The Complicated Issue of Substance Addiction

American really is facing a drug crisis, and there’s never been a greater need for addiction treatments centers. Every day there are 5,000 visits to the emergency room resulting from drug abuse, and the Centers for Disease Control’s estimate is that 114 people are dying every day as a result of drug use. In fact, drug overdoses are now America’s leading cause of injury-related death.

Illicit drugs aren’t the only problem. Alcoholism is also on the rise, and even worse is a combination of dependency on alcohol and drugs, which is the case for over two and a half million of America’s 16.6 million alcoholics. Over 20 million people over the age of 12 in the United States have an addiction of some kind. The situation is serious, and as many as 90% of the ones who most need rehab at a drug rehabilitation center or alcohol rehab center aren’t getting it. At least one reason for this is that America still doesn’t know what addiction really looks like.

Addiction’s Television Image

Whether it’s due to television’s influence or not, people have an enduring image of alcoholics and drug abusers as disheveled, homeless, barefoot: wandering down an alley in the rain, mumbling to themselves. This picture hides the reality from us, which is that addiction can look like anything. It can be your happy coworker, your adventurous classmate, that avid gym rat, or that productive, loving mother of two. It’s possible to know a person for years–to never even think of them and a drug rehabilitation center in the same thought–and not be aware that they are actually struggling with addiction. They seem healthy and happy.

Addiction’s Complicated Causes

Along with the barefoot and disheveled image of addicts, we also have a persistent belief that addiction is entirely a problem of self-control. A character flaw. Those of strong character will never find themselves in alcohol treatment centers; those of weak character will be in and out of addiction treatment centers and may never get better. The reality is that addiction is a complicated combination of environment, economics, genetics, physiology, peer pressure, stress responses, and, yes, even some influence from the individual’s personality.

Illicit drugs and alcohol affect people in different ways, activating the reward centers of the brain to different levels in differing amounts. Not only do individual bodies respond different, but individual personalities respond different, too, and each of those personalities is also living through a unique set of stresses, pressures, temptations, distractions, and a dozen other issues that help them resist or drag them down.

Addiction’s Answer

Just as the reasons for addiction are complicated and multifaceted, so is it’s cure. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a drug rehabilitation center, though there are certainly some treatments that work more consistently and better than others. And a drug rehabilitation center isn’t the one and only answer, either. There are economic and social issues that need to be dealt with. There are criminal aspects to the national addiction problem that need to be addressed. There are problems with the way we address pain management in medicine that need to be reformed, and even a spiritual dimension to the issue that ought not to be ignored.

In 2015, the American Society of Addiction Medicine reported that there were 20,010 deaths due just to overdose by prescription painkillers alone. The time is come and long passed to work together to address the complicated issue of drug addiction. It’s not enough to put a drug rehabilitation center on every corner, though such centers are a key way of helping. All of society, from parents to schools, doctors to police officers, politicians to pastors, need to be working together to erase harmful sterotypes and give the addicted hope.

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