Drug Addiction Overview
An estimated 47% of American adults show signs of an addictive disorder, yet a larger part of the population have a poor understanding of how addiction develops. Learning more about the facts and statistics of drug addiction can provide families with an opportunity to provide meaningful help to someone in need.
In the past, addiction was touted as a moral failure or a lack of willpower. Some people still hold this view, although nothing could be further from the truth. Today we know that drug abuse–while usually voluntary in the beginning–tampers with the neural pathways in the user’s brain, creating a neurochemical dependency, making it feel impossible to quit. Addiction is the culmination of brain damage; in fact, the formal definition of “addiction,” as laid out by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is:
A chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.
Addiction is not a hallmark of bad character, but of an injured brain. No matter how much drug use might affect an addict, or how much harm might come to that person’s family or community, the abuse can persist due to the rewiring of the brain to demand it. Every little hit of drugs continues to impact the brain, and without help, addiction can be chronic, progressive, and fatal.
Understanding the Temptation
You may be thinking, “If addiction is so dangerous, why would anyone even consider experimenting with drugs?” The answer to that question might be deeply personal, but there are a few characteristics that make drug use more likely.
Just like any other medical condition, addiction can be passed down through family members. Not only do people imitate the behavior of their parents and siblings, but variants of some familial genes can make drugs feel more potent for a user.
Many people dabble with drugs the first time because of pressure to conform with peers. Spending time in the company of people who use drugs can compel young people to follow suit, and early experimentation makes addiction all the more likely.
Addiction might also begin in a completely legal capacity, as with prescription pills. The use begins as directed, but spirals out of control.
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Addiction Affects Everyone
Addictions impact people from all walks of life: males, females, rich, poor, young, and old. If you have any preconceived notions of what a drug addict looks like, look at the following statistics:
- Gender. Studies do show that men develop addictions at a higher rate than women, however, women are not wholly unsusceptible to the disease. While a 2013 surveysuggested that almost 12% of American men currently suffered from addiction, a not insubstantial 7.3% of women were also found to be addicted.
- Geography. Both residents of urban and rural areas fall prey to addiction, though the substances they use generally differ. People in rural areas tend to abuse alcohol, while in urban areas addicts tend to use heroin or cocaine.
- Economics. Addictions are often associated with lower income levels, but one study found that teens from higher socioeconomic status levels took their first steps into substance abuse earlier than teens in poorer homes. Income levels, therefore, are not usually an accurate predictor of drug addiction.
- Race. People of all races are touched by drug abuse and addiction. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “the rate of current illicit drug use was 3.1% among Asians, 8.8% among Hispanics, 9.5% among whites, 10.5% among blacks, 12.3% among American Indians or Alaska Natives, 14.0% among Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, and 17.4% among persons reporting two or more races.”
Anyone can be touched by addiction, but everyone can seek out routes towards recovery.
There are multiple options available for the treatment of drug addiction, and addicts have to find the method that works for them. Some treatment plans are conducted on an inpatient basis, while others are outpatient. 12-step programs or counseling are also viable options. Long-term residential treatment programs offer holistic and alternative approaches to recovery coupled with evidence-based treatment methods. Choosing the right treatment program is a personal decision, one that is necessary for addicts to get the support they need.