You may have heard people around you use the words, addict, addiction, and addictive with regard to any number of things to include Netflix shows, video games, apps, and bath bombs. While there’s not anything technically wrong with saying, “Oh! I’m totally addicted to True Detective!” or “Americanos are my vice. I’m a total addict,” doing so DOES deplete the true depth and seriousness of addiction. Addiction, whether to drugs and alcohol, or to pornography or gambling, is an issue that brings destruction in its wake. It’s not a funny quirk. It’s not just a difficult habit.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the word addiction specifically in terms of drugs and alcohol.
We’ll get down to the meaning of the word, the havoc it wreaks, and some of the risk factors that make one person more likely to become addicted to a substance than someone else.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a brain disorder that is chronic and relapsing and characterized by compulsive drug seeking despite adverse consequences.
- Addiction is a brain disorder: Addiction causes functional changes in the brain that may continue for a long period of time after the user stops ingesting the chemical. These changes impact mood, impulse control, and cognition.
- Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disorder.Addiction is long-lasting. Like other chronic health issues, it cannot be cured. With treatment, remission is possible, but without ongoing awareness and attention, returns to periods of active illness (relapses) are not uncommon.
- Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug seeking DESPITE adverse consequences. Addicts are not stupid, morally bankrupt, or blind to the consequences of their use.They are, because of changes in their brains, driven to use substances. Here are some examples of consequences that WON’T stop an addict from compulsively seeking out substances*:
- Family Issues: Divorce, abuse and violence, children being removed from the home, CPS involvement, estrangement, or even death of a family member due to negligence on the part of the addict.
- Financial Issues: Bankruptcy, job loss, warnings and dismissals, evictions, or foreclosures.
- Legal Issues: Felony and misdemeanor charges, probation, detention, or parole.
- Health Issues: Malnutrition, stress related diseases, increased risk of sexually transmitted illnesses, mental health disorders, suicide attempts, broken bones, miscarriages, or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).
As stated previously, addiction is similar to other chronic health issues. Just as not everyone who is overweight develops Type II Diabetes, not everyone who ingests drugs or alcohol becomes addicted. There are several identified risk factors:
- Genetics: Like other chronic diseases, addiction seems to have a hereditary factor.Up to half of an individual’s risk for developing addiction seems to be based on genetics.
- Environment: Lack of parental involvement, abuse, neglect, peer pressure, and poverty are risk factors for addiction.
- Dual Diagnosis: The presence of a pre-existing mental health disorder increases an individual’s risk of becoming addicted.
- Developmental Stage: Individuals who begin using at younger ages are more likely to become addicted to chemicals and to struggle with long term consequences.
- Drug of Choice: Methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine seem to be more physically addictive, and have a faster track, than other drugs including marijuana and alcohol.
- Method of Use: Drugs that are either injected or smoked tend to be more addictive.Injecting and smoking both take the chemical directly to the bloodstream without filtering through the liver and kidneys.
Addiction is a serious issue. It is a brain disorder that causes devastation in the lives of sufferers. While joking with each other about our bath-bomb addiction isn’t inherently wrong, it’s important to clarify between really liking something and being compelled to use or do something despite heavy consequences. The pain and suffering caused by addiction is not cute or funny.
There is a positive side to all this seriousness. Just like other chronic illnesses, white there is not a cure, addiction is a disease that responds to treatment. Remission is very possible and long-term relief from the devastation of addiction can be had. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please reach out. We are here and ready to help.
For more information on substance use disorders including addiction, you can also visit the following links:
*Note that some people do seek treatment as a result of these consequences.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.
Healthline Media. (2005-2020). Risk factors for addiction. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/risk-factors
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drugs, brains and behavior: The science of addiction. Retrieved from