Breaking the Habit of Justification

Breaking the Habit

The number of addicts in the United States increases with each passing year. Nearly 25 million Americans age 12 and over suffer from some form of addiction, which represents about 10 percent of the population. Although one reason for the growing number of addicts is the addition of new addicts, another reason we see an increase in the number of addicts is the difficulty many addicts have in breaking the habit.

The physical craving combined with the serious health consequences of withdrawal makes stopping cold turkey nearly impossible to do. For example, the withdrawal symptoms of an opiate addict breaking the habit can place the addict in a seriously harmful medical condition. However, physical addiction alone does not explain the rapidly rising number of addicts aged 12 and over in the United States.

Drug counselors and therapists also deal with a phenomenon called justification. The habit of justification represents a long list of reasons addicts justify using their drugs of choice. Whether it is an alcoholic or someone who cannot kick a heroin habit, justification remains a powerful reason why many addicts remain addicted to a harmful substance.

Talking with an addict is not enough for breaking the habit of justification. Addicts need a combination of group and individual therapy sessions and close monitoring that includes making the slow transition between using and staying drug-free.

What Are the Most Common Types of Justifications?

The likelihood of breaking the habit of justification depends on the type of justification.

I Cannot Live Without It

This type of justification deals directly with the harsh withdrawal symptoms associated with minimizing the intake of an unlawful substance. For example, many opiate addicts justify their use by claiming that they will experience debilitating side effects if they stop using. The most effective strategy to defeat this type of justification is to explain an addict can ease into a life of sobriety by implementing one or more intervention strategies.

For example, an opiate addict can take a drug called Subutex or Suboxone to mimic the euphoric high of a drug such as heroin. Taking either drug can help an addict slowly stop consuming an opiate pill or injecting an opiate substance. Drugs that mirror the feeling of harmful substances such as opiates defeat the justification argument of “I need to continue taking this drug because withdrawal might kill me.”

I’m Not Taking a Lot

Some addicts justify using an unlawful drug based on the amount of the drug they consume. “I’m not taking as much of the drug as other people” is a common statement made by addicts that live in denial. The key to defeating this justification is to educate the addict about the harmful effects of a drug, even if it is taken in small doses. This requires an honest discussion between an addict and the addict’s primary healthcare provider.  An addict who uses this justification also might benefit from individual therapy sessions.

Although resorting to scare tactics should not be the primary strategy to help an addict get clean, simply educating an addict about the possible damage resulting from the continued use of a controlled substance might be enough to break the habit of justification. Another term for this type of justification is called minimizing.

Minimizing is associated with several types of justifications like “It’s not that bad” or “I can stop anytime that I want to.”

I’m in Control… I Can Stop Whenever I Want

An addict who uses this justification has no idea how much not in control the addict is when it comes to using an illegal substance. One of the trademark characteristics of an addict is not having any control when it comes to using a controlled substance. If an addict has demonstrated a record of getting clean in the past, then maybe the addict has some control over getting clean now.

However, refraining from using an addictive drug requires a multi-step approach based on the understanding an addict is not in control. An addict that admits a lack of control has taken the first positive step on the road to shaking a highly harmful drug addiction. The intense craving for using a controlled substance is reason enough to admit an addict cannot control an addiction.

I Just Use it Once in Awhile

Addiction does have to happen daily. In fact, some addicts use it a few times a week or maybe go binging over the weekend. Overdoing the use of a drug is a common element of turning into an alcoholic. Binge drinking represents one of the most prominent signs of an addiction. For example, an alcoholic can binge drink over 48 hours and then not consume a drop of alcohol for another ten days.

Just because someone only occasionally uses does not mean the person is not considered an addict. This type of justification can be dealt with by educating an addict about the definition of addiction.

Breaking the Habit

How to Break the Habit of Justification

Breaking the habit of justification, such as the act of minimizing the impact of addiction, starts with trusted friends and family members of the addict. Written instructions provided by a licensed and certified therapist written instructions can help an addict come to grips with the reality of making excuses for an addiction. Trusted friends and family members should always use the first person “I” when discussing addiction issues with an addict. An example is “I think what you just said sounds like you are justifying using drugs and alcohol.

Justification is one element of the disease called addiction. It blends in seamlessly with other elements, such as deceit and the inability to hold down a job. After trusted friends and family members intervene, the time has come to enroll in an outpatient therapy program that provides an addict with support from a licensed and certified therapist. An addict also has the option to enroll in an in-patient program to ensure the provision of emotional support 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Finally, respond consistently to every justification made by an addiction. The more an addict hears about how a justification represents a sign of addiction, the more likely an addict might take the disease seriously and seek help.


If you’re interested in learning more about maintaining long-term sobriety with a group of women peers in Southern California, contact Anchored Tides Recovery at 866-600-7709.