Substance abuse and addiction are very serious matters that affect many people. There is a belief, however, that addicts simply condemn themselves to their situation and have no use in society. This is far from true. Addiction is an illness that affects thousands of people and those who struggle with it should be met with compassion and understanding.
If you’ve never experienced addiction yourself or never had a loved one struggle with it, you might not realize the severity of addiction and the difficulties it can bring about. There are many things to consider in order to properly understand how addiction works.
Difficulties of Recovery
Some people may think quitting an addictive substance can be easy and those with addictions simply lack willpower. In reality, addiction recovery is difficult for everyone and takes a lot of perseverance and struggle.
It is possible to overcome addiction without any medical intervention of course, but it’s much easier to relapse without outside help and most people require proper support to recover. For some people, simply finding treatment can be difficult, especially for those with little or no income. Individuals who don’t have health insurance often can’t afford any sort of counseling or rehabilitation services. Sometimes even people with access to United Medical Resources or UMR insurance can have a hard time finding a UMR rehab in their area. With little accessibility to proper programs and care, many are left to their own devices and are given no help in battling their addiction.
Another reason recovery can be so difficult is the effects of withdrawal. When someone’s body is dependent on a certain substance for a long period of time, suddenly depriving it of that substance can cause many negative side effects. These symptoms can include lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, hallucinations, paranoia, and in severe cases even seizures. These uncomfortable and often scary symptoms can sometimes cause patients to start using their addictive substance again just to get relief from the mental and physical torment.
Many people in addiction recovery end up relapsing, or using the substance they’re trying to quit, sometimes multiple times before achieving complete sobriety. These relapses often aren’t a thought-out, intentional decision, but rather an impulsive response to intense cravings or withdrawal symptoms. The very nature of addictive substances causes individuals to form physical dependencies on them, so in a way it can feel like they need to take the substance in order to function, even if they’re unable to properly function when intoxicated.
How It Happens
Anyone can fall victim to addiction regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, or income. There are numerous factors that can contribute to substance abuse that many people may not consider.
Genetics plays a big role in how susceptible someone is to addiction. If an individual’s parents or other blood-related family members have issues with substance abuse, that person is already more likely to struggle with it as well. This is why there are often questions on medical questionnaires about family history with addiction whenever you see a new doctor. Having family members with addictions doesn’t automatically mean you’ll also have those issues of course, and having no family history of addiction doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t, but it’s a good indicator of risk, especially when looking at prevention in teen drug and alcohol use.
Many people fall into addiction not by abusing illegal drugs like meth or heroin, but by developing a dependency on legally prescribed medication. You’ve probably heard of the opioid epidemic and the alarmingly high rate of addiction among patients prescribed pain medication for long-term use. The truth is, even legal and necessary drugs like pain meds can be addictive when taken for long periods of time. Some people who simply take these medications after serious surgery can become addicted and must go through treatment to come off the pills.
Addiction can cause many negative effects on both the person with the addiction and those close to them. It is a destructive illness that has claimed countless lives, which is why education, prevention, and support are so important.
Any substance, when ingested frequently and in large amounts, can be harmful to an individual’s body. Many addictive substances are inherently harmful and only increase in risk and damage the more they’re consumed. But even substances like pain medication, which is supposed to be beneficial, can be harmful when taken in high doses or too frequently. An individual’s health can decline drastically depending on what substance they’re using and how heavily.
A person’s relationships can also be severely impacted by addiction. Family, friends, and romantic partners often suffer in addition to the addicted individual and it can cause great turmoil and pain for everyone involved. Seeing someone you love struggle with addiction can be heartbreaking and the effects of certain substances can even cause people to lash out and harm their loved ones as well. It’s not uncommon for addiction to force loved ones to distance themselves or cut off an addicted individual entirely to escape the damage they may cause.
There’s certainly a huge negative stigma surrounding addiction and substance abuse. Again, this mostly comes from a lack of education and understanding about addiction and those who suffer from it. This stigma often results in a lack of support for patients seeking treatment, as many people don’t see it as an issue they should care about. People suffering from addiction are vastly misunderstood and suffer even further because of it. Even those who are in recovery or are sober are often judged based on their past addictions despite the effort they put into overcoming them.
Addiction is not a small issue no one should be concerned about. It’s a serious epidemic that can affect anyone and causes severe harm. Be mindful of the complexities and struggles that come with addiction before passing judgment and consider any ways you can help in the support of those affected.
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