Written By Granite Recovery Centers
When you think of a person addicted to substances, how does that person appear to you? Do you see someone living in a mansion in Beverly Hills, or do you think of someone living in a tent under a bridge? Whatever comes to mind first, it, most likely, doesn’t scratch the surface of what most of the people struggling with a drug addiction actually look like. In America, 31.9 million people aged 12 and over have used an illegal substance within the past 30 days.
Anyone Can Become Addicted to Substances
The medical community now knows that addiction is not a weakness. Specifically, people experiencing a substance use disorder are not experiencing it because they are not strong enough to fight it. The medical community describes addiction as a disorder that is chronic. People in the throes of addiction compulsively seek their drugs of choice despite facing negative consequences.
Addiction is an illness of the brain. When people take substances for too long, the substances change areas in the brain that are involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Even if someone addicted to substances stops taking them, these changes can persist for many years after the fact.
Even though the medical community has explained that addiction is a disease, the old belief persists that those addicted to substances have a choice to become addicted or not. If you work in the addiction community, you know that anyone can become addicted to substances, regardless of their economic status, racial origin, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual orientation.
Why Does One Person Become Addicted and Another Does Not?
It is just like with other diseases and disorders. One person is diagnosed with a physical illness, but the person’s neighbor will not receive this diagnosis. This is how it is for substance use disorders as well. Therefore, you cannot say that someone will become addicted by pointing to one risk factor. If you have several risk factors for becoming addicted to substances, you are more likely to develop a substance use disorder.
Social Factors That Could Lead to Substance Use Disorders
If a child is growing up in a home where older people and role models are using substances or breaking the law, this is a risk factor for the child to also grow up to use substances. When children reach their teenage years, their peers begin to become more important to them. These peers may encourage others to try drugs, and it doesn’t matter whether or not these children have other risk factors. If a child is having trouble in his classes at school or has a lot of trouble making friends, these are additional risk factors for becoming addicted to substances.
The environment determines whether one particular gene or another will express itself. This is known as “epigenetics,” and scientists say that epigenetics constitute 40% to 60% of whether or not someone will become addicted to substances.
Risk Factors in the Family Environment
A person’s family life predicts whether or not they have a high risk of becoming addicted to substances. The behavior of their parents or guardians is one indicator of future substance use. For example, if the parents were absent, inattentive, often unemployed, abusive, or addicted to substances, their children are more likely to have problems with substance use.
Some parents are also mentally ill, sexually deviant, or antisocial, and this leads their children to substance use. In addition to that, some parents are living in unstable situations, and they frequently move from place to place. The fact that the family is not a cohesive unit is another risk factor for the children. Several reasons cause the family home to be unsuitable for the children. Substance use is often seen as an answer for kids who grew up in emotionally damaging situations like these.
Other Risk Factors that Increase the Risk of Addiction
If you begin to use substances in your 50s and 60s, you are still at risk of developing a substance use disorder. However, if you are in your teenage years or even younger the first time you use, you are more likely to become addicted. Substances may affect a young, developing brain differently than they affect an older person’s brain. Young people may also be more susceptible to addiction because of mental illness, genetics, physical or sexual abuse, and the lack of a stable home or family situation.
Smoking or injecting a drug increases the possibility of becoming addicted. Smoking or injecting drugs delivers them to your system in a much faster manner than swallowing a pill. Within seconds, people begin to experience the high they are seeking. Unfortunately, the high doesn’t last very long. Some people decide to take additional “hits” to continue the feelings, and this leads to abuse.
Addiction Is a Chronic Disease
Like heart disease, addiction can prevent your organs from functioning properly. This causes harmful consequences, but both diseases can be treated and prevented. Without treatment, these diseases will become progressively worse and may be the cause of the person’s death.
When people take a substance for the first time, the experience may be pleasurable. If they took it early in their lives, they may have believed that they could stop taking it whenever they wanted to do so. The trouble with substances is that they can quickly get out of control. During the course of this illness, they begin to lose interest in the activities they found pleasurable before. They need to take their substances to feel like themselves again.
As they continue to take their drugs of choice, it causes problems for them with their friends and family members, but they are unable to slow down or stop their use. As they become tolerant to the drug, they need to take a larger dose so that they can experience the feelings they had the first time they took the drug. This is the beginning of their addictions.
Addiction Can Be Treated
In the beginning, you made the choice to try a substance. After some time went by, taking substances was no longer a choice. The drug use became compulsive, something that you had to do to feel well. That’s because of the effects the drugs were having on your brain, but treatment can help you stop using.
Because substance use disorders are relapsing disorders, it can be difficult to stop using your drug of choice and go on with your life. You need treatment. Once you obtain treatment, you will be able to stop using the substance and remain free of the drug as long as you continue with treatment. Then, you can return to your duties with your family or at work.
Treatment for Substance Use Disorder
You or your loved one will have several options for treating the substance use disorder, but the first thing that you will need to do is stop seeking your drug of choice. This can be impossible to do if you suddenly stop in one day. When you stop suddenly, or “cold turkey,” you will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. This will make it extremely difficult for you to not go in search of one last dose or drink.
After you complete the detox process, you will not have the need to ingest your drug of choice, but this is only the beginning of the treatment process. After the detox program, you will receive treatment for your psychological addiction with behavioral therapies. These therapies are essential for treating addictions because they alter your thoughts about ingesting drugs and change the behaviors that led you to consume them. After you have begun therapy for your substance use disorder, you will receive long-term treatment in a drug rehab program that will keep you from relapsing and falling back into your old behaviors again.
Tearing Down the Stigma
Addictions to drugs or alcohol can cause anyone to lose everything even if you were doing a great job at work and caring for your family. These people may appear to have everything together on the outside, but they may be falling apart on the inside. We have just two examples of this story in the music world. Prince and Tom Petty managed to become massively successful as musicians and amassed the fortune and fame that everyone dreams of achieving. Why would someone living this type of life decide to become addicted to substances?
These examples are telling us that we can never know what demons someone is dealing with on the inside. It isn’t hard to believe that with every well-known overdose there are many other unknown people who are victims of overdoses. People do not feel free to admit that they have a problem and that they need help because they are afraid of judgement. If they could have asked for help, the approximately 100,306 drug overdose deaths that occurred in 2021 might have been prevented.