Addiction is a chronic disease with strong genetic components that requires active, lifelong participation by recovering addicts in some kind relapse prevention therapy. Once the disease of addiction develops in vulnerable individuals, it needs to be addressed and treated in the same way any chronic disease needs treatment. Just like diabetic or heart disease patients suffer worsening symptoms if they do not take medication and adhere to healthy lifestyle choices, addicts will also suffer the same consequences if they do not endeavor to avoid people and situations that trigger cravings and relapse.
Drug Addiction Factors
Substance addiction is characterized by the following:
- The addict cannot abstain from using drugs or alcohol
- The addict suffers severe impairment of behavioral and impulse control
- The addict denies or is unable to recognize significant problems affecting their life
- The addict presents dysfunction and/or distorted emotional responses
Statistics provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse reveal hard-hitting facts about drug overdose deaths:
- Since 2001, deaths attributed to prescription drug overdoses have steadily increased from 10,000 per year to 30,000 per year
- Nearly 20,000 people died in 2014 from overdosing on prescription opioids (pain pills)
- In 2001, 2000 people died from overdosing on heroin. In 2014, 12,000 heroin addicts died from overdosing on heroin
- Cocaine overdose deaths spiked in 2006 at almost 8000 and has since decreased slightly to 5500 in 2014
- In all drug overdose charts presented by the NIDA, the number of men dying from a drug overdose is consistently higher than the number of women fatally overdosing
Facts about the U.S. Heroin Epidemic
Since 2006, heroin use among young adults has more than doubled, partly due to rampant prescription opioid addiction and partly due to heroin’s easy availability and cheapness. Opium production in Mexico rose 50 percent in 2014 in response to America’s uncontrollable demand for for heroin and poppy cultivation globally reached its highest level in 80 years between 2012 and 2013.
Prescription Drug Abuse
One of the reasons thought to have fueled the heroin epidemic is the inability for millions of prescription drug addicts in the U.S. to legally access prescription painkillers after their doctors stopped writing prescriptions for them. In fact, when Florida saw spikes in prescription drug abuse a few years ago, they decided to crackdown on “pill mills” operating in Florida.
Although deaths from prescription drug abuse in Florida have declined since closing down hundreds of pill mills, deaths from heroin increased, primarily because heroin is incredibly cheap in Florida and throughout the U.S. Mexican drug lords are now flooding the area with heroin after discovering how the pill crackdown is driving addicts to find other drugs to satisfy their addiction.
According to the CDC, prescription drug abuse has been officially declared an epidemic in the U.S.
Marijuana is the most abused drug in the world and remains popular because it is easy to grow, cheap to buy and readily available. Marijuana contains a compound called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that gives users a sense of euphoria, heightened awareness and well-being.
Because drug addicts often experiment with marijuana before using harder drugs, marijuana is called the “gateway drug”. A 2015 study involving over 6000 participants found “a large proportion of individuals who use cannabis go on to use other illegal drugs”.
Crystal meth’s street names–“crank”, “speed” and “ice”–stem from its strong stimulant properties. Using meth one time may cause addiction because its effect on the brain is so immediate and intense. Injected or smoked, meth keeps the user high for several hours. Euphoria, hyper-vigilance, talkativeness, aggression and agitation are just a few of the dangerous side effects of taking meth.
Meth production and use is highest in rural areas of several Midwestern states. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports seizing over 1400 meth labs in Indiana, nearly 1000 meth-making sites in Missouri, 936 meth labs in Ohio and 960 meth labs in Tennessee between 2004 and 2014. However, due to the these states offering hundreds of miles of sparsely populated, densely wooded areas to meth producers an addicts, local law enforcement suspects twice as many meth labs exist that will never be found.