Although frequently considered a disorder associated with mental health challenges, addiction has its roots in a range of complex mitigating factors, among them physiological, environmental, and even genetic components. And while the path to addiction can be as unique as the individuals involved, there are some undeniable facts regarding the condition itself.
Addiction has reached epidemic numbers.
In 2014 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 21.5 million adults (anyone age 12 and older) had a substance use disorder. Of that number, one out of every eight individuals said they struggled with both alcohol and drug use disorders. And according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, almost 8 million adults cited co-occurring disorders (mental health and substance use).
Causes of addiction are varied.
As a condition, addiction is estimated to be inherited roughly 50 percent of the time. Other contributing factors include environmental, psychological, and sociocultural determinants.
Addiction alters the brain.
The idea’s a little like muscle memory in that once your body knows how to do something, it does it almost automatically. Each time someone abuses drugs or alcohol, the neural pathway that communicates pleasure in response becomes stronger and stronger, increasing the odds that the behavior will be repeated.
Substance abuse is costly.
It’s generally understood that substance abuse is associated with extremely costly repercussions in terms of relationships. But it’s financially draining as well. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, crime, lost productivity, and health care costs associated with the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs total more than $740 billion each year.
It’s not only illegal drugs that are abused.
Although alcohol and illegal drug abuse get the lion’s share of the attention, some of the most addictive substances are prescribed by physicians to treat insomnia, anxiety, or chronic pain.
The “gateway drug” is the world’s most abused.
Delivering a sense of euphoria and well-being, marijuanais easy to grow, relatively inexpensive, and readily obtainable. It’s known as “the gateway drug” because a large number of those who use cannabis move on to try other illegal substances.
Drug abuse can be fatal.
In the U.S., the number of drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continues to rise. Today’s epidemic of opioid abuse is responsible for more than 6 out of 10 lethal overdoses, a number that has quadrupled since 1999.
Addiction knows no boundaries.
While the factors that lead to addiction vary with each individual, addiction affects men and women, the affluent and the poor, the educated and the undereducated, and manual laborers to C-suite executives. No group is immune.
In the years to come, we will likely continue to learn more and more about addiction, brain chemistry, and other factors that contribute to determining whether someone becomes a social user versus a chemically dependent addict. For now, however, awareness is power. Educating yourself on substance abuse and how it impacts the world is one small step toward minimizing the power it has over those we love.
Do you know someone suffering from addiction? Give us a call, we know how you feel and we’ve been there.
Jordan Hamilton, Admissions, 720-577-4422