Drug Addiction Culture
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.1 million people in the United States were diagnosed with substance abuse or dependence in 2010. This is an incredibly large number, and this large population of people struggling with a drug problem can cause severe damage to themselves and the communities they live in. For example, the National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 187 alcohol-related brawls and 111 narcotics-induced brawls resulted in murder in 1999. In addition, 24.5 percent of federal inmates and 29 percent of state inmates reported that they were under the influence of drugs when they committed their violent crimes.
It’s clear that drug and alcohol abuse is both prevalent and dangerous.
Unfortunately, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health also reports that only 4.1 million people (out of the 22.1 million people mentioned above) received treatment for their abuse in 2010. At Rehab International, this is a statistic we’re trying to change. We know that therapies for drug addiction do work, and can ease the pain of addicts and their communities. We hope you’ll call us right now if you or someone you love is struggling with addiction. We can help you find a treatment program that works.
Why Do People Take Drugs?
The best way to avoid a problem is to avoid taking in drugs or alcohol in the first place. Every day, however, someone begins using drugs or alcohol.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse
, people may start taking drugs or abusing alcohol for a variety of reasons, including:
- Pleasure. Many drugs provide a rush of feel-good chemicals in the brain, and those chemicals cause the user to feel intense pleasure. Some stimulants may make a user feel powerful. Alcohol might make a user feel charming and relaxed.
- Improved performance. Some drugs make it easier for people to stay up for long periods of time or perform multiple tasks at the same time without feeling tired. Some users begin taking drugs to help them perform better at school or work.
- Medication. Anxiety, stress and depression can sometimes be eased with the use of drugs, and some addicts begin using because they’re looking for ways to deal with these mental illnesses.
- Peer pressure. People who spend time with others who are using drugs or alcohol may feel intense pressure to try the substances themselves, in order to fit in. Teens may also experiment with substances out of curiosity or the desire to act the same way that others act.
People who use drugs or alcohol may become enamored with these pleasurable feelings, and they may believe the drugs provide the only gateway to happiness. As the body adjusts to the presence of chemicals, however, the addict may need to take higher and higher doses of the medications in order to feel the same symptoms. This syndrome is known as dependence. The person feels reliant upon the drugs.
What is Addiction?
Addiction takes basic dependence a bit further. When people are addicted to drugs or alcohol, they engage in compulsive behaviors in order to obtain that substance. The addict is completely driven by the addiction, and that motivates almost every action of the addict on a particular day.
According to the Mayo Clinic
, signs can include:
- Using the substance several times each day
- Trying to stop using the substance, but feeling unable to stop
- Overspending, or stealing, in order to gain the substance
- Driving while under the influence
- Needing the drug in order to deal with daily life
Drug addiction can often develop slowly, and problems can seem to sneak up on the addict. The addict might begin by experimenting with drugs on the weekend, and then move to taking the drug once during the week, and slowly, the addict stops going to work in order to stay high all day long. Small behavior changes can add up until the addict has made many changes in order to support the addiction.
Why Can’t They Stop?
People who do not have drug problems of their own may counsel the addict to simply stop taking the substances altogether.
The idea here is that the addict is somehow weak because he or she isn’t able to kick the habit alone. While this may have been the prevalent thinking in the early days of addiction medicine, it’s certainly not the prevalent thinking now. In fact, scientists know that addiction changes the way the brain works, and those chemical changes can make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the addict to make the needed changes on their own.
For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that long-term use of drugs can change the amount of glutamate a drug user’s body produces. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter the brain uses in order to make decisions, learn and make good judgments. People with low amounts of glutamate may be incapable of looking at their drug use, deciding to stop and creating a plan to stop the abuse. A study published in the journal Addiction found that people who used methamphetamine performed poorly in tests of motor function, memory, learning and language skills. The drugs changed their brains in fundamental ways.
Why Do Some People Become Addicted?
It’s true that some people can use drugs or alcohol without becoming addicted while other people seem to become addicted incredibly quickly. It’s possible that addiction is a trait that’s passed down through families. In other words, people who struggle with addiction might produce children who also struggle with dependence. It might be some sort of gene that’s passed down.
People who use drugs when they’re teenagers are at particular risk for addiction, especially if they have a history of addiction in the family. During adolescence, the teen’s brain is still growing and changing, and it’s remarkably susceptible to chemicals. Teens who use drugs like heroin may feel a greater rush than adults who use heroin. This might mean that the teen experiences a feeling that is incomparable, and the teen spends the rest of his or her life trying to recapture that feeling.
The environment the person lives in also seems to play a role.
People who live in areas that are hard hit with drugs may know many others who use drugs, and they may find drugs easier to buy and experiment with. Similarly, people who live in areas where drugs are hard to find may not be tempted to use the drugs, since they may not have any way to obtain the substances.
People who go through great times of stress might also be particularly susceptible to abuse, because they might feel they need the drugs in order to get through a difficult time. Using drugs or alcohol in this manner can be particularly destructive, as addicts might feel they simply cannot cope with normal life without assistance.
Common Drug Addictions
What Can Be Done?
As stated, people addicted to drugs and alcohol may not be able to assess their own situations and ask for help. That doesn’t mean, however, that the addicted person must be doomed to years of dependence with no end in sight. Family members and friends can be the catalyst for change, helping the addict recognize the behavior and get the help needed.
Here, the addict’s family sits down with the addict and calmly discusses the addiction. The family may provide specific examples of moments when the addiction became dangerous, and the family might also outline specific consequences that could occur if the addict doesn’t get treatment. At the end of this intervention, the addict is mentally prepared for rehabilitation, and the family can take the person directly to the facility for treatment.
Adult addicts can benefit from a method called an intervention.
Family members who remain supportive, loving and thoughtful throughout the process have the best chance of success with their loved one. Blaming the addict or acting in a hostile manner can drive him or her right back into drug or alcohol use. Sometimes, families must hire mental health counselors or intervention specialists to help them practice holding these tough conversations. Figuring out what you will say, and how you will say it, beforehand could be incredibly beneficial.