Addiction is known to ruin lives – yet there are many reasons why the addiction statistics continue to grow in America. For one, there’s a general lack of awareness and understanding around what addiction is, how it works, and who it targets.
To answer the latter part first, it targets everyone and anyone who tries drugs. Addiction does not discriminate between targets, and while some people are more likely to struggle with addiction that others due to family problems or personal issues, no one is completely immune to addiction.
If you use drugs, you’re risking addiction. It’s easy to say that it’s just one hit – one hit for fun, one hit for work, one hit as a dare. Regardless of how you start, that start is on a decline going down rapidly – and it’s a slippery slope.
How Addiction Develops
Some people try out drugs as a way to run away from their problems, while others might be pressured into it. Sometimes, drugs can boost performance – but at a great cost. Regardless of how your addiction started, to the brain, it’s all the same thing: foreign substances mimicking human neurotransmitters, bonding to your brain’s cells, and inducing effects so powerful that the body naturally tries to dampen the effects, and lead you down a dark road.
When a drug enters your bloodstream – through injection, ingestion, inhalation or otherwise – it passes through the filtering membrane that keeps objects out of the blood in your brain and binds to receptors in your neurons. These receptors are important for the facilitation of feelings and action. When you feel nervous, happy, angry, agitated, calm or sleepy, the cause can be traced by the activity between your neurons, the sending of information from one to the other, and the neurotransmitters that go about their business.
Drugs mimic these transmitters and hijack their receptors. Instead of a mild feeling of content and happiness, akin to what you might feel after accomplishing something, a drug like heroin will instead flood your system with euphoria. Struggling with the scope of the effect, your brain adjusts to this sudden and powerful influx of happiness, and you start getting hooked.
It doesn’t happen in one hit, or two. There is no definite number, and you most likely won’t be able to go back and trace the point where it all happened. But that point does exist. While a single hit doesn’t hook you for life, it does make you susceptible to the suggestion of a second – and that effect grows, until it gets to a point where your brain begins to punish you for trying to stop.
That’s where physical dependence begins. Once you start to experience withdrawal issues and powerful cravings, you’ve reached a point where your mind and body are accustomed to a steady flow of drugs and stopping is akin to trying to starve yourself or refuse water for days on end.
It’s a slippery slope that’s all too seductive, and it causes the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year. More dangerous than any other threat towards national security, this one healthcare crisis is responsible for billions in losses and innumerable amounts of emotional pain for countless families and friends. To beat addiction, you must understand what it is – a disease, not a moral failing. And to be more compassionate towards others and help them fight their addiction, you have to understand what drives someone to start using – and how they might solve their problems otherwise.
Drugs Are Not The Answer
Drug use is meant to compensate and cope. Sometimes, drugs like Adderall are abused for performance. At other times, kids use drugs at parties to fit in and boost their social status. You might start using drugs to cover up the pain of losing a loved one or feel better after a painful breakup.
Drugs are powerful, but they’re easily misused and always cover the symptoms of your emotional pain, rather than addressing the core. This makes them maladaptive coping mechanisms – or in other words, they’re a way to cope with problems, but they’re ineffective in the long term, and they do not help you adapt to face your problem.
Drugs are not the answer. But there is an answer, depending on what the problem is. Finding it is crucial to recovery. Chances are that your problems haven’t gone away since the addiction began, and in some cases, they’ve grown worse. Overcoming them is a part of the healing process.
Getting Sober Again
Escaping physical dependence requires therapy and support. Treatment facilities can help you facilitate the first few weeks of sobriety, so you can ease back into life without getting hit by the combined brunt of stress that accompanies early sobriety, as well as the emotional turmoil usually embroiled in every person with a history of drug use and no time spent reflecting and overcoming these emotions.
Sometimes, going through treatment might not work the first time around, and you relapse. However, a more positive approach to that situation – by asking yourself what exactly caused you to break away from treatment – can help you avoid relapses in the future and return with a stronger determination to stay clean. It’s never easy to overcome an addiction, but the first few steps are the hardest and the most crucial.
Treatment comes in many shapes and sizes. There are inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, residential programs, sober living communities, mentorship and more. Group therapy, art therapy and sport therapy, and one-on-one talk therapy. Some forms of addiction require medical assistance, and the use of medication to help wean people off their addiction. Your treatment plan needs to be tailored to you, by a professional after a thorough evaluation of your circumstances and possibilities.
The journey won’t be easy, but with the support of professional help and your family, you can get sober and stay sober.
When people re-enter a new and sober life after treatment, they sometimes struggle with maintaining their new lifestyle and following through each lesson in recovery. The struggle is understandable – alone, it can be hard to stay motivated and disciplined. But with friends and family, you have greater reasons to stay sober – and they can help you stay away from triggers and temptations even on your worst days.
Finding new friends is also part of the healing process. From recovery group meetings to communities and hobbyist organizations, taking the time to go out and socialize with people interested in sobriety or some of the passions you have can lead to new friendships, and long-lasting relationships.
You don’t have to pursue professional help for the rest of your life – but you’ll always need to rely on friends and family to be the best you. And with time, they might start relying on you. Having an interdependent and trusting relationship to others is fulfilling and defining and can solidify your sobriety – but to get to that point, you’ll have to get help, get clean and commit to staying clean.