Human beings can become addicted to almost anything. There have been documented cases of people becoming addicted to everything from eating toilet paper to sniffing baby powder. While cases involving these types of addictions are unusual, unfortunately there are millions of individuals who spend years of their lives suffering from various drug and alcohol addiction. The loss of productivity, finances, personal relationships, and oftentimes human lives from the devastation of addiction is overwhelming. The following information discusses the most common types of addictions people suffer from, signs of various addictions, and consequences of struggling with addiction. Finally, treatment options and the benefits of treatment are discussed.
The United States has become a drug and alcohol addiction nation. The following eight addictions are rampant in our country. According to author Jane Velez Mitchell, prescription drug abuse and food addiction are the top two addictions in the United States. It’s no surprise that prescription drug addiction is at the top of the list. Painkillers, sedatives, and sleeping pills are relied on by millions of Americans to soften the sting of reality and help them unwind. Prescription drug overdoses are the second cause of accidental death in America after car accidents.
The second most common addiction is to food. People medicate themselves with sugar, fat, and carbohydrates on a daily basis. The problem has become so overwhelming that obesity is now at epidemic levels, and the result of obesity is an increase in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and skyrocketing healthcare costs. The fact that companies specifically design junk food to be addictive is troubling, but true. It would be unlikely to find anyone who binges on carrot sticks. Millions of people, however, are unable to keep their hands out of a bag of potato chips. The salt, sugar, and fat content are created to light up the pleasure receptors in the brain. Since there’s no real nutritional value in most junk food, the user never really gets full and the addiction perpetuates itself.
Alcohol and addiction to illegal drugs is also an overwhelming problem in our society. According to ProjectKnow, almost 14 million adults in the United States suffer from alcohol addiction or abuse alcohol. Illegal street drug addiction is chronic addiction to drugs such as Marijuana, Cocaine, Meth, and Heroin. Addiction to gambling, technology, sex, and shopping round out the list of major addictions.
There are general warning signs that are similar in nearly all addictions. Being defensive when questioned about something concerning the addiction is a warning sign that there may be a problem. Almost everyone will get irritated at times if asked about certain things, but if there is a pattern of annoyance and defensiveness each time a particular subject is broached, this is a red flag. Excessive secretiveness and lying are other signs that someone is suffering from an addiction. The problem in many cases is that the person with the addiction doesn’t realize that others around him see through the lies. When bank accounts are dwindling or the individual’s physical appearance has dramatically changed, everyone around the addict obviously sees these things even though the addict believes he is doing a masterful job of keeping it a secret.
Blaming others for problems occurring in the addict’s life is a sign of addiction. A person may blame a spouse for not managing the finances properly, when in reality he or she is losing the money gambling. An individual may blame others for causing stress in his life that causes him to drink excessively or rely on prescription drugs. Financial problems are a tell-tale sign of many addictions. Those addicted to drugs, alcohol, shopping, and gambling may all experience money problems at some point. Finally, isolation occurs in most cases of addiction. When addicts can no longer deal with pressure from others, they will retreat and make excuses to spend more and more time away from those who may actually try to help them.
Drug and alcohol abuse, especially among young people, can lead to a variety of risky behaviors. Individuals who drink excessively are more likely to engage in unsafe sex or be the victim of sexual violence. According to the CDC, over 30 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States are alcohol related. Health related consequences of drug and alcohol abuse can be staggering. Hard drug use, such as addiction to Meth or Heroin, can cause rapid weight loss, tooth decay, and heart problems. Psychological problems such as insomnia, paranoia, and anxiety can all happen within a relatively short amount of time after addiction begins.
Even though excessive eating and weight gain have become more acceptable in our society, the health repercussions are often similar to those of substance abuse. High blood pressure and heart problems are associated with eating addictions. Even sleep disorders, such an apnea, are consequences of overeating.
No matter what the addiction, the negative consequences to our nation are proving to be overwhelming. Nearly 75 percent of domestic violence victims have stated that their assailant was either drinking excessively or abusing drugs at the time of the incident. According to the CDC, 100 people each day die from drug overdoses in the United States. Research has shown that approximately one out of every five problem gamblers attempts suicide. This is nearly twice the rate of those suffering from other addictions. The cumulative effects of just these few statistics are staggering. Addictions are literally destroying millions of lives in our society on a daily basis.
Drug, alcohol, and food, as well as the other addictions on the list have several things in common. Health and financial problems are consequences of most addictions. Severed relationships and isolation are eventually the result of all addictions when reaching extreme levels. What constitutes “hitting the bottom” is different for each individual. There are cases of people losing spouses, children, homes, and careers, and still continuing to indulge in their addiction. For others, the realization that they need help comes much sooner. When individuals finally admit they need help and are willing to take the necessary steps to receive it, there are lots of options available.
There are a variety of treatment options to help addicts overcome their addiction. Many involve individual or group therapy. In general, no matter what the addiction, treatment is either outpatient or inpatient. Inpatient programs usually last between 30 and 90 days. Some, however, can last up to a year. Most researchers point out that the way addiction works in the brain is primarily the same whether the addiction is to drugs, food, or gambling. Neurotransmitters in the brain release the pleasure chemical dopamine. Building a tolerance is something that happens in nearly every addiction. For this reason many aspects of treatment are similar for a variety of addictions. A good treatment program will focus on the specific addiction, but will ultimately address the root causes that are similar in all addictions.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is not only a chronic disease of the brain that involves memory, motivation, and reward, but addiction also changes the way the brain works. Addictions affect neurotransmitters in the brain which can then trigger intense cravings. With physiological changes as profound as those occurring in the brain, recovery is not an easy task for most individuals. For this reason inpatient treatment is often the best, and even the only choice, for those attempting to completely recover from addiction. Relapse for most addictions is anywhere from 50 to 90 percent, making the choice of treatment options extremely important.
Inpatient treatment is the most comprehensive, and often provides a holistic approach to recovery. During inpatient treatment, everything is often taken care of for patients so they can completely focus on recovery. Grocery shopping, preparing meals, cleaning, and laundry are all daily activities that will be provided and taken care of for the individual. Treatment is more intense and patients receive therapy sometimes several times a day. They may be part of both individual and group therapy, as well as having access to several therapists and counselors. There are usually nurses and medical personnel on staff to deal with withdrawal symptoms or other issues that unexpectedly arise.
Patients are interacting with other individuals on a daily basis who are going through the same process as they are. The addict is also removed from the environment that contributed to their behavior. Outpatient treatment may provide excellent services, but the addict goes back to the same environment they were in after each visit or session. It may take several months of treatment before the patient is strong enough to handle living outside of a protected environment.
Once a drug and alcohol addiction has been identified and professional help has been sought, an individual can start the process of recovery. Statistically, those who spend more than 30 days in a treatment program are less likely to relapse. Any addiction can be overwhelming and considerably alter an individual’s life,but like chronic diseases, addictions can be managed and overcome. Choosing a quality treatment program is critical to initial and ongoing success.
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