Addiction is a complicated occurrence. While some believe those who suffer from substance abuse are merely individuals unwilling to take back control of their lives, the truth of the matter is that addiction is a much deeper attachment.
Addiction can occur between almost any substance, and while many of these substances are legal, the effects of addiction can still be negatively life changing. Addiction can lead to the individual becoming abusive, losing his or her job, or failing out of school.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is actually a disease that can be compared to relapsing conditions, like diabetes or heart disease. The chronic disease that is addiction is brought on by the individual taking drugs. As the drugs are continually introduced to the individual’s brain, their brain actually changes to the point where it assumes the drug is a necessity.
Like other relapsing diseases, drug addiction can be treated. There are various ways to treat drug addiction, but like any disease, the best way is through medication. But because drug addiction can alter the individual’s life so negatively, they may also benefit from psychiatric visits.
Who Becomes Addicted?
Not everyone who uses drugs is a drug addict. In fact, some individuals are just more prone to addictions than others, but that doesn’t mean drug addiction couldn’t effect anyone.
There are three major factors that contribute to the development of addiction:
- Age: If an individual begins using a drug or substance when they are young or early in their development years, they are more likely to become addicted to that substance as they grow. Younger individuals are also much more likely to be open to taking drugs than older individuals, usually because their judgment has not fully developed yet. Older individuals are still capable of developing a drug addiction, but if their brain has fully developed, they are less likely to become reliant on the substance.
- Biology: With many diseases, like cancer, you are more likely to develop the condition if it runs in your family. Addiction is the same way. While a drug addiction in an individual’s family tree in no way guarantees that individual will be addicted, those with a family history of substance abuse should be more careful around drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. Individuals with other mental conditions can also increase vulnerability to addiction.
- Social Environment: The last major factor in determining an individual’s vulnerability to drug addiction is the environment around them. If the individual suffered some kind of trauma as a child, like being sexually or physically abused, they have a higher chance of becoming addicted to drugs. The individual may also be more prone to developing a drug addiction if they feel their quality of life is low or they have friends or family members who are addicts.
How Does Someone Become Addicted?
As we touched on briefly before, drug addiction changes the way the brain works. The brain adjusts to compensate for the changing brain chemicals, so when the individual stops using the drug, the brain recognizes that something is missing. It then sends an alert through the body letting the individual know it needs the drug. Depending on the drug the individual has become addicted to, the brain adjusts in different ways.
This then causes the individual to go out and seek the drug. Even if they know the substance is not good for them and they need to stop using, they likely do not feel “normal” or comfortable without it.
To treat drug addiction, an individual can take medication that restores brain chemicals back to their pre-drug addiction days. While this kind of medication can allow the individual to cope easier without the drug, it also introduces the possibility that the individual will become dependent on their medication.
Even those who have recovered from drug addiction may find themselves back in the grip of addiction someday. If they are re-introduced to the drug, they may find that their addiction comes back immediately. That is why it is so important for recovering addicts to avoid their drug of choice as much as possible, and those around them should not encourage just a bit of use.
How to Avoid Addiction
Drug addiction can be completely avoided simply by staying away from substances known for having addictive properties. This means ensuring children and young adults who are more susceptible to developing addictions are completely aware of the consequences of using drugs. Education is key to preventing unnecessary drug addictions.
Far too many people today are unaware of the multitude of problems related to drug addiction. Every day the problems of drugs and addiction continue to increase within the United States. As many as 25 million residents are addicted to drugs, but only about 10% will get professional help. It is estimated that 5% of Americans have used prescription drugs for a non-medical reason. Approximately 20,000 people die every year from illegal drugs. Over a 20-year period in the United States, the number of people with an addiction problem has increased over 500%.
Alarming Statistics About Substance Abuse
The Nationwide Addiction Statistics reveal some startling facts about various substances that are being abused today:
- 64% of people in the United States drink alcohol, but 50% of these people are regular drinkers. Over 22,000 people died in one year from alcohol-related issues, and half of those were deaths from liver disease. Addiction statistics state that males drink more than females, especially in the age group between 18-24, and alcohol addiction and abuse is higher among Caucasians than Hispanics.
- Cocaine is a Schedule 2 controlled substance that is addictive because it produces a short-term high that causes the user to want more. This is the second most abused illegal drug in the United States, and statistics show that 90% of cocaine users started out using alcohol or marijuana before eventually trying cocaine.
- Marijuana is popular with the 18-25-year-old young adults. Statistics show that over 39% of the population in the United States has tried marijuana once in their lifetime. Also, within the past year, over 30% of college students around the United States have used this drug. Marijuana is known as the “gateway” drug because many users eventually experiment with more potent substances.
- Nationwide Addiction Statistics show that Heroin is making a comeback, especially among adults over the age of 30. The number of people who need help from heroin addiction is now over 600,000. This addiction can be costly as some addicts spend up to $200 per day on the drug.
The most common types of drug addiction are:
- Prescription drugs
Even though the above list does not include all the substances that are abused daily in the United States, it is a good indicator of just how widespread the problem of addiction has become.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
The ability to recognize the symptoms and signs of drug addiction can ultimately be lifesaving to someone in need of help for their addiction. Below is a list of the commonly noted symptoms:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Acquiring new friends who do drugs
- Not interested in usual activities and hobbies
- Changes in work habits
- Mood swings, depression, anxiety, aggression
- Self-destructive behavior
Hopefully, with the awareness presented here regarding how prevalent and widespread drug addiction is, you will better understand that it is time to turn your life around, or lead another individual to seek treatment from professional addiction treatment centers.