Drug addiction is not a rare issue. In fact, despite efforts in fighting the further proliferation of illegal substances in the streets and online, some individuals are still able to have access to these drugs. This has led to some people to be more prone to drug abuse than others.
Drug addiction is a complex psychological issue in which sudden cessation may not be that simple. There’s a public misconception as to how people get themselves hooked onto drugs. Some would criticize drug users, saying that they lack morals or the will to stop anytime.
In reality, drug addiction cannot be stopped by merely saying no. Turning around from drug abuse may take months, and even years before drug users can completely recover.
Fortunately, researchers continue to study how drugs affect the brain, resulting to various possible treatments. Apart from providing proper medication, addressing drug abuse involves a series of psychological treatments to ensure that the user is able to function normally and eliminate the thought of resorting to drugs once again.
What is drug addiction?
Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by frequent drug seeking and use, which could be difficult to control, despite the user realizing its harmful consequences. Repeated drug use can destroy the normal brain function of the individual, affect his self-control, and interfere with the individual’s ability to resist such intense urges to take the drugs.
The changes that happen in the brain can persist for a number of years. Former drug users may experience a relapse after some time, if unfavorable circumstances would happen again.
While relapse may be common, it should not be perceived as a failed treatment. Rather, it should provide a consistent and modified kind of treatment based on how the patient responds to it.
How do drugs affect the brain?
Majority of drugs intervene with the normal flow of dopamine, the reward circuit of the brain. Such massive flow of dopamine intensifies the body’s ability of feeling pleasure and intense happiness. The overstimulation of this chemical causes an incredible feeling of unusual “high” that can lead individuals to consume the drug repeatedly.
Continuous drug use alters the normal release of dopamine, leading the brain to produce less of this chemical. This reduces the ability of the cells to respond. Accordingly, when this happens, it decreases the heightened feeling of the individual, and leads to consuming more drugs at frequent and higher doses until the desired effect is achieved. This effect is referred to as tolerance.
Consequently, when tolerances steps in, this may lead to unresponsiveness to previously pleasurable situations or thoughts.
Long-term drug use can cause changes in other brain-related chemical systems, which include:
Despite the disturbances or its negative effects, users continue to consume them, thus the nature of addiction.
What are the factors that influence the risk of addiction?
You may have noticed how some individuals do not automatically become addicted to drugs despite having access to it. A combination of factors described below should determine if a person is prone to addiction.
- Genetics: Studies have shown that genetics play an important role in an individual’s personality. This includes the presence of certain diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney problems, and even drug addiction.
- Environment: The behavior of an individual may get accustomed to where he/she is mostly at. Nonetheless, exposure to a violent environment (say, a home where parents often fight with one another) increases a person’s tendency to resort to addiction to feel numb and to somehow become unaffected.
Drug Abuse Statistics
There are various reasons why individuals would turn to drugs – escape, curiosity, rebellion, boredom, belongingness, and some others. No matter what their reasons are, drug addiction affects not only the user themselves, but also their loved ones.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 80 percent of individuals with substance abuse also have an alcohol use disorder. Almost 8 million American adults suffer from both mental health disorder and substance use disorder as well as other co-occurring disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Based on these facts, it isn’t surprising that drug abuse has cost the U.S. government an incredible amount of $200 million for healthcare, legal, criminal justice, and decrease in workplace productivity, as reported by the Office of the National Drug Control Policy. It has been estimated by the World Health Organization that at least 5.4 percent of the population worldwide has been burdened by this global issue.
Here are some of the facts and figures on drug abuse, based on categories of users:
- SAMHSA’s 2014 report showed that men are more likely to use almost all types of illicit substances.
- Men are more likely to show up at the emergency department of hospitals due to drug overdose or deaths than women.
- Men have higher rates of use than women.
- Women can be equally addicted like men since women are susceptible to cravings.
- In 2013, there are about 10.8 million men and 5.3 million women suffering from substance use disorder.
- American Indian/Native women and African-American women are more likely to get hooked on drugs than other racial or ethnic groups. Some of the reasons include being victims of rape or other forms of violence.
- Alaska Natives and American Indians have the highest rate of substance abuse in 2013, according to the NSDUH.
- Native Americans have the highest rate of drug-induced deaths (17.1%) according to the 2010 SAMHSA survey.
- Among 18.2 million Asian Americans, the rate of Asian drug users is at 4.1%. About 15.6% are Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders among people aged 12 and above.
- The rate of substance dependence was 4.5% for Asian Americans and 10% for Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders.
- Hispanics and whites suffered from substance abuse and dependence in 2013.
- Roughly 5% of the American adolescent population struggled from substance use disorder in 2014. This is about 1.3 million teens.
- About 860,000 teens battled from an illicit drug use disorder in 2014, according to the NSDUH.
- About one in every 6 American young adults suffered from drug abuse disorder in 2014. According to NSDUH, this represents the highest percentage out of any age group.
- Heroin was the extremely abused substance in 2010 by this age group.
25 and older
- There are at least 14.5 million American adults aged 25 and older struggling with a substance use disorder in 2014, according to NSUDH.
- There are more school drop outs battling with substance use disorder than College graduates.
- About 15% of the elderly individuals may be suffering from substance abuse.
- This age group is prone to suffer from drug abuse and dependence because of their need to take some medications to help treat their medical conditions, which unfortunately can cause addiction.
- According to the NSUDH report, the rate of current illicit drug use among adults aged 18 or older was higher for those who were unemployed (18.2 percent) than for those who were employed full time (9.1 percent), employed part time (13.7 percent), or “other” (6.6 percent). The latter includes students, persons keeping house or caring for children full time, retired or disabled persons, or other persons not in the labor force.
- People who have fewer positive feelings or who are more inclined in seeing the unappealing side of life are more likely to abuse drugs. These people find it difficult to see the goodness in people around them or their environment, that to help them see otherwise would lead them to taking illicit substances.
- A condition called neuroticism can also be a factor for an individual to resort to illicit drug use. Having anxiety issues or being in a depressed mood characterizes this condition. People suffering from this condition would choose drugs as their means of rewarding themselves to escape from the negative feeling.
Industry/Type of Work
- Based on a 2012 SAMHSA report, individuals working from the mining industry constitute the highest number of individuals who are in use of illicit drug substances, which is about 17.5%.
- From 2008 to 2012, individuals working with the food services industry indicated the highest rate of illicit drug use at 19.1%. This was among full time employees aged 18 to 64.
- Individuals who may be under chronic pain medication such as narcotics are more prone to drug abuse. This is why patients who are taking this type of medications are advised to strictly comply with the doctor’s prescription. Unlawful use of these substances may lead to psychological dependence, which becomes life-threatening to the individual.
- Adderall is used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. Its major effect is giving the individual more focus and concentration. These are the reasons why some students have abused this drug, hoping that it can help them increase their grades in school. This kind of drug has become known as the “study pill”.
Addiction to Specific Substance
- In 2014, about 900,000 Americans over the age of 11 years old battled with cocaine use disorder, according to NSDUH.
- Nearly 6% among all full-time college students in the U.S. smoked marijuana daily.
- About 4.2 million American adults over the age of 11 struggled with marijuana us disorder in 2014.
- In 2015, the American Society of Addiction Medicine reported that approximately 586,000 American adults struggled with heroin abuse.
- Individuals who are addicted to alcohol are twice more likely to become addicted to heroin.
- Non-Hispanic whites aged between 18-25 years old and lives in a city have higher risk of abusing heroin.
- Over 2 million Americans have opioid abuse disorder.
- Women are more likely to develop an opioid abuse disorder than men.
Best Way To Intercept Drug Addiction
The U.S. government and health agencies cannot battle drug abuse by themselves. The active participation of the basic unit of society is also required.
We often hear the same excuses made by some drug users to justify their bad habits – wanting to be heard, wanting to be loved, and wanting to belong. It makes sense how some individuals have completely lost themselves in the hopes of finding their identities.
It is in this manner that the family is considered the primary support group of any drug user. Each member of the family should make everyone feel that everyone is equally valuable and equally loved. This is the best way to make sure that drug abuse treatment is successful, and drug addiction is intercepted.
Additionally, parents should always become part of their children’s lives no matter how old they get. Having gone through the stage of adolescence, parents should be aware how their teens feel, think and react to everyday situations. Instead of always pointing out the mistakes that their teens commit, it may be best to inform them of the ramifications of their unfavorable actions or unwise decisions.