Addiction to drugs and alcohol affects millions of Americans each year. Yet, many people are not well-informed on the biological, behavioral, and social aspects of addiction. Since the information about the nature of substance dependence is so expansive, we decided to narrow our focus down to a few facts to better educate others about addiction. Below you will find six addiction facts that you may not have otherwise known.
Addiction Fact 1: Addiction Can Change the Structure of Your brain
Repeated use of addicting substances has been shown to change the way the human brain is structured. The reward system and the area that manages willpower and impulse control become damaged overtime. Most addicting substances cause a rush of dopamine, one of the brain’s feel-good chemicals, each time the substance is used. However, the effect the drug has on dopamine lessens each time, resulting in the desire for more of the substance. Eventually, the reward system will no longer function properly, leaving the user feeling dull or listless. Also, areas of the brain that manage self-control begin to wear way as the substance continues to be introduced into the nervous system, making it harder for those already addicted to quit.
Addiction Fact 2: Many Species of Animals Seek Out Intoxicating Substances
Humans are not the only ones who seek out mind-altering drugs. Several species purposefully seek out intoxicating substances. Some animals use rotting fermented fruit as a form of alcohol while others look for naturally hallucinogenic plants and animals to ingest simply for the mental effect they produce. From monkeys to butterflies to domesticated dogs and cats, many animals look to become intoxicated in one way or another.
Addiction Fact 3: Several Genes Play a Role in Addiction
One of the many addiction facts that people tend to get wrong is the belief in the “addiction gene.” Contrary to what many believe, no single gene determines if someone will or will not become addicted to a substance. There are many genes and combinations of genetic material that can play a role in addiction. But many scientists believe that genetics are only 50 percent responsible for the probability of developing an addiction. Lifestyle and environmental factors play a big part in the likelihood of becoming addicted to a substance. Stress levels, physical health, social and intellectual engagement all can impact a person’s likelihood of seeking drugs or alcohol.
Addiction Fact 4: Addiction Costs the Economy $740 Billion Annually
The abuse of addicting substances including alcohol, tobacco, prescription and illegal drugs is costing the American economy billions of dollars. The high price of substance abuse comes from increased health care costs, damages from drug-related crimes, the cost of law enforcement and incarceration as well as the loss of workplace productivity. The startlingly high cost of addiction is enough to make anyone realize that addiction is a serious problem facing our country.
Addiction Fact 5: Men and Women Are Almost Equally as Likely to Have an Addiction Disorder
Generally speaking, the biological differences between men and women do not determine whether one sex is more likely to become addicted to a substance than the other. However, social and environmental conditions can influence how men and women use substances differently. For many decades, women were behind men in rates of alcohol and drug use. However, in our current culture, substance use has become normalized for both men and women, making the rates of substance abuse almost equal. In fact, some data projections show that women will surpass men in their alcohol consumption over the next few years.
Addiction Fact 6: Medication-Assisted Treatment Is Considered the Gold Standard for Treating Certain Addictions
Another common addiction fact involves medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Many believe that MAT is just trading one substance for another. However, that is far from the truth. Medication-assisted treatment is the most effective form of treatment for opioid or alcohol dependence. The medications are FDA-approved and have significantly better success rates than other programs such as detox programs for treating opioid misuse. Many of these medications help with the recovery process by reducing cravings and alleviating the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. These medications are often used as a form of relapse prevention as well. A good MAT program will provide behavioral health or mental health services to go along with the medication that is provided.
Hopefully, these six facts give you a better understanding of substance abuse and addiction. But you don’t have to keep them to yourself. The a great way to lessen the negative effects addiction has on our society is to share the right information. Please share this article on social media and follow Liberation Programs on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.