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Overview on Drug Addiction

While several decades ago, addiction was merely viewed as a result of lack of control and poor choices it has since been accurately classified as the mental disease, and is included in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) as substance use disorder.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic relapsing complex brain disorder and mental illness. It is characterized by compulsively engaging in drug seeking behaviors, regardless of the consequences. An individual that struggles with addiction will put her need to satisfy her drug craving above all else and will accommodate her craving despite any possible physical, social, emotional, and/ or financial repercussions.

Addiction to Depressants

Addiction Rates

There are several notable facts and statistics regarding addiction and substance use disorder in the United States, such as:

  • Approximately 3.3 million deaths in America result from alcohol use. 
  • Although 23 million Americans struggle with addiction, only 10% receive treatment.
  • One in every twenty-five individual between ages 12-17 struggles with substance abuse, equaling 4% of American teenagers.
  • In 2017, one in every sixteen adults reported having substance use disorder.
  • American Addiction Center survey from 2017, reported roughly 4.1 million Americans over age 12 struggled with marijuana use disorder.

Clearly, substance use disorder and addiction remain a prevalent problem in America.

Nature vs. Nurture

There has yet to be any clear, indisputable, single reason for the development of substance use disorder and addiction. There are, however, many contributing factors that play into one’s potential for developing a drug addiction. According to research these factors include:

  • Development: Development is a crucial component to any individual’s growth. When drugs and/ or alcohol is introduced at a young age, the effect the substance or substances have on her brain can stunt development, and ultimately alter how she develops. The earlier an individual uses drugs and/ or alcohol, the more apt she is to develop an addiction in the future. 
  • Biology: Studies have indicated that there is a genetic factor in relation to the development of addiction. Therefore, due to one’s genes and DNA makeup some individuals are predisposed to addiction more than others. It has also been noted that one’s gender, ethnicity, and both personal and family history of the presence of other mental disorders can contribute to one’s susceptibility for developing an addiction. 
  • Environment: Exposure to drugs and/ or alcohol at a young age, in one’s environment can desensitize an individual to the potential dangers of engaging in its use. Influences such as economic status, presence and support of family and friends, parental guidance, and one’s general quality of life can all play into the development of an individual’s addiction. Certain situational experiences can also affect one’s choice to engage in drug use and play a part in developing an addiction. For example, experiencing a traumatic event (i.e. rape, peer pressure, physical abuse…etc.) can greatly affect an individual’s likelihood of turning to drugs and developing an addiction. 

The more of the above risk factors an individual has, the greater her chances are for developing an addiction. The mere nature and highly addictive qualities of some illicit substances that are widely accessible in this day and age increase anyone’s risk for potentially developing addiction. Regardless of the prospective reasoning behind the development of addiction, it is ultimately caused by repeated and habitual misuse of drugs and/ or alcohol. 

Commonly Abused Drugs

Drugs have the propensity to be abused in several different ways. The method an individual can abuse drugs can include individuals who use drugs that are not prescribed to them, ingesting drugs in a method other than the way in which they were prescribed (i.e. crushing a pill and snorting it, when it was intended to be swallowed), the use of illegal substances, taking prescribed medications in larger doses than prescribed. Research has reported that the most commonly abused drugs include:

    • Prescription Medications:
      • Barbiturates (i.e. Sconal, Nembutal)
      • Benzodiazepines (i.e. Xanax, Klonopin, Valium)
      • Sleep medications (i.e. Lunesta, Ambien, Sonata)
      • Codeine and Morphine, Painkillers (i.e. OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicodone, Percodan)
      • Amphetamines (i.e. Adderall, Mydasis, Dextroamphetamine)
    • Marijuana
    • Alcohol
    • Cocaine
    • Heroin

    In addition to the already over-saturated quantity and variety of drugs available in the US, new medications and synthetic drugs are materializing regularly and becoming increasingly accessible. As a result, the potential for abuse is escalating, as are the increased risks for developing addiction.

woman seeking help

Further Information

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous.

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. 


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