KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — “What do you wish people understood about addiction?”
A few answers were offered, followed by silence.
“I wish people understood that I didn’t plan on this controlling me like it does.”
“It’s something that changes your brain and overtakes your life. It’s a real disease.”
“I’m not a bad person. I wish it were as easy as just being a good person to quit using.”
Due to the variety of explanations for addiction it’s no surprise many don’t understand why or how it develops.
Historically, those with addiction, or substance use disorder, were viewed as lacking will power and moral principles. With advancement in science and neurological studies, it’s become apparent tSUD is a complex disease that can be treated — not with will power or good intentions, but with evidence-based therapies like medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a chronic, often relapsing, brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual and those around them. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge their self control and hamper their ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs.
To understand addiction, it’s imperative to understand what happens to the brain when a substance is used for an extensive amount of time.
“Drugs contain chemicals that tap into the brain’s communication system and disrupt how nerve cells normally send, receive and process information,” explained NIDA. “There are at least two ways drugs cause this disruption — by imitating the brain’s natural chemical messengers and by overstimulating the reward circuit of the brain.”
NIDA noted, “These changes eventually impact areas of the brain that are critical to judgement, decision-making, learning, memory, behavior and control. These changes can drive a substance abuser to seek out and take drugs compulsively, despite adverse and devastating consequences — the very nature of addiction.”
It’s important to look at the dimensions contributing to the development of addiction. The three main factors are biology, environment and development.
Biology, combined with environmental influences, account for half a person’s risk to developing SUD. Environmental influences range from relationships to quality of life.
“Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse or trauma, stress and quality of parenting received can greatly influence of the occurrence of drug abuse and the escalation of addiction,” stated NIDA.
Genetic and environmental factors impact the critical development stages in life, which can affect susceptibility to addiction. Consuming substances at any age can lead to addiction, but the earlier the consumption starts the more likely it will progress into serious abuse and addiction that could impact an individual’s development.
Additionally, when trauma is a factor at any developmental stage, the vulnerability for addiction increases.
There’s no single factor that will predict or explain whether a person will become addicted to alcohol or drugs. The more risk factors an individual is exposed to, the greater the chance of them developing addiction.
The stigma associated with addiction is real and will only come to an end by increasing awareness and seeking proven, evidence-based answers to questions posed. To start researching addiction, visit www.drugabuse.gov, www.addictioncenter.com or www.ncadd.org.
The Substance Use Recovery and Treatment Committee meets the fourth Wednesday of the month. For more information on SURT, contact Kevin Haines at (574) 527-3224.
The next article of the series will be published next week Wednesday, May 8, in The Mail-Journal and on InkFreeNews.com.