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All across this country in small towns, rural areas and cities, alcoholism and drug abuse are destroying the lives of men, women and their families. Where to turn for help? What to do when friends, dignity and perhaps employment are lost?

The answer is Palm Partners Recovery Center. It’s a proven path to getting sober and staying sober.

Palm Partners’ innovative and consistently successful treatment includes: a focus on holistic health, a multi-disciplinary approach, a 12-step recovery program and customized aftercare. Depend on us for help with:

Could Pain Management Devices Be the New Alternative to Opioids?

Could Pain Management Devices Be the New Alternative to Opioids?

Author: Shernide Delva

Pain management devices can drastically reduce, or eliminate, the need for opioid pain medication, according to a recent report.  Could this be the shift we’ve been looking for?

I’ll be honest.

The first time I heard about pain management devices is when I skimmed through my Facebook and saw a fundraising campaign regarding a product claiming to help women with extremely painful menstrual cramps. It was touted as “The off Switch for Menstrual Pain” and claimed to be “the new solution for instant pain relief from your period – no more pills, no more nonsense.”

When I read the description of the product, I was intrigued by the idea. I figured it was a better alternative to me taking half a bottle of ibuprofen every month. Clearly, I was not the only intrigued person. The product has fundraised over 1.7 million dollars, raising 1339% of their target goal. Wow.

But how exactly do these pain management devices work?

Looking deeper into it, it turns out that menstrual pain device is basically a fancy version of a TENS device. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS machines operate by sending stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. These pulses prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.

Every pain management device works in a slightly different way. Essentially, these pain management devices send small currents through the spinal cord where the pain is signaled.  Scientists believe these electrical currents interrupt pain signals sent to the brain. The fancy name for this is neuromodulation or neurostimulation.

These devices may work due to The Gate Control Theory.

The reality is that scientists are not completely sure how these devices work, but one theory is The Gate Control Theory. The Gate Control Theory is a theory that states that through closing the “gates” to painful input, you prevent pain sensations from traveling to the central nervous system. Large amounts of sensory information scramble the pain sensors we have and reduce our bodies ability to feel pain.

The device mentioned in the research regarding opioids is a device that is surgically implanted. While the results are promising, not everyone is comfortable with having a device surgically implanted in their body. Therefore, this solution is often seen as a last resort. This must change, according to Nagy Mekhail, a pain physician at the Cleveland Clinic.

Now, the medical community is looking to develop a device that provides the same sort of relief without the need for surgical implementation. One device developed is the Neuro-stim System Bridge which is placed behind a patient’s ear and gives off electrical pulses to certain areas of the brain.

The device has been very effective for helping people overcome the pain of opioid withdrawals, and is now used in 30 states. Patients wear the device for the first five days after they stop using opioids; the toughest part of the opioid withdrawal process.

“This could be a game changer in terms of treatment of addiction,” said Jeff Mathews, who runs the Union County Opiate Treatment Center in Indiana.

Still, not everyone is as excited.

Some are not quite convinced these devices will solve America’s chronic pain problem. Edward Michna, a pain management specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, states more research is needed to understand their long-term effectiveness.

“Have I seen patients do well on it? Yes. But I’ve also seen patients lose the relief over time,” he states.

However, despite the inconclusive research,  the potential for this to be an opioid alternative is a significant first step.

 “We need to stop thinking of pain control as just being about opioid medications,” Michael Leong, a pain specialist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told Technology Review.

More and more people are aware of the negative side effects of opioid painkillers. With that awareness comes more attention directed toward pain management devices without a risk of addiction.

 “People are afraid of opioids right now. There’s a stigma. Patients don’t want to be on opioids,” Leong said.

We will have to keep an eye out and see if more non-surgical pain management products hit the market in the near future.

Pain management is a controversial topic. People have different pain tolerances and needs. However, there is a serious need to come up with non-addictive alternatives to opioid painkillers.

We are in the middle of an opioid epidemic. There need to be other options available. If you are currently struggling with substance abuse, please call now. We want to help.

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Alcohol Epidemic: The Other Drug Outbreak in America

Alcohol Epidemic: The Other Drug Outbreak in America

Author: Justin Mckibben

I came across an article the other day that asked a very interesting question- what if the media covered alcohol the way it does other drugs. To be clear, I’m not writing this to shame people who drink alcohol. This is all about perspective.

More recently the conversation about the drug epidemic in America has been focused on opioid abuse and addiction, of course with good reason. The rate at which opioid abuse, opioid overdoses and related deaths have risen immensely in the last few years. The alarming numbers prove that both prescription opioids and illicit opioid drugs are a very real threat. Thousands of people die every day, and experts see no sign that it will not get worse before it gets better.

And yet, similar statistics associated with alcohol are nothing short of staggering if you look at them the way we look at heroin or methamphetamine.

So, let us imagine for a moment a world where we treated alcohol like the drug it truly is. What if we treated drinkers like we do addicts?

Alcohol Drug Addiction

For decades a devastating and potentially fatal drug has wreaked havoc across the country, ending countless lives and altering countless others. This insidious substance can be found in pretty much every neighborhood in America. You can find it on almost every street corner, and the overwhelming majority of adults have consumed this substance at least once.

Alcohol has many aliases, include:

  • Beer
  • Liquor
  • Spirits
  • Booze
  • Drank
  • Giggle Water
  • Moonshine

The drug comes packaged in a long list of names, with a variety of mixes that can be more or less potent depending on the source. Some use massive labs to concoct their drinks, while others brew out of secret unregulated areas in their homes.

The Alcohol Epidemic

No matter where you go, there will be a prominent presence of alcohol users. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • 86.4% of people 18 or older report to have drank this dangerous drug at some point in their life
  • 70.1% of people report to have consuming this substance in the last year
  • 56% of people admit to have taken the drug in the last month

Looking closer at the drug, we see that many users go from recreational consumption to excessive use. The NSDUH shows:

  • 7% report to heavy use in the past month
  • 26.9% of people 18 or older admit to binge drinking in the past month

As with most other drugs, this substance also leads to sometimes debilitating addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD). NSDUH reports:

  • 1 million Adults age 18 or older suffered from AUD in 2015
  • 8 million of them were men
  • 3 million were women
  • 623,000 adolescents age 12-17 years old had AUD

All 50 states in America have been hit hard by the alcohol epidemic at some point or another. One reason the outbreak of this drug has been so tragic is because in so many places it has become social acceptable for people to consume alcohol!

In fact, many have minimized the use of alcohol or even celebrated it! In several communities around the country there are all-out events where drug use is actually publicly promoted! Events like “Craft Beer Fest” or the infamous “Oktoberfest” have become hotbeds for excessive abuse of this incredibly hazardous substance. Young adults often talk about getting “wasted”, “tipsy” or “turnt” as slang for ingesting such high levels of the drug they are inebriated.

Alcohol Related Deaths

According to data collected by the federal government, alcohol is the second deadliest drug in America. If you combine:

  • Heroin- connected to almost 13,000 overdose deaths in 2015
  • Prescription opioids– 22,598 overdose deaths

You still have less than half of the deaths of alcohol. In fact, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol related causes every single year!

Because of binge drinking and other risk behaviors, mild to moderate alcohol overdose has almost become far too common. Beyond that, there are numerous ways this deadly drug has contributed to an inordinate number of deaths over hundreds of years! On a global scale, the alcohol drug is the leading risk factor in premature death and disability.

  • In 2012, 3.3 million deaths in the whole world were alcohol related
  • 2013, 45.8% of liver disease deaths for individuals 12 and older were alcohol related
  • In 2013, 47.9% of all cirrhosis deaths were alcohol related

The health effects of the alcohol epidemic are very real.

Alcohol Epidemic Hurts Others

It isn’t just the people who use this lethal drug that suffer from the adverse effects of the alcohol epidemic. Even the people are the users are often put in serious danger. For example, driving while under the influence of the alcoholic drug has been a very severe problem for a long time.

  • In 2014, over 31% of driving fatalities were alcohol related- 9,967 deaths

Also, public health officials from all over America have stood up to expose other terrible effects of alcohol use. Alcohol use also has a great deal of influence on:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Sexual assault

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves alcohol use by the victim, the assailant or both.

  • Violent crime

To that point, in 2010 sources indicated that more than 4.6 million emergency room visits were alcohol related.

  • 40% of violent crime is alcohol related.
  • 37% of current convicted offenders in jails admit to being on alcohol during their arrest

The War on Alcohol?

So with such glaring instances of the impacts of alcohol use on Americans, and young people in particular, surely drug policy officials and politicians are aggressively pursuing legislation to engage in a full on War on Alcohol, like they have with the War on Drugs, right?

Well… not so much.

It may come as a shock, but U.S. federal and state officials seem to think banning alcohol is out of the question! Citing the past attempts at alcohol prohibition as a major failure that instigated higher crime rates, while also claiming the vital part alcohol production and sales play in the economy, lawmakers seem content with allowing the drug to remain in circulation.

Thankfully officials are still willing to provide emergency response services to individuals who have overdosed on alcohol or been injured in alcohol-related accidents. While city officials are fighting for the option to deny the overdose antidote Narcan to opioid users who overdose multiple times, none of these officials seem to believe alcohol related illness or drunk driving accidents should be ignored the same way.

Drunk driving in many areas on multiple occasions does constitute jail time, but it seems being in possession of one of the deadliest drugs in America still doesn’t come with a mandatory minimum sentence. The Alcohol epidemic seems to have avoided a lot of the stigma that other drugs are held to, yet experts insist more should be done to decrease the astonishing rates of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Alcohol may be legal, and it may be more mainstream than most drugs, the alcohol epidemic in this nation is still a very real threat. The fact it is legal and easily accessible makes the problem so much more serious. This article isn’t meant to demonize alcohol, but it is meant to point out the severity of alcohol use and the damage that comes with it. Maybe this kind of perspective can also diminish the stigma attached to other illicit addictions, if we are willing to acknowledge the similarities.

Alcohol is more dangerous than people give it credit, and alcohol addiction is incredibly dangerous.

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What Is the Real Measure of Success in Recovery?

What Is the Real Measure of Success in Recovery?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Working in the blogging and social media sector of the world-wide web you get to see a lot of differences of opinion on a lot of topics; from the most mainstream to the most infamously controversial. In fact, pretty much anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has exposure on a regular basis to a variety of intense debates and collective views. Of course another thing the internet does is provide us with perspective and statistics, and some of those data inventories actually make a strong impact on our own opinions. However, some figures may miss the mark when it comes to truly all-inclusive data. This is especially true when it comes to the measure of success in recovery from addiction.

Some people claim that the majority of support groups and programs don’t have very impressive or even adequate rates of success in recovery. Others will go as far as to claim that these support groups and recovery programs hurt more than they help. If you dig deep enough, there are plenty of people claiming that nothing out there works for helping addicts and alcoholics who need help.

But is that accurate? Truthfully, I have more than enough reason to doubt these claims for a very simple reason…

Who is truly capable of quantifying someone else’s “success”?

Instead of asking if drug treatment is successful, maybe we should be asking the real question… what is the real measure of success in recovery?

Talking about Treatment

Back in 2013 TIME magazine wrote that because there is no standard definition or what “rehab” is, there is no standard metric for measuring their success. The therapeutic community at one point said they could only claim a 30% success rate. However, the source also indicated that they only count ‘success’ by those who complete the entire program, and between 70% and 80% of people drop out of aftercare around 3-6 months after treatment. To sum that up, some people just stop reporting on their progress, so their ‘success’ could not be confirmed.

Other treatment providers will measure their success rates on how many patients report being completely abstinent for an extended time after leaving treatment. However, as we discuss later in the article, abstinence is not the requirement in the definition of success.

The fact is, because there are various addiction treatment models, to measure the success of recovery based on the numbers even treatment providers themselves gather is actually inappropriate and ineffective.

Focusing on the Fallen

When was the last time you saw a story on the news about an overdose victim? These days if we go 24 hours without seeing one it is surprising, right?

Well… when was the last time you saw a story on the news about a recovered addict who owns their own business, or is working a 9-5 and volunteering in their community? When was the last time you saw a breaking report about the alcoholic who went home to be an amazing parent to their newborn child or started a foundation to help the less fortunate?

I’ll wait…

I thought so. But allow me to blow your mind… because these people do exist!

This is probably one of the greatest injustices dealt to the recovery community. I’ve written about this before, and about how changing the communities views means overcoming stigma. Media outlets are always itching to give a dramatic account of every drug overdose or crime committed by an addict. Thus, that is all the rest of the world sees. It should be no surprise that people claim the recovery programs and support groups are failing, because no one pats you on the back for being a decent person. The only time people seem to applaud recovering addicts in the media is when they’re a celebrity.

It is easy to claim that drug addiction treatment doesn’t work when someone only focuses on the overdose rates in their community. It is easy to point to the individuals who have fallen, who need another chance at getting healthy, and say they are proof that the institutions are broken. Raising awareness on all those who still need help is important, but it is counterproductive to use them as indication that no progress is being made.

Anonymous Recovery

One conflict with measuring success is with 12 Step programs, mainly because they are anonymous programs. As a member of a 12 Step program I am definitely not trying to discredit these methods. The reality is true success rates of 12 Step programs are such a matter of contention because the standard of anonymity. Many people will simply not wish to be involved in studies based on their desire to remain anonymous.

When trying to debate the success rates of 12 Step programs we have to take any statistics with a heaping serving of salt. Out of the pieces of data available, those numbers are not an all-encompassing assessment.

Also, the only data for success in recovery from 12 Step groups is ongoing sobriety percentages, measured by years. And just about any member will tell you time does not equate sobriety. And limited data means the programs may help people to find a meaningful life, but if they do not remain members then they are not included in those success rates.

Some will only measure their success in recovery on a 24 hour basis, because they take life a day at a time.

Even 12 Step literature will point out that they have no monopoly on spirituality or recovery. 12 Step literature acknowledges that some people reach a point where their drug abuse or drinking caused great physical, personal and professional damage, but after intervention and treatment some can turn their lives around without a 12 Step program. Of course abstinence is often suggested as the best course of action for most recovering addicts and alcoholics. Once drugs or drinking create enough devastation, turmoil and helplessness many people find it is far too late to ever go back. Yet, abstinence is not necessarily the requirement for “success in recovery”.

Success in Recovery is Subjective: Speak Up

What truly transcends the debate over effective drug treatment is how we measure success in recovery in the first place. How do we decide someone is successful in life? Because isn’t that what recovery is; building a life that is happy and whole? So how do we calculate the extent of someone else’s transformation?

In essence, that is what we are talking about; discovering a fulfilled and meaningful shift that allows freedom to pursue happiness and connection. Given this description, success in recovery is definitively subjective. The meaning of recovery is more conjectural.

The measure of successful recovery should be a more fulfilled life.

Not just with material wealth, prestige or surface value but with connection, contribution and genuine gratitude. In the end, men and women who struggle with drug abuse or alcoholism recover in innumerable ways. Some turn to religious bodies, while others thrive on support groups. Some focus on physical fitness and mindfulness. There is no way to measure every success story, because they are life-long journeys through self-awareness. Each puzzle piece makes a different picture.

In order to show that there is hope, I hope more of us speak up about our experiences in recovery from alcoholism and addiction. There is so much emphasis on the bad, there is more of a need than ever to show the world something good. This means shattering the stigma that stands against us. People will never know we can succeed if we don’t try to show them how we already have. Recovery from addiction should be outspoken more often. Not because I think anonymity isn’t important; I have great respect for the traditions of 12 Step fellowships.

But… I do believe that if we don’t speak up for ourselves, stigma is going to keep speaking for us.

Every community, including yours, is filled with people who have empowering and inspiring success stories after overcoming drugs and alcohol. It all begins with a foundation. It is up to you to measure your success, but it’s also up to you to take action and make your success story possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

 

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Jeff Sessions Continues the Failing War on Drugs

Jeff Sessions Continues Failing War on Drugs

Author: Justin Mckibben

For the last few years, if you ask most experts in the field, it has become abundantly clear across the board that the ‘War on Drugs’ has failed us all. By many accounts, the war on drugs declared by President Nixon in 1971 has had a devastating impact on the people and not the problem. Both addicts and average citizens have suffered under this endeavor. Long-term statistic have shown systematic failures in these archaic policies, and despite efforts to stop the supply of drugs coming in, prices of drugs have gone down while purity has gone up.

In the press, the former President Barack Obama persistently spoke out against the failures and misguided strategies of the war on drugs, calling for a reform in policies. This was one of the primary issues on the campaign trail in 2016 as the opioid epidemic raged out of control. The Obama administration launched a concerted effort to reform harsh prison sentences and commute record numbers of non-violent drug offenders.

With Obama, the idea was to create a climate of compassion and support, breaking stigma and trying to give more people the opportunity for rehabilitation while abandoning a system of mandatory minimums that only made matters worse.

Now, however, under the Trump administration the Attorney General Jeff Sessions means to revert back to the war on drugs.

Attorney General’s Memo

Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy aimed at keeping non-violent drug offenders out of federal prisons, and received some bipartisan backlash. A memo from Sessions was released last Friday, in which he instructed federal prosecutors nationwide to seek the strongest possible charges and sentences against defendants they target. The memo states:

“It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,”

“This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us. By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory-minimum sentences.”

Thus, this policy change essentially rejects the Obama-era progress of instructing federal prosecutors to avoid the strictest sentences for defendants charged with low-level drug offenses. This should come to many as no surprise, since Trump and his campaign surrogates were openly supportive of a ‘tough on crime’ and a ‘law and order’ approach to dealing with drug problems.

The bigger picture is, the war on drugs stance has been a waste of resources that ultimately cost far more lives than could have been saved with a more compassionate and connected approach to helping addicts get the help they need.

Jeff Sessions Wants Drug War

There is plenty of evidence to indicate Attorney General Jeff Sessions is all in for continuing the war on drugs. Law enforcement officials report that Sessions and Steven H. Cook, a member of Sessions’ inner circle of the Justice Department, are planning to prosecute more drug and gun cases, and to pursue mandatory minimum sentences.

These same reports indicate that Sessions is very enthusiastic to return to the ‘good old days’ of the 1980s and 1990s at the apex of the drug war. This is the same system that helped exacerbate mass incarceration in America. The war on drugs tore apart countless families and homes across the nation by sending low-level, non-violent drug offenders to prison for longer periods of time. The data later showed this also was a policy that was disproportionately inflicted upon minority citizens.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions insists that this approach is necessary to be tough on crime. This is the same guy quoted for saying things like,

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana”

As if stigma wasn’t already a big enough problem, wait… there’s more. Sessions has also been quoted as saying,

“[the Klu Klux Klan] was okay until I found out they smoked pot”

Advocates for marijuana reform has referred to Sessions as a “drug war dinosaur” and argued that is the last thing this nation needs.

Sessions has gone as far as to say in a speech,

“Psychologically, politically, morally, we need to say — as Nancy Reagan said — ‘Just say no.’ ”

Yes… because we should completely ignore that for over 40 years this injustice has crippled many communities and alienated millions of Americans to the point they would sooner die on the streets than seek help.

Why the War on Drugs Failed

The core problem with the war on drugs strategy was the philosophy that eliminating drugs would eliminate the problem, so the approach was said to focus on wiping out drug supplies and imprisoning traffickers. This may sound pretty cut and dry, but it comply ignores the most basic fundamental of any market; supply and demand.

Reducing the supply without first trying to reduce the demand only drives the price up. The drug market is not price-sensitive. People will continue to use regardless of cost. This new high-price marketplace inspires more traffickers to take more risk for bigger rewards, and the markets continue to grow.

Not only that, but many would say the crimes often associated with drug use are actually caused by the drug war. As purity goes up and the market becomes more competitive, violence among traffickers escalates because of the high demand. According to some, the United States homicide rate is 25% to 75% higher because of the war on drugs.

Opposing Ideas

Sessions’s aides continue to claim that the attorney general does not intend to completely overturn every aspect of criminal justice policy that has changed, but that isn’t all that reassuring at this point when he has already appointed a man to head the revamping of criminal justice who thinks there is no such thing as a non-violent drug offender.

These two politicians have already fought against progressive legislation in the Senate that would have reduced some mandatory minimums and given judges more flexibility with some drug cases. Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), states,

“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,”

California Senator Kamala Harris served as a prosecutor, district attorney and state attorney general before winning her seat in Congress, and this week Harris attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new sentencing guidelines, stating:

“I saw the War on Drugs up close, and, let me tell you, [it] was an abject failure,”

“It offered taxpayers a bad return on investment,” Harris continued, “It was bad for public safety. It was bad for budgets and our economy. And it was bad for people of color and those struggling to make ends meet.”

Harris urged her fellow progressives in session to fight for more resources to treat addiction, and to elect progressive prosecutors at the state and local level in hopes of fighting back against these counterproductive measures.

In the end, the war on drugs costs millions of dollars annually, while ruining countless lives and making matters worse in essentially every aspect of the issue. Hopefully, this new revival of the war on drugs won’t last.

There should always be hope for a better future. Anyone can make a difference in their own future. Reach out and get the help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs?

Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

This is arguably one of the most difficult questions to answer regarding drug addiction without being met with contention and passionate opposition. The troubling part is, despite the fact that the medical community, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has taken a strong stance on classifying addiction as a disease, others still argue that it is a condition that only exists out of lack of personal responsibility or moral willpower. Stigma against addicts was the driving force behind the way the world understood addiction for so long that now it is an uphill battle at times trying to detach from those old ideas.

Beyond the assumptions most people adopt as fact, science and psychology have taught us that addiction is far more complex and misunderstood than most can imagine.

Still, the great question is the “why” of it all, which is a far more debatable way to ask the question than the “how” of it. Even more debate could surround the perceived motivations, and more controversy comes from the “addiction is a choice” conversation. At first, let us look at what the research tells us.

Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs: The Brain

Now first, let us look at how addiction is defined according to medical science, offering the evidence from the ASAM.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) gave the most recent definition of addiction as a chronic brain disorder after a four-year process involving more than 80 experts. The ASAM definition notes that two decades of advancements in neuroscience convinced ASAM officials that addiction should be

defined by the activity present in the brain.

For instance, research has shown that addiction affects the brain’s reward circuitry to the point that memories of previous experiences with food, alcohol and other drugs or even sex can activate cravings and induce more addictive behaviors. Also, the brain circuitry that governs impulse control and judgment is altered in the brains of addicts.

Dr. Raju Hajela, former president of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and chair of the ASAM committee on addiction’s new definition states:

“The disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions, which drive people to behave in ways that are not understandable to others around them,”

“Simply put, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.”

Dr. Hajela did, however, add that the idea of choice is not completely off the table, but that it is not about choosing addiction, but choosing recovery.

To be fair, there are also neuro-scientists like Marc Lewis, a psychologist and former addict himself; author of a new book “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease” who believe that the brain is definitively reshaped by addiction, but do not think it should be classified as a ‘disease’. These scientists recommend cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to reshape the brain and redirect its systems into less self-destructive patterns. While they do disagree with the specifics of the ‘disease’ term, they stand by the neuroscience of addiction.

Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs: Chronic Medical Condition

Further exploring the definition of addiction as presented by the medical and scientific communities, we find that the American College of Physicians (ACP) calls addiction a “substance use disorder” and states that addictions to drugs should be considered a serious public health issue. The ACP states that substance use disorder is a chronic medical condition.

Several agencies have supported this definition of addiction, including:

  • The American Medical Association
  • The American Psychiatric Association
  • The Institute of Medicine
  • The World Health Organization

And if we are going to get really technical, the basic definition of “disease” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:

-a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms

Examining this logic, it is clear that addiction meets all the criteria to be considered a disease. In fact, most definitions of disease are pretty spot-on with the nature of substance use disorder.

Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs: The Formula

Now that we have explored how addiction can qualify as a disease, let us look into the “why” of it. Some insist there is an ‘addiction gene’ that dooms people to addiction. Others say the reason people become addicted is because of their circumstances in life.

One might say there is a kind of ‘formula’ for addiction, but it would be one like X+Y=Addiction.

X= Genetics

Research has pointed toward biological differences that make people more or less susceptible to addiction. Certain genes, or combinations of genes, may result in someone’s brain and body developing dependence much faster than others with the same consumption.

So when someone says they drank the same as someone else, or did the same amount of drugs for the same amount of time, we need to understand that it doesn’t mean they will have the same reaction to those drugs. One of the main arguments people use to oppose the idea of addiction being a disease is comparing an addict to other people who drink and use drugs without being addicts… but science has shown us that is not how it works.

Then there is epigenetics, the study of functional, and sometimes inherited, changes in the regulation of gene activity that are not dependent on gene sequencing. In short, it means to examine how environmental exposures or choices people make can actually remodel (mark) the structure of DNA at the cell level or even at the level of the whole organism.

Y= Environment/Actions

Here is where we openly admit to the actions (i.e. choices) of individuals to influence the development of addiction. Someone’s environment and the way they react to it does contribute to developing an addiction. In general, research has shown that an individual’s health is the result of interactions between their genes and their environment. Of course the likelihood of addiction can be increased by factors like:

Studies from the Nation Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) support that an individual’s surroundings also have a particular impact on drug use. According to the NIDA,

“Exposure to drugs or stress in a person’s social or cultural environment can alter both gene expression and gene function, which, in some cases, may persist throughout a person’s life. Research also suggests that genes can play a part in how a person responds to his or her environment, placing some people at higher risk for disease than others.”

When someone starts addressing external issues with drugs or alcohol, it magnifies the problem. Those who are exposed to a different life-style will also have a different risk of developing a substance use disorder. This impacts those epigenetics we were talking about.

In the end, we can say that people use drugs and alcohol as a solution. It is the resource they turned to for escape, for excitement or for a feeling of ease and contentment. It was a powerful element they were able to reach to, that ultimately rewired their brain and changed their DNA.

Why Do People Become Addicted to Drugs?

Some people will say that the Y of X+Y=Addiction model proves that addiction is a choice, not a disease. Well, to argue that choices can still create diseases, we can point out that in 2014 it was noted for the first time in history, “lifestyle diseases” killed more people than communicable diseases. Health care providers and public health officials have recognized for a very long time that unhealthy lifestyle behaviors are the root cause of several diseases, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Some forms of cancer

Choices influence these conditions, which the medical community categorized as modifiable risk factors, including:

  • Poor dietary habits
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol overuse

People would argue still that someone who uses hard drugs knows the high risk and chooses. Well, don’t people who eat foods with low nutritional value and over-indulge in smoking while never exercising know the risks?

Recovery Works

Why do people become addicted to drugs? There are so many factors unique to the individual with that formula. Genetics, environment, actions, along with physical and mental health all play a part in how a substance use disorder develops, just like numerous other conditions. That is precisely why it is so important we start to recognize addiction as a disease; as a chronic medical condition and one that people should not be shamed and stigmatized for. All these elements of substance use disorder literally rewire the brain and rewrite the DNA.

Though this may seem like a lot of information, it covers barely a fraction of the research on this subject. There is no easy “why” to it, but there is enough to know why recovery is so important. Real recovery is not just removing the drugs, but also working to create new coping skills. Recovery takes work, and a great foundation can make all the difference.

Understanding addiction is one thing. But learning how to make the life in recovery that you deserve takes a strong beginning. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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