Over 19 million adults in our country struggle with a substance use disorder, and only about 10% receive medical or behavioral treatment for their addiction. While the opioid epidemic dominates the news cycles with over 68 thousand Americans killed from drug overdose 2018, cigarette smoking kills 480 million adults each year, and 88 thousand people die from alcohol related diseases annually in the US. And yet, for each of these substances, as well as for many other, there are effective and safe medical treatments in addition to behavioral therapies that have been shown to help people overcome their addiction(s) and live their lives in recovery.
Addiction is frequently misunderstood and considered a failure of willpower or the result of bad morals. In actuality, addiction is a complex disorder of the brain and body with powerful behavioral, social and emotional components. The transition from “risky” substance use, where the choice to use a substance is still under conscious control, to addiction or a substance use disorder, is the result of changes in the structure and function of specific areas of the brain. These changes can be reversed, but the vulnerability to addiction will remain. Addiction behaves like other chronic diseases, with relapse rates similar to episodes of disease exacerbation seen in treated hypertension or diabetes.
Education, income, class or race does not protect someone from developing a substance use disorder. About 50% of the risk of developing a drug addiction is genetic, and early childhood adverse events dramatically increase the risk of addiction. Thus, by the time someone is able to chose whether or not to experiment with a substance, they may already be up against insurmountable odds. While peers may be able to experiment with a drug and move on, those with high vulnerability will transition from drug experimentation to risky use to addiction in a frighteningly short amount of time. For many people, their first exposure to their drug of abuse was because they were following a physician’s instructions, not because they were making an “irresponsible” choice.
Perceived stigma can prevent individuals from seeking treatment, or even talking about their symptoms with loved ones. Many suffer in silence and shame.
At Triangle Wellness & Recovery PLLC, we recognize addiction as a complex biological and behavioral disease that impacts multiple domains of people’s lives with potentially devastatingly results. While addiction does in fact cause damage to the brain, the brain is also capable of remarkable healing and resilience. Addiction doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Let us help you start the healing process and build a life in recovery and wellness.