Facts about Addiction
In the last two decades, medical rather than societal views have been reshaping responses to addiction. Although the stigma that label people with substance addictions still persist to some degree, advancements in technology is helping to separate facts from propaganda about this potentially deadly condition. Since chronic drug abuse has the potential to destroy lives on so many levels, it may be helpful to review the following facts about addiction.
- #1. Drug addiction can happen to anyone who is sufficiently exposed to addictive chemical substances. Developing a drug dependence can occur whether your drug use was initiated for treatment of a legitimate medical condition or for recreational use. In fact, studies show in some individuals, the initial use of drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine can be so intoxicating that it can lead to a drug binge and rapid development of dependence. According to scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prolonged use of any mind altering chemical substance can result in physical changes in areas of the brain that impairs the person’s ability to exert self-control over their drug use despite serious consequences which is the hallmark of addiction.
- #2. Some individuals have multiple risk factors that makes them more vulnerable to addiction. There is no single factor that determines who will become addicted to drugs. However, based on research outcomes, there are various risk factors that increases an individual’s chances of experiencing addiction. Primary risk factors include frequent exposure to living, working, school or social environments that favor drug use, genetics or having a family history of substance abuse as well as starting drug use at an early age. Multiple risk factors increase the chance that the person will experience addiction.
- #3. A drug overdose can occur at any use event. Most fatal drug overdoses are accidental and can occur for any number of reasons and even at “supposedly” low doses if…
- a) People underestimate their tolerance levels after a period of abstinence or when using drugs for the first time.
- b) Taking more than was medically recommended may be more than the individual’s body can handle.
- c) Sensitivity to certain illicit drugs or prescription medication.
- d) Consuming multiple substances at the same time such as prescription drugs and alcohol.
- #4. Doctor prescribed pain medication kill more people annually than illicit drugs. According to a 2014 report from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Prescription opioids caused 18,893 overdose deaths compared to 10,574 heroin related death in that same year. Also, based on a more recent study led by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Health System and the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania published in the American Journal of Public Health in February 2016, there has been a four-fold increase in the number of benzodiazepine overdose deaths for substances such as Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Researchers also noted that the increased risk of overdose deaths from these drugs was due to the fact that during the study period many patients were prescribed higher dosages over a longer treatment period.
- #5. An undiagnosed or insufficiently treated mental disorder is a primary reason for substance abuse and drug or alcohol relapse. According to NIDA scientists…
- a) individuals experiencing mild, overt or subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication.
- b) chronic drug use can cause one or more symptoms of another mental illness.
- c) Overlapping conditions such as unresolved childhood trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, genetic and environmental vulnerabilities as well as brain deficits can lead to progressive drug use and addiction.
Based on these facts, it is clear that addiction is a complex condition with subtle nuances that defy easy solutions. As such, people experiencing the onset of addiction or have been struggling with this condition should seek professional medical treatment to stop the progression of the disease and alleviate the threat of a drug overdose.