Understanding Drug Addiction and Abuse
For most people, understanding drug abuse and addiction is simply beyond their comprehension. Over the years, people often get trapped in the mindset that those with substance abuse issues lack moral principles or willpower. These same people think that beating addiction is easy as choosing to do so. In reality, to get a complete understanding drug abuse and addiction, people must first realize that addiction is a complex disease. Beating the addiction takes more than intent or willpower. Clinically speaking, drug addiction changes the brain in ways that make abstinence difficult. After decades of research, we now know more than ever about how substance abuse affects the brain. Today, we have found treatments that can help people recover from substance abuse and go on to lead productive lives.
What is substance abuse?
Substance abuse, or addiction as it is commonly referred to, is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking/usage that is compulsive and nearly impossible to control, despite the ruinous consequences. The initial decision to experiment with drugs is voluntary for most people, but continued substance abuse can cause changes in the brain that overwhelm an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist the urges to take drugs. These changes in the brain can be difficult to reverse, which is why substance abuse is a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from substance abuse disorders are at high risk for returning to substance abuse even after years of abstinence. It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs. Sober living housing is a key component in helping substance abusers learn to fight those urges and if reinforced through continuing treatment, the urges eventually subside as the brain relearns healthier attitudes.
Why do some people succumb to substance abuse while others don’t?
Understanding drug abuse and addiction invariably raises the question as to whether or not we can predict who’s at risk. The truth is that no single factor can accurately predict if a person will have a substance abuse problem. It’s usually a combination of factors that influences risk. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. For example:
- Biology. This generally refers to the genes that people are born. Studies show that this area accounts for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders (or the history of such conditions in the family) may also influence risk for drug use and addiction.
- Environment. A person’s environment includes is influenced by the family and friends as well as a person’s economic status and general quality of life. Factors such as peer pressure, physical or sexual abuse, or early exposure to drugs can play a role. So too can stress, parental guidance ( or lack thereof) can profoundly affect a person’s inclination to fall victim to substance abuse.
- Development. A person’s genetic makeup and environmental conditions are critical during the developmental stages in a person’s life. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to addiction. This is particularly problematic for teens. In the teen brain, areas that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still developing, so teens may be especially prone to risky behaviors, including trying drugs. Parents who are dealing with teens suffering from substance abuse should seek treatment for their children immediately.
Substance abuse can happen to anyone
While it is tempting to point fingers at one socioeconomic class of people, the truth is that substance abuse can affect people from all walks of life, regardless of their age, race, or background. While some people claim they are able to use recreational or prescription drugs without experiencing negative effects, others find that substance abuse quickly spirals out of control. Substance abuse destroys the life of the user and shatters the lives of loved ones. It can leave you feeling helpless, isolated, or ashamed. If you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s drug use, you should do as much research as possible. Understanding drug abuse and addiction —and why it can have such a powerful hold—will give you a better grasp of what you need to do to regain control of your life or to help a loved one who is suffering through substance abuse.