This is a question that has confused and grieved family members for as long as there have been people who use drugs. After all, with everything we know about the destruction caused by substance abuse – the mental and physical pain, the damage to one’s health, the legal consequences, the dysfunction and chaos, why would anyone ever choose to use drugs even one time?
No one has ever woken up and made a conscious decision to become an addict. Ask anyone who has been lost to active substance abuse. They never intended to be caught in the hellish downward spiral that eventually destroyed their families, relationships, bodies, or careers.
But in spite of that, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that:
- Nearly 29 million Americans have used an illicit drug within the past month.
- That number represents over 10% of the US population, up from 8% a decade ago
- Among young adults ages 18 through 25, the rate jumps to 1 in 4.
- In 2016, more than 15 million people had an Alcohol Use Disorder.
- Another 7 and a half million had an illicit drug use disorder.
- On an average day, 140 people die from drug poisoning.
Most substance abusers mistakenly believe that “it can’t happen to them”. In their minds, addiction is something that happens to “other people”. By the time they learn just how wrong they really are, it’s too late.
There are many reasons why people use drugs.
People Use Drugs Because They’re CURIOUS
Many new drug users see their friends “partying” just want to find out what all the fuss is about.
People Use Drugs Because It’s Part of the CULTURE
Substance abuse is everywhere in popular culture today. On hit television shows like Breaking Bad, Roseanne, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, and House, alcohol and drug abuse have driven major plot lines.
People Use Drugs Because of Their ENVIRONMENT
This refers to drug use among their friends, peer pressure, or generational drug abuse. Children whose parents abuse alcohol or drugs are at increased risk of doing the same.
People Use Drugs to CELEBRATE
This is particularly true with alcohol. Even people who rarely drink may imbibe when their spirits are high.
People Use Drugs to RELIEVE STRESS
Some people just want to “blow off steam” after dealing with the pressures of everyday life.
People Use Drugs to ESCAPE
Many substance abusers want to blot out traumatic experiences and “get out of their own head”.
People Use Drugs to Self-Medicate MENTAL ILLNESS
Psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are closely associated addiction. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 8 million people have a co-occurring Substance Use Disorder and mental illness.
How an Addiction Develops
Drug use—for any reason—is the first step onto a slippery, dangerous slope.
Addiction is primarily genetically-based, but behaviors are the catalyst. If a person is biologically vulnerable, even occasional recreational use of intoxicants can have an alarming effect upon their brain.
Regular substance use – particularly if it is heavy – changes how the brain produces the hormones responsible for pleasure, reward, learning, and motivation.
When this change is triggered, the user is compelled by their own brain to constantly seek out more of the drug, just to feel “normal”. They are robbed of their ability to choose when, how often, and how much to use.
What begins as experimentation, fitting in, or stress relief rapidly becomes dependence, abuse, and addiction.
Why This Matters
Understanding the “whys” and “hows” of SUD is critical to successful treatment and recovery. The disease does not have a single identifiable cause. This means there is no single treatment solution that alone allows a person to beat their addiction.
SUD must be addressed on several levels simultaneously with a multi-disciplinary approach – educational, physical, behavioral, psychological, emotional, nutritional, social, and spiritual.
In terms of both recovering from or preventing addiction, when people learn healthier coping methods, stress reduction techniques, ways to socialize, and processes to deal with trauma, then their chances of successful and lasting recovery are maximized.
If drug use has turned into drug addiction for you or someone you care about, Chapman House Treatment Centers can give you the help and support you need. As the most-trusted alcohol and drug rehab in Orange County, California, Chapman House can give you what you need to return to a lie of sobriety, sanity, and stability.
To start your own sober journey of recovery, contact Chapman House TODAY.
by Albert Fontenot