Many people use drugs. Not many people become addicts. Potentially 40 percent of the country has tried an illicit drug. Yet only about 20 million Americans suffer under what is considered substance abuse. Clearly, the drugs aren’t completely at fault – instead, addiction is about more than just drugs, alcohol, or substances. The statistics show who becomes addicted and who doesn’t – mostly, it’s a matter of unfortunate nature and unfortunate nurture. To be clearer, addiction is more prevalent among those who suffer socioeconomically, and it’s common in families with prior addiction history.
Addiction is not and has never been related to morals. It has nothing to do with notions of evil and righteousness, bad and good. A person can go to prison for abusing drugs – yet science shows that drug addiction is as much a sickness as lupus might be. And it doesn’t only happen to affect criminals, but it affects athletes, visionary minds, soccer moms, CEOs, and rock stars.
Anyone can become addicted if the circumstances are right. One mistake can lead to another, and a slippery slope can lead to a fall. The death of a loved one can plummet someone into depression, where drugs might seem like the only way to ever feel happy again for a time. In other cases, drugs are an escape from pain, chronic pain, or emotional trauma. Drugs can also numb us, so we don’t overthink or worry. They can help us compensate by removing our fears and inhibitions and giving us what we think might be power or freedom.
There’s a reason drug abuse is common among people who are miserable, and it’s because drugs make you feel better. Addiction and depression, anxiety, and poverty have been linked for decades, and what ties them together is an overabundance of stress and strife.
If we want to fix the issue of addiction in society, then we have to collectively recognize what addiction is – a symptom, one that can only be treated by examining the underlying causes. And what makes that an all so complicated task is that the causes often differ from person to person. Before we go into what you and anyone else can do as an individual to help society deal with addiction, we have to first go over what addiction is – and why it is not evil.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a dependency on certain substances due to a physical or emotional attachment. Usually, the brain’s chemistry is altered by overuse or genetic predisposition, leading to a physical link between how a person perceives pleasure and pain and drugs. Alcohol, cocaine, heroin, prescription medication – there are countless psychoactive drugs, and an addiction can develop through any.
Aside from physical addiction, many people also build an emotional attachment to drugs, creating a habit wherein their drug usage becomes a coping mechanism to deal with stress.
Addiction isn’t tied to morals or beliefs and has little to do with criminality or viciousness. Addiction has existed throughout human history, and many great figures throughout history had substance abuse problems, and our history with excessive alcohol consumption, in particular, traces back to the days of Alexander the Great and beyond. The misconception that those who struggle with addiction are weak-minded or weak-willed is founded upon nothing but prejudice.
Why Some People Struggle with Addiction
The factors that determine whether someone will become addicted to a drug are vast. Many people have used drugs, but only a fraction of them turn it into a destructive habit. The most common factors aside from an unfortunate genetic predisposition are mental illness, peer pressure (especially for younger people), and poverty.
Anyone who gets into addiction will struggle with it – it’s not an easy thing to overcome. But addiction can be beaten. Relapses are fairly common due to how resilient addiction can be to treatment, but recovery is always possible if you do not give up.
Dealing with Addiction
Addiction recovery relies on the availability and quality of treatment. Residential treatment, outpatient treatment, group therapy, and single therapy are all viable ways to help someone cope with living without drugs or alcohol after months or years of dependency. But as an individual, you must also consider how you want to deal with addiction in general, forming an attitude towards it and its effect on society.
The best way to reduce the rates of addiction, as far as we can tell, is by providing better treatment and better alternatives. In cases where addiction isn’t a matter of genetics or bad luck, it’s typically a coping mechanism for a deeper issue. If treatment can’t help someone get their life back on what they consider is the right track, then helping them find that right track is paramount to preventing relapses and more run-ins with the law. Criminalizing, stigmatizing, and antagonizing people who struggle with addiction is not a good way to deal with the issue.
Addiction may have cost someone you love their life. As such, it’s understandable to consider it evil, just as many others might call cancer evil. But addiction doesn’t have intent. It does not think. It is not a person. Addiction is a condition that people from all walks of life suffer under, and one that can be treated in many different ways. If we highlight addiction and those who suffer under it as morally bankrupt, we undermine the fact that good people get addicted just as often as bad people. If we punish those we love for their addiction rather than reaching out and helping them through love and support, we will do nothing but perpetuate the cycle of pain on which addiction itself feeds and grows in a person.
As mentioned earlier, it’s not just a physical battle but an emotional one. Those who struggle with recovery and go through residential treatments and outpatient recovery have to deal with an emotional connection to their former drug usage, they have to replace that connection, take back control over their emotions and thought processes, regain the ability to make sound and rational decisions, and relearn what it means to take pleasure in life and truly feel alive without the lie of an unnatural high.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS. US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016. Accessed October 13, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424848/