What You Should Know about Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Addiction
Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases that affect millions of Americans.
Addiction is defined as the physical or mental dependency to alcohol or another illicit substance. This definition, however, doesn't describe the true complexities of alcohol or drug dependency.
Often, alcoholism and other chemical dependencies can co-exist. Co-occurring disorders, such as compulsive gambling, may also be present in addicts. Furthermore, alcohol and drug dependence doesn't only affect the addict; it can hurt the lives of family members, friends and co-workers. Anyone can develop a chemical dependency, regardless of gender, age, race, education or income.
Whether a substance is legally obtainable (alcohol, prescription medications, etc.) or illegal (street drugs), it is important to be aware of the highly addictive nature of these substances, and the effects they can have on those who use them.
While different drugs have different effects, what most drugs have in common is that they over-stimulate the pleasure center of the brain. Over time, the brain chemistry of an addict is altered, making time spent without the substance in the user's system extremely uncomfortable and even painful. This physical addiction makes the urge to use increasingly powerful and increasingly disruptive to relationships, work and health.
Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is extremely prevalent in the United States and is known to directly or indirectly affect almost 70 percent of the people in our nation.
Some other facts about addiction include:
- Each year, one in four deaths in the United States can be attributed to alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use.
- In 2007, more than three-quarters of the estimated 17.4 million alcohol or drug abusers (18 or over) were employed, full or part time.
- Alcoholism alone is estimated to cause 500 million lost work days annually, and in 2007 the healthcare cost to employers was $186.9 billion.
- Recent estimates show there were 6.4 million Americans using prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs recreationally in the past month. Of these, 4.7 million used pain relievers.
- Current nonmedical use of prescription-type drugs among young adults, age 12 and over, has increased.
Addiction is a multifaceted disease. It is not a matter of moral weakness or faulty willpower. It is a vicious cycle that causes physical changes in the brain, leading to stronger and stronger impulses to use.
Fortunately, like most diseases, addiction can be treated and managed successfully. At CeDAR, we are dedicated to provide patients with the hope, help and support they need to overcome addiction.