Addiction more than a choice

Tori Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

With recent celebrity deaths and near-death experiences, society is beginning to take a closer look into how serious drug addiction is and how it is affecting the ones they love.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over seven million Americans struggled with a drug abuse disorder in 2014一that’s one out of every eight people.

Addiction is more than just a lack of self-control or a side effect of bad morals; it’s a disease. It takes more than just a desire to get clean for someone to actually be able to quit. Drugs alter the brain, which makes it harder to quit and stay away from drugs for good. While the initial use of the drug is typically voluntary, repeated use interferes with the ability to resist strong urges to use more.

While it is common for those quitting drugs to relapse, it doesn’t mean they aren’t successful.

Drug addiction affects the “reward circuit” in the brain. In most people, dopamine is release when they do things that are good for their health, such as eating and spending time with friends and family. When drugs are added to the equation, it takes away from the other aspects of the circuit, because those addicted are so focused on achieving the initial high they got from the first time they took the drug. As their tolerance for the drug builds, they are so focused on that feeling they had the first time, that they lose sight of everything else that used to bring them joy.

There are a number of factors that contribute to addiction. Simply put, some people are more likely to become addicted than others. Genetics and a person’s environment play very large roles in addiction, because they both interfere with the developmental stages a person goes through. Genes account for roughly half of a person’s risk of addiction. Mental illness, gender and ethnicity all play a role. A person’s environment, such as their quality of life and economic status also contribute to the process.

Most chronic diseases don’t have a specific cure, and drug addiction is no exception. However, drug addiction can be treated. Treatment varies from person to person, but studies show a combination of addiction treatment medicines and behavioral therapy often has the best results.

Drug addiction is preventable. When drugs are portrayed as harmful, young people are discouraged from using them. Education is a key factor in preventing addiction. Although parents and teachers are a great source for young adults, there are countless resources for people to refer to at any time of the day. For more information, visit