks sometimes? Do you ever regret how much you used the day before?
  4. Negative consequences.Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?
  5. Neglected or postponed activities.Have you ever put off or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?
  6. Significant time or energy spent.Have you spent a significant amount of time obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use? Have you spend a lot of time thinking about using? Have you ever concealed or minimized your use? Have you ever thought of schemes to avoid getting caught?
  7. Desire to cut down.Have you sometimes thought about cutting down or controlling your use? Have you ever made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?
Why a Residential Treatment Center is So Important?

Receiving therapy in a residential treatment center means that the treatment process takes place 24 hours a day. In addition, no matter what time of day or night, professional clinicians are on-site to assist during times of crisis or doubt. A residential treatment center is a place where key changes occur in each client. Clients learn to change their attitudes, perceptions and behaviors so that the use of drugs or alcohol is no longer necessary. Underlying problems that led to the substance abuse are identified and addressed. Infinity Malibu offers the time and attention needed for the slow and more gradual building of recovery.

Often clients who come to Infinity Malibu’s residential drug abuse program have relapsed, or have only attempted recovery in outpatient or short-term programs. Receiving addiction treatment in a long-term, multi phased treatment modality is the catalyst for successful outcomes for our clients. Clients learn solid skills to support their life-long recovery, and transition from Infinity Malibu’s residential care into the next step in the continuum of care. Aftercare planning is part of Infinity Malibu’s comprehensive services.

The treatment day at Infinity Malibu begins early and is very full. This is important, particularly in the early part of recovery. Clients work closely with their therapists in both individual and groups settings, to begin building positive ways to live a sober life. Utilizing a non-denominational 12 Step recovery foundation, in addition to Dialectical Behavior Therapy, enables Infinity Malibu clients to learn skills of mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation. Clients learn to self-soothe and to live life without the use of alcohol or drugs by engaging in yoga and equine therapy.

All of our certified clinicians are employed at Infinity Malibu full-time, and are completely dedicated to providing the highest level of care. With such a wide and solid base of clinical expertise, we are able to treat many types of dual diagnosis that are present with substance abuse. These may include anxiety, depression, trauma issues, and phobias. At Infinity Malibu we also treat the process addictions (sexual/relationship addiction, codependency, Adult Children of Alcoholics, gambling, disordered eating) that are co-occurring with dependence on alcohol or drugs. Until the individual receives holistic treatment (mind, body, spirit) relapse is imminent.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is Evidentiary Based meaning that the techniques are scientifically proven. Based on Zen Buddhist instruction regarding gaining an awareness of one’s self is at the core of DBT. DBT counselors use this heightened sense of awareness to help the individual see how their actions affect others and vice versa.

Dialectical behavior therapy helps get to the root of addiction. One of the most succinct aspects of DBT is the manner in which it cuts to the heart of a person’s addiction issues.

DBT is about improving self-image. DBT is used to treat conditions where the individual’s self-image is in need of restoration. By developing a more effective means of communicating with others, this unique method of therapy helps the individual gain confidence in dealing with even the most stressful situations.

DBT helps people become more assertive. There is a great deal of “role playing” involved in DBT, and many of these situations help the individual learn how to say “NO” to those temptations and negative influences that have pushed them further into the cycle of addiction.

DBT teaches tolerance. Another hallmark of DBT is training the individual to be tolerant of others, even in those situations where their viewpoints are different, or perceived as a potential threat.

DBT teaches self-soothing techniques that replace the need to drink and use drugs to cope with painful feelings.

The Impact of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence on the Family

Our Nation’s #1 health problem is alcoholism and drug dependence.  For decades, we have seen how the disease of addiction not only affects the individual, but millions of family members.

Fathers, mothers, single parents, couples straight or gay, regardless of ethnicity or social group, rich or poor….drug and alcohol abuse can destroy relationships.  Most of all, young children and adolescents suffer the greatest from the effects of the abuse of alcohol and drugs in the family.

Addiction has an effect on every individual who is close to the one abusing drugs or alcohol. Families are often the ones who suffer most when a relative is in active addiction. In the early stages the family may begin to blame themselves for what’s going on. They may start to believe they are one of the factors that perpetuate the drug use. They may even think they are the sole reason for what is happening with the addict in their life.

The communication beings to breakdown and can separate family members who were once a tight knit group. The family begins to take different sides instead of uniting in order to help the one suffering. In some situations families may feel shame or embarrassed about having an addict in their family. They may begin avoiding certain situations and isolating for fear of embarrassment. This is a clear indicator of how the disease of addiction can spread itself to the ones you love. Many think that the disease only lies within the individual suffering from it, but it has been shown over and over again to be a family disease.


Family Involvement in Recovery Treatment

With professional help and recovery, both for the individual and the family, families can heal together.

There is an association between relapse and social supports across a range of addictions. Involving the family or significant other of the addicted client in individual or multiple family group sessions can reduce the risk of relapse. Such involvement has many potential benefits:

  • It provides the clinical staff with an opportunity to learn about the client’s family, observe how family members interact, and gain input from the family.
  • It can facilitate compliance with treatment. If a client feels pressure to remain in treatment to satisfy the requests of the family, he or she may maintain this involvement even during periods of low motivation. This buys the client time for motivation to improve.
  • It provides members of the family with an opportunity to verbalize their concerns, questions, experiences, and feelings related to the addicted family member.
  • It offers the client an opportunity to hear how the family experiences the addiction.
  • It offers the client the opportunity to receive support from the family.
  • The family can receive education and support from other families, which may lessen the burden experienced. Anger, worry, confusion, and other emotional reactions can be shared, and strong, negative feelings may be diffused.
  • Family members can be taught about and encouraged to attend support groups such as Al-Anon.
  • Family members can learn about behaviors that they should avoid, which are considered enabling.
  • Family members can learn about strategies that can help them cope better with an addicted relative.
  • Family members can learn about strategies to take care of themselves so that all the recovery efforts are not simply directed at the addicted person.
  • Family members with a psychiatric or addictive disorder who appear to need help themselves can be encouraged to seek help, and referrals can be facilitated.
The Consequences of Drug Abuse among the Family

Socially: Family members begin to be more isolated and shameful of what’s going on. They may not partake in activities they used to in order to avoid questions or rumors they may be circulating. They also may not engage in activities they once enjoyed because they feel obligated to make sure the addict in their life is okay, fearing any day could be their last.

Psychologically: Family members who are consistently lied to lose trust and begin to attempt to uncover a lie in every situation. Their thinking begins to change, expecting the worst out of every situation.

Emotionally: Living with an addict can be an emotional rollercoaster. It can take an individual who was once very stable to a place of grief and distress. This not only affects their home life but how they interact at work and in social situations.

Physically: The anxiety and stress of a family member in active addiction can have many adverse health effects including; migraines, nausea, loss of appetite and even heart problems due to the stress levels.