Hey All, My name is Camille and I am coming to you from the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
I work in the substance abuse field and have been asked to demystify some common beliefs or misunderstandings about addiction and offer some resources to you on the subject. My goal is to assist you in finding compassion and understanding for those who suffer from addiction, and to learn appropriate ways to cope with addiction. Just to clarify, I am referring to all substance abuse addiction in this post, both legal and illegal drugs that are abused in order to get high (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription medications, inhalants, opiates, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, food, sex, etc.)
The first myth I’d like to debunk is that addiction only happens to someone from a specific demographic description. Regardless of gender, race, creed, ethnicity, or lifestyle choice, anyone can suffer from addiction. Addiction can be attributed to a variety sources present in someone’s life. Such as genetics, mental illness, early use of drugs, social environment, and childhood trauma could all be contributing factors to a person becoming an addict. The point to understand here is that addiction is real, and nobody is immune.
The second myth I’d like to expose here is that addiction is simply the lack of will by the abuser. This is absolutely false. Addiction is a brain disease, and there is research to prove it. This type of brain disease has to do with the stimulation of neurotransmitters in the brain, and the overwhelming craving of that stimulation. Once someone uses a substance, their brain chemistry is altered permanently. And depending on their drug of choice, they may become addicted after the first time they use. From that point forward, their brain is constantly demanding another hit of the stimulating substance. Everything associated with use of that substance (ie: environment, people, smells, emotional or biological triggers and other strong feelings) make cravings for the drug stronger. A person who is addicted to substances has to fight cravings all day long, especially if they are living in the environment where they previously used and abused substances.
Addiction is similar to other diseases such as heart disease. Both disrupt the normal healthy functioning of the underlying organ, have serious harmful consequences, are preventable, treatable, and if left untreated, can last a lifetime.*
This doesn’t mean that someone cannot recover from addiction. What it does mean is that it is not as simple as just quitting the drug. This is important to understand when you or someone you know is trying to recover from addiction. It is not easy, and relapse is possible. However, recovery is possible too, with a lot of hard work and support from others.
And perhaps in my next post we can discuss how to avoid addiction through preventative measures with the younger generations.
There are a ton of online resources for this subject. My suggestion is to visit the following sites and find what is useful for you. Many of these sites will send you free information, and you may also find resources in your local communities:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
- The HBO Addiction Project provides realistic and useful information along with their documentary films.