In 2012, around 23.1 million people were addicted to drugs or alcohol in America and only 2.5 million of them were treated for their addictions, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports.
The causes of addiction aren’t the same for every addict. Some find themselves deep into the world of substance abuse merely by happenstance after spending too much time using with friends. Others are predisposed to it from childhood when brought up in a home where drug and alcohol abuse was frequently present or condoned. Some others might even have biological markers for addiction. The causes are numerous, and a quality treatment program recognizes that and works on healing the addict’s dependency, as well as the wounds that led to it.
For some addicts, their dependency on drugs or alcohol grew from a physical standpoint. Over a prolonged period of time, the body became reliant upon the substance to feel good and normal. When they try to break free of that dependence, they enter withdrawal. Symptoms of this can include:
- Extreme thirst
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vivid nightmares
Often stemming from regular use of prescribed medicine, physical dependence is very common among individuals who take prescription opioid pain relievers. The number of people using prescription painkillers medicinally is quite large, with 259 million scripts being written for these drugs in 2012 alone, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The best treatment programs will also know how to treat co-occurring disorders, which is highly common among the substance abusing population. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 53 percent of drug addicts and 37 percent of alcoholics have one or more serious mental health disorders. Left untreated, these illnesses fester, grow, and lead the substance abuser right back to self-medicating the same symptoms. Those who suffer from mental illness can benefit a great deal too from therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and talk therapy.
Many substance users may not have a diagnosable mental health disorder, but they still have emotional wounds that have scarred them. Traumas endured during childhood and adolescence often leave lasting marks on a person’s psyche that — if ignored — can cause them to lose control and engage in problematic behaviors, such as substance abuse.
Addiction to psychotherapeutic drugs is a constant factor in treating these illnesses, too. Many clients enter treatment aware of their disorder and hooked on the very medications that treat it. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports the results of a 2011 survey touting lifetime abuse of benzodiazepines — drugs commonly used to treat anxiety — reaching 20.4 million people aged 12 and older.
If you grew up in a home where drugs and alcohol were frequently used, you may be predisposed to substance abuse. Many try to convince themselves that they are stronger than the factors at play in their upbringing, but don’t underestimate the power environment has on you. Case in point, many addicts believe for a very long time that they can control their substance abuse. Yet when stress or a trigger arises, they’re back at it.
If your peers regularly engage in substance abuse, you’re more likely to do so as well. Moreover, parental substance abuse plays a huge factor in whether or not you’ll ever try drugs or end up addicted. NIDA reported on one study in which adolescents at age 15 who had low levels of family bonding in their lives were three times more likely to start using illicit substances than kids with higher levels of family activity and attachment. The same goes for peer antisocial activity — high levels of such after age 15 later made for 18-year-old individuals who were four times as likely to start using drugs and alcohol than their peers who had lower levels of antisocial peer influence.
Substance abuse often starts at the hands of friends and family. Access to drugs and alcohol is easiest through them. Per the Office of National Drug Control Policy, data from 2009 and 2010 points to 71 percent of prescription painkiller abusers obtaining their supply from friends and family — either with or without their knowledge. Individuals who have suffered physical or sexual abuse in the early years of their lives and those who have been witness to violent behavior are also more likely to grow up and be substance abusers.
There are biological causes of addiction. Current theories rely on the premise that addiction alone isn’t caused, but it is more likely in some people than others who engage in substance abuse. This is especially true of the parent-child dynamic. Even when parents are not present in raising the child and the environmental influence can be removed, the genetic tie to addiction remains present. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence details this well in a report on adoption studies in which sons of alcoholic biological parents were adopted in infancy and were still four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves.There is no single isolated addiction gene. The process of growing addicted to a substance doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen the same way for every addict. This is why one-size-fits-all treatment approaches don’t work. Some data that points toward a genetic-addiction link includes:
- DRD2 — an opioid dopamine receptor — has an A1 allele that is most often found in cocaine addicts or alcoholics.
- Lab mice that lack certain receptors are drawn to certain substances more than mice that have said receptors.
- CYP2A6 — a protective gene allele that inflicts nausea and vomiting upon smokers — is more commonly seen in non-smokers than those who smoke.
- When the Per2 gene is defective in lab mice, they consume three times more alcohol than when it is functional.
Addiction and Your Health
Prescription opioid painkillers can ruin your body’s ability to process pain and pleasure, in addition to deteriorating normal bodily functions. Eventually, you may find yourself suffering from addiction on top of bladder dysfunction, impotence, and other uncomfortable side effects of opioid abuse. In 2013, opioid painkillers were responsible for 37 percent of all drug poisoning deaths — that’s 16,235 people in just one year, the CDC reports.
While not as many people are abusing them, stimulants can cause many of the same health effects. Marijuana, club drugs like Molly, inhalants, bath salts, and more are all problems in American households. Too many people — especially youths — focus too little on the consequences, or only pay attention to the legal ramifications of drug abuse, when they should be concerned about their own well-being.
Alcohol may very well be the most destructive substance of abuse in the United States. Around 130.6 million people in this country currently drink alcohol. Abuse of this toxin can lead to a myriad of health effects. Some drinkers pass out and then throw up from heavy drinking, all while asleep. This behavior is most often present in binge drinkers. In these cases, some die from aspirating their own vomit.
Others might get behind the wheel of a car and harm themselves or others. The Mothers Against Drunk Drivers organization notes some 29.1 million people drove drunk in 2012, and about 28 people die from drunken driving crashes every single day in the US. Some may get lucky enough to live many years — bottle in hand — until cirrhosis of the liver catches up to them and steals their lives. Hepatitis and other illnesses are also of concern for the alcoholic. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states about half of all serious hepatitis cases end in death; cirrhosis occurs in 10 to 15 percent of alcoholics. For those who quit drinking, they have a 90 percent five-year survival rate, whereas those who continue have a lower survival rate at 70 percent.
The Perks of Staying Drug-Free
You can maintain good health and be a productive member of society. When you remain abstinent from drug and alcohol abuse, doors will continue to open for you. Oftentimes, you will find yourself welcomed back into folds of a family that once shunned you. You will once again meet academic and career performance goals you set for yourself. With the clarity that treatment brings, addicts can repair the damage their substance abuse has caused and move forward into a healthier future.
As a recovering addict, you’ll always be healing. You will no longer be exposed to infectious diseases that come in tow with injection drug use. According to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, around one-third of all AIDS cases are linked to injection drug use practices, and 60 percent of people who have the hepatitis C virus claim they were injection drug users. The alcoholic can allow his liver to heal before cirrhosis sets in. Most importantly, the risk of losing your life to drugs or alcohol will go away entirely. Overdose won’t be a threat to your daily existence. In 2013, the Washington Post reports there were 43,982 deaths from drug overdoses.
Making Positive Moves to Avoid Relapse
Relapse is part of the game when it comes to battling substance abuse and addiction. In fact, most addicts will use again sometime after treatment. The more precautions you take to veer away from this path, the more likely you are to avoid it. NIDA notes 40 to 60 percent of all substance abusers will relapse after treatment. Two of the biggest triggers for recovering addicts are poor treatment and stress.
A good rehab facility is going to enable you to confront the factors that led you to becoming a substance addict. You’ll not only detox in a safe and comfortable manner, but you’ll also discover the power of having support. You will get to know peers who are battling the same things you are. You will lean on them for support and learn from them in group therapy. You will explore your personality and history as you try to determine what your triggers are. Access to quality therapists and state-of-the-art treatments are highly important in preventing relapse.
During your stint in rehab, you’ll learn to make positive choices for yourself that help you instead of hindering you. Self-loathing and punishment will become a distant memory. Grief counselors, nutrition experts, and fitness professionals will be available to help prepare you for the road ahead after treatment. Many addicts find Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to be quite beneficial in helping them to change their ways and reshape the way they see themselves and the potential consequences for their actions. NIDA reports on the subjects of one study, noting 67 percent of patients engaged in CBT completed treatment for cocaine addiction whereas only 38 percent engaged in interpersonal therapy did. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is also a fantastic option in recovery treatment.
There are several other ways you can learn to manage stress on your own so you don’t turn to drugs or alcohol when troubles arise in the future. They include:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Attending support group meetings
Asking for Help
Here at Black Bear Lodge, we’re proud to remain a leader in the field of addiction treatment. We won’t carry you through treatment to drop you once you finish the program. We’ll help you walk the path to a drug-free life and hold your hand throughout your entire recovery journey. Call today.