Addiction is a disease that millions of people across the globe suffer from. It's an issue that doesn't discriminate; it can affect anyone, regardless of their age, race, or social status. Despite the prevalence of addiction, many are still unaware of the hard truths that come with substance abuse.
Addiction is more than just a “bad habit”; it's a disease that affects not only the individual suffering from it but also their loved ones and those around them. It can become so debilitating that it takes over one's life, leaving them feeling powerless and trapped in a vicious cycle that seems impossible to break. In this blog post, we will discuss some hard truths about addiction and shed light on the often-overlooked realities of this dangerous disease.
The Reality of Substance Abuse
Addiction is a disease that progressively robs individuals of their livelihood, relationships, mental well-being, and, sometimes, their lives.
1. Addiction is a Chronic Disease
One of the most significant misconceptions about addiction is that it's a choice or stems from a lack of willpower. In reality, addiction is a chronic disease that alters the brain's chemistry, creating compulsive behaviors and making it difficult for individuals to quit using. Research indicates that the standard of addiction treatment should be viewed as addiction management, where medications and behavioral therapy are used to curb compulsions and maintain long-term recovery.
Life With Addiction: Societal Stigma
Addiction remains a highly stigmatized disease, with many people viewing it as a moral failing or about the quality of a person’s character rather than a medical condition. This can make it even more difficult for those struggling with addiction to seek help.
2. Addiction has Long-term Effects on Physical Health
Substance abuse can damage organs, cause chronic diseases, and increase the risk of premature death. For example, heroin use is linked to pulmonary complications, while alcohol abuse can lead to liver disease. Prolonged methamphetamine use can cause lasting damage to the brain. In addition, drug use can also weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and HIV/AIDS.
Life With Addiction: Dependency
Recovery from addiction is not a simple process. Withdrawal symptoms can be brutal, as an individual’s body becomes dependent on the abused substance, and the risk of relapse is high. Many individuals struggling with addiction face a long road of rehabilitation and therapy, often with limited support from society or loved ones. Even after successful recovery, the fear of relapse can remain present for the rest of one's life.
3. Addiction Impacts Mental Health
Addiction and mental health often go hand in hand. Chronic drug and alcohol use has been shown to exacerbate mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Addiction can also lead to psychosis, a severe mental disorder that alters an individual's sense of reality and can cause delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.
Life With Addiction: All-Consuming Cravings
The emotional and mental anguish that an individual struggling with addiction endures is immeasurable. The constant cravings and need for their substance of choice can be all-consuming, leaving individuals struggling to maintain even the simplest tasks. As the addiction takes over, the individual's priorities shift. Keeping up with laundry, showering regularly, or brushing their teeth may fall by the wayside in favor of using drugs or alcohol. This can lead to health problems, social isolation, and a further spiral into the depths of addiction.
4. Addiction Damages Relationships
Substance abuse can lead to strained relationships with family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Addiction can also cause a strain on intimate relationships. People with substance abuse disorders are more likely to experience divorce and domestic violence and have children who develop substance abuse disorders. It can also have a detrimental impact on an individual's career, financial stability, and overall quality of life.
Life With Addiction: Relationships Get Deprioritized
The insidious nature of addiction is such that the individual suffering from it often does not realize the extent of the damage being done to their life until it is too late. Addiction rewires the brain's reward system. The pleasure centers in the brain become hijacked, and the individual becomes consumed with the need to use drugs or alcohol to achieve a release of dopamine. Over time, the addiction becomes the dominant force in the individual's daily life, pushing everything else aside.
Succumbing to Addiction
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that 106,699 individuals in the U.S. died from drug-involved overdose in 2021, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids. This means that in 2021, every 5 minutes, someone died from a drug-involved overdose.
Rate of Overdose By Drug Class
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that “81.9% of overdose deaths involved at least one opioid and 54.2% involved at least one stimulant. Illicitly manufactured fentanyls were the most commonly involved opioids. The most common stimulant involved in overdose deaths was cocaine.”
- Opioids were involved in 81.9% of overdose deaths.
- Illicitly manufactured fentanyl was involved in 72.7% of overdose deaths.
- Stimulants were involved in 54.2% of overdose deaths.
- Cocaine was involved in 27.9% of overdose deaths.
- Methamphetamine was involved in 27.6% of overdose deaths.
- Heroin was involved in 10.7% of overdose deaths.
When looking at who was impacted, the CDC reported that males accounted for 70.3% of all overdose deaths, individuals aged 35-44 years old accounted for 26.0% of all overdose deaths, and white, non-Hispanic individuals accounted for 67.9% of all overdose deaths.
Recovery is Possible
Addiction is a disease that slowly consumes individuals, wreaking havoc on their bodies, minds, and the relationships surrounding them. It is a complex and devastating disease that can have long-lasting effects on one’s physical health and well-being. Fighting addiction requires awareness, education, and community support.
While addiction is a disease that requires ongoing management, recovery is possible. There are several evidence-based treatments that can be tailored to an individual's unique needs and can help individuals achieve lasting recovery. Ongoing therapy, community support, and sober living environments are some of the key elements of achieving long-term recovery.
Don't let the fear of stigma or shame prevent you from seeking the help you need. You deserve a chance at a happy, healthy, and addiction-free life.