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Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction

In today’s society we are quick to judge the addict/alcoholic. The facts are is the addict is so chemically dependent on the drug that stopping is almost impossible if there is no help or treatment in place.  We addicts are not use to living life without something that can alter our mind in one form or another.  Which makes the possibility of getting clean and sober seem scary. This is why treatment centers, recovery homes and 12 step programs are a need so the recovering addicts/alcoholics can receive help getting clean and staying clean. Many people do not understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs or alcohol. It is often mistakenly assumed that addicts lack moral principles or willpower or that they could stop using drugs by simply choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or strong willpower. In fact, because drugs and alcohol change the brain in many ways it makes quitting difficult; even for those who are ready to do so.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects both the brain and behavior of the addicted person. Addiction causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the individual and to those around them. Although the first decision to take drugs or alcohol is voluntary for most people, the brain change that occurs over time damages the addicted person’s self-control and hinders their ability to resist intense craving to take drugs or alcohol. Fortunately, treatments are available to help people overcome their addiction. Research shows that combining addiction treatment with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most addicts. Treatment approaches that are adjusted to each addicts drug abuse patterns and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to successful recovery and a life without drugs or alcohol. Similar to other chronic, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, drug addiction can be managed successfully. And as with other chronic diseases, it is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin abusing drugs again. Relapse, however, does not signal treatment failure—rather, it indicates that treatment should be reinstated or adjusted or that an alternative treatment is needed to help the individual regain control and recover.

Why Do Some People Become Addicted While Others Do Not?

  • Biology. The genes that people are born with—in combination with environmental influences—account for about half of their addiction vulnerability.
  • Environment. A person’s environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to socioeconomic status and quality of life in general. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, stress, and quality of parenting can greatly influence the occurrence of drug abuse and the escalation to addiction in a person’s life.
  • Development. Genetic and environmental factors influence important developmental stages in a person’s life. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier the drug  or alcohol use begins, the more likely it will progress to more serious abuse, which indicates a greater problem to adolescents. Because areas in the younger brain that control decision making, judgment, and self-control are still developing, adolescents may be especially prone to risk-taking behaviors, which includes trying drugs or alcohol.

More About Alcoholism

“Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he/she is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he/she will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death. We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed. We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals – usually brief – were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.” – Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Forth Edition, Page 30