What You Need to Know
What is Addiction?
Types of Addiction
Effects of Addiction
A Family Disease
Treatment for Addiction
Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. (1)
Like cancer or heart disease, addiction is a progressive disease that takes complete control. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes addiction disrupts the brain’s normal communication system. Drugs and alcohol can imitate and change the brain’s normal chemistry, over-stimulating the reward center and causing a feeling of euphoria. Over time, users only crave that high more and more.
Addiction is a major American epidemic. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently published the following statistics in their National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2):
- In 2011, an estimated 22.5 million Americans aged 12 or older—or 8.7 percent of the population—had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication in the past month.
- There were just over 3.0 million new users of illicit drugs in 2011. Half were under 18.
According to the CDC (3):
- The number of women overdosing on prescription painkillers has increased by over 400 percent in the past 10 years.
- In 2010, nearly 3,000 young adults ages 18-25 died from prescription drug overdoses, more than died from overdoses of all other drugs combined.
Addiction can take many shapes, from drugs and alcohol to out-of-control activities or processes. Addiction can also affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, nationality, education level or socio-economic status.
Alcoholism affects millions of families every year.
Even though alcohol is a legal substance, it is commonly abused and very addicting. Many who are clinically addicted to alcohol are not even aware they have a problem. Many functional alcoholics deny the problem because they can hold their jobs and lead fairly normally lives. Alcoholism is everywhere, and even the high functioning alcoholic will eventually begin to notice negative consequences as a result. Alcohol abuse can damage the liver, heart and central nervous system. Alcohol addiction is extremely difficult to overcome, and treatment should begin as soon as possible to achieve sobriety.
Drug addiction can take many different forms, depending on the type of substance abused.
Heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are just a few of the illegal drugs that cause addiction in American. There are also legal drugs that can cause addiction, such as prescription painkillers, initially prescribed for medical reasons. Drugs of any kind can alter the brain and make users want more. Many substance cause users to experience withdrawal upon discontinuation of the drug use, and withdrawal comes with varying degrees of unpleasant symptoms. In order to avoid these withdrawal symptoms, many users simply continue to fuel their addictions.
Regular substance use creates biochemical and structural changes in the brain.
Addiction leads to tolerance, which makes users want more and more drugs and/or alcohol in order to achieve the same desired effects. This can be dangerous to the point of overdose and/or death.
Other types of addictions include process addictions, which signify not the dependence on a substance, but the compulsive need to perform an act or behavior, such as gambling, gaming, shopping or eating.
Addiction is not an issue of willpower, inner strength or morality, but a chronic and progressive disease. Addiction not only affects the individual, but also his or her family and loved ones. Without treatment, addiction worsens—just like any other chronic progressive disease—and it can ultimately lead to death.
Addicted individuals often begin to neglect aspects of life that were once important. Responsibilities are forgotten, jobs are lost, finances suffer, health declines and relationships deteriorate.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that the cost of substance addiction on society (health care, law enforcement, criminal justice system, loss of productivity) is $559 billion a year (4).
Substance abuse can also lead to and co-exist with mental illness in the form of depression, anxiety disorders and self-harm disorders. Substance addiction occurring alongside a mental health disorder is referred to as a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders signify cases of “dual diagnosis,” though this term is falling out of favor among the medical community.
Addiction is also a family disease, as it seeps into interpersonal dynamics and structural issues within families. Spouses often enable and/or left to pick up the slack, children are often neglected and parents experience a great sense of guilt and helplessness. That’s why it is very important to address the family system during treatment and work to understand family dynamics and how addiction affects the entire family. ATSI incorporates family participation, when appropriate, into all of our programs.
In 2011, 21.6 million Americans needed treatment for a drug or alcohol problem. Only 2.3 million people (less than 1 percent) received treatment at a specialty facility. (SAMSHA)
Addiction can be successfully treated, but first individuals must find a program that specifically meets their needs. Addiction Treatment Services International (ATSI) offers integrative methods and personalized treatment plans; each client participates in a program built upon their goals and needs.
ATSI provides full recovery and life-changing transformation.