Substance use disorder changes the wiring of an addict’s brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when someone suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, they will do almost anything to feed their addiction. This results in addictive behavior such as lying, manipulation, and even stealing.
Addicts may lie for a variety of reasons, including to cover up their addiction by not disclosing where they are, what they are doing, or how often they partake in substance use. Those around them may begin to find the addict’s personality unrecognizable, but this holds true for the addict as well. Many addicts know they are engaging in problematic behaviors, yet the fear of having to stop drinking or doing drugs feeds encourages this behavior.
How Substance Abuse Changes The Brain
When we do something that we enjoy, this releases dopamine in the brain, which makes us feel good and anticipate the chance to do it again. Drugs and alcohol trigger unnaturally high levels of dopamine, which intensifies the desire to repeat the behavior and can lead to addiction. Over time, the brain adapts to the presence of the substance and can no longer release dopamine naturally. This creates a dependence on the substance, as addicts must use it to feel good or even normal.
Because of this dependence, addicts will do whatever it takes to use their drug of choice, affecting their reasoning capabilities and their morals. This is what leads to behaviors such as lying and manipulation, as their main desire becomes substance use while also attempting to avoid any consequences.
Why Addicts Lie
People struggling with substance use disorder will lie for a variety of reasons. Addiction is a very complex disease, with physical, emotional, and physiological components that can all contribute to why someone may lie.
People who struggle with addiction may lie to avoid confrontation about their actions. When they become dependent on illegal drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, they lack other ways of dealing with emotional distress. Confrontation may simply push them further into addiction, so it’s best to avoid blame and try to explain things matter-of-factly.
Addiction causes people to be stubborn. Even though they can recognize their behavior is harming themself and others, they are unwilling to be honest about the extent of their addiction. This is due to a fear of being taken to a treatment facility or having to go through withdrawal symptoms.
Addictive behaviors cause the person dealing with substance use disorder to engage in activity they may later consider embarrassing. Since they regret their actions, they’ll often lie to avoid feeling shame about what happened. Refusing to confront this may save them some embarrassment yet it will do nothing to ease their emotional turmoil.
Avoiding Getting Caught
A major factor in why addicts lie is to avoid getting caught. The substance they are addicted to may be illegal, and they are worried about facing legal consequences if they are honest about their substance abuse. They may also be worried about personal consequences of their addiction, such as a loss of relationships or jobs.
Many addicts are in denial about the extent of their problem. They may consider their substance use to not be a big deal, or that they are in control. However, they do recognize others may see it as an issue (even if they believe these people are overreacting) and so they lie to avoid confronting their addiction.
Addiction, especially the effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, can cause damage to parts of the brain such as the frontal lobe. Damage to the frontal lobe is proven to cause an increase in the potential for deviant behavior like risk-taking and lying. If you know an addict who is constantly lying, the behavior may be physiological.
Enabling From Loved Ones
Many times, you may notice that an addict is lying about the reality of an event that occurred or behavior they engaged in. It can be difficult to confront that lie out of fear of damaging the relationship, so you may pretend to believe them. All this accomplishes is showing the addict that they will get away with lying, so they continue to do so.
How Can You Help An Addict?
The first step in helping a loved one struggling with addiction is to educate yourself about the disease. Coming from a place of understanding instead of blame will make them more receptive to learning about treatment options. Many addicts are no longer able to think rationally, so even if they do recognize they have a problem, they may be unwilling to go to a treatment center.
If this is the case, other treatment plans can help, including support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). They may also be open to therapy that can help them work through any mental disorders such as depression and anxiety that could be causing their substance abuse.