Addiction and Codependency Recovery Coach.
Addiction is a DISEASE Not a Disgrace!
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE BECOME ADDICTED? Robert Frank Mittiga
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE BECOME ADDICTED?
Robert Mittiga (IMAC)
For two decades, researchers have been struggling to identify the biological and environmental risk factors that can lead to addiction to alcohol and other drugs. These factors form a complex mélange in which the influences combine to bring about addiction and to make its treatment challenging. But scientists know more about addiction now than they did even 10 years ago, and have learned much about how the risk factors work together.
The widely recognised risk factors include:
* Genes: Genetics play a significant role: having parents with alcoholism, for instance, makes you four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics. More than 60 percent of alcoholics have family histories of alcoholism.
* Mental illness: Many addicted people also suffer from mental health disorders, especially anxiety, depression or mood illnesses.
* Early use of drugs: The earlier a person begins to use drugs the more likely they are to progress to more serious abuse. (Fact).. people who start to abuse drugs or alcohol under 25 have 10 times greater risk of developing addiction than of those who start using after 25.
* Social environment: People who live, work or go to school in an environment in which the use of alcohol and other drugs is common – such as a workplace in which people see heavy drinking as an important way to bond with co-workers – are more likely to abuse drugs.
* Childhood trauma: Scientists know that abuse or neglect of children, persistent conflict in the family, sexual abuse and other traumatic childhood experiences can shape a child’s brain chemistry and subsequent vulnerability to addiction.
The kids most likely to get addicted are the ones who also have other problems. Forty percent of people who start drinking before they are 15 years old develop alcoholism. Addiction is at the end of a spectrum of substance use problems; for most people, though not all, addiction arrives after other phases of drinking or drugging go uninterrupted. That’s why it is so important to treat substance use problems in their earliest stages. Although genetic researchers are trying to identify the genes that confer vulnerability to alcoholism, this task is difficult because the illness is thought to be related to many different genes, each of which contributes only a portion of the vulnerability.
Stress and Addiction
Science shows that stress and addiction are so closely intertwined that to recover, people with addictions must learn new ways of coping with stress.
Stress and addiction produce some of the same changes in brain systems and so they are intimately connected.. Animal studies have shown that the brain changes associated with stressful experiences are also associated with more sensitivity to the effects of drugs of abuse. For people who have addictions, stressful life experiences such as divorce, job loss and conflict are often associated with craving and relapse. In addition, people with addiction often have poor coping strategies and turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve stress. While it is impossible to remove all stress from the lives of individuals with addictions, teaching coping strategies and treating stress-related disorders is an important factor in stable recovery from addictions.
A significant portion of people with addictions also suffer from other mental health illnesses, called co-occurring disorders. Without comprehensive treatment, people with co-occurring disorders are far less likely to recover from their addictions.
People with addictions often suffer from other mental health disorders. Some with untreated mental health problems start using alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate. Conversely, there are cases where an individual begins to develop the symptoms and signs of a mental illness only after using drugs; suggesting that drug abuse caused or exacerbated the mental disorder. Illnesses that frequently co- occur with addiction include:
* attention deficit hyperactive disorder
* bipolar disorder
* conduct disorder
* post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Frequently, caregivers try to treat one illness without becoming aware of or addressing the other. So health practitioners helping a person with depression, for instance, may neglect to screen and treat the patient for alcoholism. Conversely, a caregiver working with a person with a cocaine addiction may fail to recognize and address an underlying bipolar disorder.
Careful assessment and treatment of co-occurring disorders is critical to maximizing the chances of success in treatment. If both disorders are not treated the chances of recovery are poor. If one of the co-occurring disorders goes untreated, both usually get worse and additional complications often arise.
THERE IS HOPE
Most people, when they think of addicts tend to conjure up the quintessential image of a dirty, unkempt junkie wallowing in the gutter. But in reality that is usually not the case. ADDICTION affects people from all social strata. As I stated previously in this chapter there are many types of addiction. Substance addictions, drugs and alcohol are the most widely recognised, yet there are Process Addictions e.g., gambling, eating, sex, shopping and many others. We could describe it as any activity, lifestyle or manner of conduct that becomes so overwhelming in a person’s life that it evolves into an obsessive compulsive behaviour (as well as a thinking process) which corrupts the very core of a person’s character. And off course there is a strong neurological component.
Despite a measure of compulsiveness’, people suffering from addiction can and often do, function in society with relative anonymity. It is only when they seek help that their “cover” (so to speak) is blown. In many cases we interact daily with people suffering with serious addiction issues and never realise it. They are our family members, our co-workers, friends, clergy, and yes even our teachers, policemen, firemen, doctors, lawyers and even politicians. The people that we look up to and admire the most have just as much of a chance at becoming addicts as the poor, uneducated from broken homes.
Addiction seeps into every facet of virtually every person’s life. Even if you do not have an addiction, and no-one in your family or circle of friends (that you know of) have any addictions, you are still affected daily on some level. Consider the drunk driver on the roads putting you and your loved ones at risk or to the warehouse worker who loses your package because he// she is too busy being wrapped up in the drug culture to pay attention to their job. Negatively and positively, we all affect each other every day. There is a theory in science by Edward Lorenz called the Butterfly Effect. Essentially a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
Addiction and recovery affect more than just our social interactions. There is an economic toll to be paid as well. According to some estimates a combined $30 billion was spent or lost in 2010 on health care, lost productivity, premature death, crime and auto accidents related just to alcohol and drug abuse alone. Roughly 75 percent of all that money was paid for by public sources, which means Australian taxpayers are footing three quarters of the bill.
With some 12 million taxpayers in Australia this means that the average sum paid by each individual taxpayer amounted to approximately $2,500. Interestingly, a study in the USA recently suggested that this could be reduced to under 1/10th of the cost when a comprehensive treatment is provided. Current conservative estimates are that 10% of the population suffers from Addiction. This amounts to approx 2 million people. Sadly less than 8% of these people actually receive any type of effective treatment. Clearly this leaves a huge GAP. For every person suffering from addiction there are at least 5 others directly impacted.
It is very clear that this is an issue that needs or attention at every level of our community. Addicts are not “THOSE” people they are OUR people.
There have been many ways we have tried to fight the issue of drugs in our community. Most notably through the self help organizations of AA and NA. So far comprehensive treatment in a facility or out-patient program offering a wide range of modalities has shown to be the most successful method of helping addicts return to a more productive and healthy lifestyle. It is widely known in the treatment services industry that the majority of those with addiction issues also suffer from some form of mental illness. This may require expanded medication or psychological treatment to go hand in hand with education and support services.
As previously noted; even small changes in complex systems can have dramatic affects. Rather than scorn, shame and ridicule as motivators for addicts to improve their lives, and the lives of those who love them, and indeed the lives of us all; perhaps to be treated as a person with a disease who deserves dignity and respect could be one small change (on all of our parts) that could improve one life, as well as all of our lives dramatically.
It is time for all of us to take a different approach to addiction, and most importantly our leaders could start the ball rolling by taking a more serious approach to this major public health problem.
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“Addiction mankind’s great unifying experience” Stanton Peele