Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are classified as schedule I and II drugs – drugs that may or may not have a valid medical use, but are in either case extremely dangerous, and very addictive. These drugs are criminalized because of their potential for abuse, and the damage they can wreak on the human body.
Yet despite the inherent risks associated with drug use – from the damage it causes to the brain and organs, to the damage it can wreak on relationships and reputations, to the risk of jailtime – millions of Americans today use and are addicted to illicit drugs. Why? Because addiction is not something we can control as individuals. We can, however, treat it.
Why People Turn to Illegal Drugs
Addiction is not simply thrill-seeking – there are dozens of completely legal and very dangerous ways to cope with pain or get a high, but people do not just become addicted because they want the most economic or rational way out of the pain. If rationality or thinking had any part in the equation, most people would choose to work through the pain or stay sober to get a better grip on life.
Addiction is often the result of unfortunate circumstances, coupled with the right moments to create that slippery slope from the first high to a seemingly endless drug habit. Every case is unique, with its own set of reasons and factors, but no one in their right mind chooses addiction.
The operative terms being “right mind”. All it takes is a few mistakes – a lapse in faith, the pain of a major emotional loss, or simple teenage misguidedness – to turn a one-time thing into a serious problem. The reason teens are particularly at risk for developing an addiction is because in addition to an immortality complex, many teens do not have the brain development to completely think things through and realize the risks. Teens are also wired to perceive the internal reward system as more rewarding – meaning they are more inclined to go for something that makes them feel good.
For adults, there are many other reasons to turn to drugs. In recent years, the most obvious reasons are usually economic. While booze is the most typical and usually the cheapest way to deal with that kind of pain, others turn to more powerful and less legal methods of forgetting their problems. What might start as a single moment of weakness can evolve into a life-threatening issue.
Regardless of why people turn to illegal drugs, the dangers of these drugs are indiscriminate and far-reaching. Opiates and barbiturates can stop your breathing, cocaine, and methamphetamine can stop your heart, and long-term use of any illegal substance will usually scar and deteriorate the organs and cause much pain and damage. Yet, despite all that, breaking away from an addiction to illegal drugs is neither easy nor pleasant. But with today’s addiction treatment methods, almost any case has hope for long-term recovery.
Addiction is Treatable
Treating addiction starts with combatting the withdrawal and detox symptoms of the drug or drugs a person uses. Like any substance, it takes some time for the human body to completely metabolize a given drug. As an addictive drug passes through the body of someone who is addicted to it, they will often experience painful withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms are like a bad flu, causing nausea and fevers. In other cases, they can be life-threatening.
As the withdrawal tapers off, the body begins to get used to living without the drug – but the mind continues to crave it. Addictive drugs manipulate the brain into wanting the drug more than almost anything else. While the body metabolizes a drug dose quickly – a few hours to a few days – cravings can last weeks, months, and years. They do get weaker over time, allowing for therapy and sheer willpower to eventually overcome the addiction.
Treatment options exist in many different varieties, all with the goal of helping a patient work through the physical symptoms of addiction withdrawal, and then walking them through the steps of recovering mentally as well. This can involve copious lifestyle changes, group therapy, and more, depending on what patients respond to.
More Than Just the Brain
Illegal drugs have many risks associated with them, including the risk of jailtime and serious health problems. However, drug use can have a serious effect on a person’s relationships, capabilities, and future as well. Many struggle to recovery from addiction out of fear that their life will never completely recover. While technically an illness, addiction is still treated as a moral and individual problem, heavily stigmatizing those unfortunate enough to spend time as a drug user.
However, while drug use can wreak havoc on relationships and end careers, it’s never too late to make amends and heal the wounds of prior mistakes. Through recovery, it’s possible – and often even necessary – to reconcile with old friends and family members and find a way through the pain of addiction rather than around or away from it.
The damage an addiction wreaks on a person’s life need never be permanent. It will take time and perseverance to undo years of hardship, but with a proper treatment program, a specialized clinic or sober living home, and the help of a professional therapist, it’s possible for any case to find its way to normalcy and enjoy a qualitative life long after addiction.
Symptoms of a Greater Problem
Addiction affects people on an individual level, and it affects people on a family level. But more than that, it causes over $120 billion in productivity losses per year, over 72,000 annual overdose deaths, and an innumerable amount of emotional damage throughout the country. More than any war or disease, the addiction to alcohol, prescription medication, and illegal drugs especially tears a massive gash through this country.
However, the answer is not to respond with violence or aimless prosecution. While drug production is an issue that must be combatted, there are other things families and communities can do to improve on the situation and reduce the impact drugs have across the country. Only roughly 11 percent of people with an alcohol or drug addiction seek treatment. While certain accessibility problems exist, that problem can be lobbied against.
Ultimately, treatment is the only way to get better. The war on drugs can’t fight the demand for them or help those currently living and struggling with addiction – but treatment plans and sober living homes can. If you or someone you know is struggle with addiction, get help.