In today’s society, it is likely that we personally know someone that is addicted or we know of someone who has been. The question that seems to be on society’s mind is “Why?”. Why would someone choose that life? Why can’t they just quit (insert addiction)? Doesn’t this person realize they are letting their life slip away?
The short answer to these questions is this…
It’s just not that easy. It’s so much more complicated than just changing a behavior. Both lack of education and resources play a huge role in the prevalence of addiction and substance abuse in our society. I’m going briefly scratch the surface of addiction today, hopefully to bring a bit more information to light.
No one decides to wake up one day and become an addict. Drug addiction does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone of any race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, age, occupation, etc. It may be easy for those who have never suffered from an addiction to assume that it would be as simple as deciding to change a behavior.
Addiction is a complex brain disease. Drugs have the ability to change brain chemistry and reroute communication in certain areas of the brain, therefore increasing the likelihood of compulsive drug abuse. Drugs also have the ability to produce euphoric effects by tricking the brain into thinking it needs to produce more dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure) than is actually needed. Once the brain is fooled, it becomes a cycle that cannot easily be broken.
As I previously stated, no one chooses to become an addict. There are several situations that may unintentionally lead to an addiction: medical need for pain management (from either prior injury or chronic illness/pain), inappropriately managed care or substance abuse treatment, or family/social environment, just to name a few. While there are certainly more resources available these days for both healthcare providers and patients, many may not know where to locate them or who to ask for help. Healthcare providers also may be hesitant to seek assistance when it comes to substance abuse for both themselves and for their patients. Patients may be hesitant to seek assistance for fear of getting their provider or themselves in trouble, or fear of being judged by society, their family and friends.
We need to work on breaking the stigma and take the time to really understand addiction.