Addiction and Its Impact On People and Their Families
Most people think they have a good understanding of addiction, what it is, and how it affects society. Like other conditions including depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety, there may be more to the addiction than people think.
Sometimes, these preconceived notions can streamline detection and improve care, but other times the beliefs can negatively influence a person’s perspective and create unfounded prejudice about the disorder and the people with it. These issues can prevent treatment and put those affected in jeopardy.
To avoid problems, people must be willing to challenge their notions and replace them with the truth regarding addiction. Here are the facts about addiction you need to know.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is such a large and abstract concept that it can prove challenging to quickly define the condition. One suggested definition of addiction is a state where a person is obsessively focused on using drugs and compulsively engaged in behaviors to get more when no drugs are available.
When people speak about addiction, they usually refer to substances like alcohol and drugs, but emerging evidence points towards people becoming addicted to various behaviors like:
- Viewing pornography
Addictions to substances often exist with physical dependence. A dependence is a physical state where a person’s body and brain are so used to consuming a substance that they need it feel well and function normally.
Since dependence is a physical issue, the person will feel physically ill when use stops. Since addiction is a psychological issue, the person will experience psychological distress without the drug.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
Over the last decade, mental health professionals have been moving away from the terms “addiction” or “drug addict” and replacing them with “substance use disorders” and “people with substance use disorders.” Not only are these terms more respectful, but they are more accurate. The signs and symptoms of a substance use disorder include:
- Taking more of the drug for longer periods of time than intended
- Spending a lot of time engaged in activities that help to get, use or recover from drugs
- Making multiple attempts to reduce or end use of the drugs without success
- Having strong cravings to get and use drugs when none are available
- Struggling to meet expectations at home, work or school because of substance use
- Noticing more conflict in relationships with loved ones
- Continuing to keep using drugs, even when one’s physical and mental health are in danger
- Giving up important social, work or recreational commitments to use substances
- Needing more of the drug to produce the wanted effects
- Feeling physically or mentally unwell when none of the drug is available
Some experts see addiction as a disease or as a mental health condition. Leading voices in the field agree that addiction is in no way a moral failing on the part of the addicted person.
People may look to addiction as a self-inflicted condition and blame the individual for their own problems. They may say, “If you only stayed away from the drugs, you wouldn’t have a problem.”
This stance is problematic as well as harmful. Blaming people for their condition is common, and it happens with other diseases, too. Critics often blame people for having lung cancer, hypertension, type-2 diabetes and other conditions without seeing the problems with this trend.
A central theme of addiction is the loss of control people experience because of the drug. If it were up to them, they would choose a healthy, functional life, but the pull of addiction is too strong.
Causes of Addiction
Addiction is confusing because it is impossible to pinpoint an exact cause. Instead, addiction seems to have multiple contributors that may influence the condition.
Some people can use substances multiple times and never become addicted while others can use a substance just once and experience addiction. This difference is due to the combination of biological and environment factors the person has.
For example, a person with a strong family history of substance use who grew up with little money in a violent neighborhood will have a strong likelihood of addiction. On the other hand, a person with no family history of addiction who grow up in a stable family and did well in school will have a small chance of addiction.
Addiction treatments are numerous but not each method is the best option for each person. Available in individual, group and family sessions, therapy is a great way to undercover and address the issues that contribute to addiction while planning ways to avoid future use.
Medications are effective in reducing cravings and discomfort linked to ending use. They can also treat mental health conditions that contribute to addiction.
Support groups, including 12-step groups, are ways to complement the professional treatments and create a sense of community with others.
Each of these treatments are available in inpatient, residential and outpatient settings to best meet the needs of the individual in recovery. With a helpful program and a desire for change, people with substance use disorders can become people in recovery.