One thing about addiction that is absolutely undeniable is that it does not discriminate. Addiction does not care for age, sex, skin color or sexuality. It doesn’t care whether you go to church or abstain from religion. It does not look at your paycheck to determine your income and class. Addiction has a singular target: humanity.
That isn’t to say that, as per the New York Times, there’s no such thing as a risk factor. Some people are more likely to become dependent on drugs or a certain habit than others.
It’s important to see that some circumstances – including trauma and depression – make us more likely targets for addiction. But addiction is a problem faced by everyone – it doesn’t just affect the addict, but their partners, family, friends, and community.
Our only defense, then, is to stick together and fight the factors and stigma that involuntarily promote addiction on behalf of everyone in our community through compassion and clear communication. That’s no news – in fact, WebMD states that 65 percent of surveyed people agree that discrimination against recovering addicts is an issue. But the key lies in taking the steps to actually prevent addiction from becoming a greater problem in society.
Understanding How Addiction Begins
Addiction can be considered a chronic disease, developed not out of weakness of character or mental fortitude, but out of the body’s own response to certain substances or behaviors. As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction shares many characteristics with other chronic illnesses, including:
- A tendency to be passed on genetically.
- Influenced by environmental conditions.
- Response to treatment, and;
- The need for long-term lifestyle medication.
While the path to addiction often starts through stress and emotional difficulties, and can be traced back to environmental factors and a flawed upbringing, what keeps people on that path isn’t a lack of discipline but a sheer chemical attachment – so naturally, breaking that habit before it truly sets in is key to preventing a lot of the trauma that comes with an addiction.
How Community Outreach Can Help
Addiction isn’t something battled solely by addicts – it’s a societal scourge, and thus, everyone must do their part to fight it. The one thing that won’t suppress addiction is the attitude that, because it doesn’t affect you, you have no responsibility towards stopping it. But as pointed out by Geoff Kane, MD, MPH in an article featured on National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), we all carry some conflict of interest or modicum of responsibility towards the effects of drugs and addictive behavior in our community.
Community is key here. As per Dr. Kane, “… people continue to depersonalize one another, reacting to stereotypes rather than appreciating individual human beings.”
For addiction to be properly addressed, we need to take steps to limit the risk factors surrounding addiction – and take more steps to prevent addiction, rather than simply react to the problem through interventions by the time it’s developed into a chronic illness.
Learning to Effectively Prevent Addiction
A strong case has to be made for the fact that addiction is a subject not stressed strongly enough when it comes to addressing community issues. Drug addicts all too often become the scapegoats for a society’s ills, but the underlying issue itself is misunderstood, and sadly, often tackled after the fact.
As per the NIDA, addiction recovery requires long-term thinking – most people undergoing recovery experience at least one relapse and it’s important to accept that and simply continue to treat an addiction through active care and therapy. While intervention can be effective, and recovery is most definitely possible in most cases, prevention is always the preferred alternative to the strenuous and often painful song and dance of a lifelong addiction.
Effectively applying forms of addiction prevention means knowing and understanding what the risk factors are for addiction, and tackling these problems seriously before they potentially develop a deadly habit.
The Risk Factors Behind Addiction
There’s no denying that addiction – whether to illicit or licit substances or certain destructive behavior like gambling and sex – is common. And it’s a problem that often carries terrifying consequences – including collateral addiction, such as in the case of recent rising infant drug dependencies born from addiction during pregnancy, as per the NY Times.
Why is it so common? What are the risk factors associated with becoming an addict, and what do people have to watch out for when looking out for themselves and their loved ones?
According to Mayo Clinic, addiction does not discriminate – but it does have certain risks that increase your chances. Such risks include:
A History of Addiction
You’re more likely to become addicted if your family has a history of addiction, especially towards a certain drug.
Depression, Anxiety, and Loneliness
These are all mental states commonly associated with addictions, because of the vulnerabilities and needs they create. Drugs and destructive behavior then fills these needs.
Especially among young people, the need to fit into a specific crowd or conform to a level of alcohol or substance use can lead to an addiction in individuals already predisposed to becoming hooked on a substance.
Another Mental Diagnosis
Struggling with a mental disorder like ADHD or PTSD can often leave emotional vulnerabilities, and create a perfect storm for addiction to develop.
Highly Addictive Drugs
Strong opioids, painkillers, and stimulants like cocaine are all more dangerous and statistically addictive than lighter drugs like alcohol, or THC (which can lead to addiction).
Additionally, addiction does occur more frequently among men – but women typically go down the path of addiction much faster.
According to The Telegraph, men are thrice as likely to become addicts as women are, and it may have something to do with the fact that men are less considerate of the consequences and risks of drug use, while women suffer a higher stigma when considering drug use, putting them off.
Women who do end up suffering from addiction often do so because of an addicted partner.
Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate, and Neither Should Recovery
Ultimately, while some people are more likely to develop an addiction, all addictions are the consequence of a series of mental, physical and emotional challenges and needs, and should be treated with the same goal in mind – to help put a struggling individual on the path to addiction recovery.
There is no cookie-cutter way out of a serious addiction, but recovery often starts the same way – through acceptance, and an open mind looking for help.
The only way for society to beat addiction is by accepting and understanding the behavior of an addict. Unfair demonization and discrimination of addicts has contributed to the development of a larger drug problem in the U.S., as per the Drug Policy Alliance, and despite the fact that everyone, regardless of physical appearance or background, is susceptible to the risk factors that cause addiction, we’ve come to see drug addicts distorted under a lens built from caricatures, stereotypes, and hyperbole.
We need to take better care of each other, and that involves taking the steps to make our lives judgment-free, and more compassionate, starting from the home and the community at large.