Many people enjoy a drink or two during social or leisure time. Alcoholic drinks have been so normalized in today’s society that they are not always associated with the risk of addiction. The same goes for the widespread use of drugs for entertainment. Should everyone who uses either of these substances think about their potential need for future addiction treatment? Why does substance dependence happen to one person but not others?
Substance addiction robs individuals of their potential to perform in school or at work. It is also destructive to families and society as a whole, as so many tragic stories are always happening around us. Overdose, poor health, broken homes, violence, and child abuse are just some related harms. Understanding how people become addicted to alcohol and drugs is the first step in fixing the addiction epidemic in America.
From Casual Drinking to Alcohol Dependence
Not all casual drinking leads to alcoholism, but the latter always begins with the former. Being dependent on alcohol means a person feels they’re not able to function or survive without it. This happens when casual drinking becomes too frequent, and they need to drink more to get the same intoxicating effect. Alcohol dependence also causes physical withdrawal symptoms that make quitting difficult and uncomfortable.
Deeper causes for alcoholism also include genetics, family history, and traumatic circumstances. For example, children who are exposed to parental alcoholism may be at a higher risk of using alcohol as a way of self-medicating when they experience stress in adulthood. The sudden loss of loved ones may create emotional pain and traumatic stress for some individuals to self-soothe with alcoholic drinks. When drinking happens regularly, alcohol dependence forms in the brain.
Health Problems Caused by Alcohol Dependence
It is the liver’s job to break down alcohol, which is why too much drinking can cause three types of liver diseases. The first common condition is fatty liver- when fat builds up inside the liver cells. This happens to most people who drink regularly. The second type is alcoholic hepatitis, which is an acute inflammation of the liver caused by the death of liver cells and permanent scarring. The third condition is alcoholic cirrhosis which causes destruction to normal liver tissues and leaves scar tissues in place of the working liver tissue.
Before people with alcoholism are diagnosed with these specific conditions, they may show symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, pain in the liver, fever, nausea, jaundice, and hypertension. Diagnosis of alcohol-induced liver disease may include blood tests, liver biopsy, ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI. Treatment involves medically-assisted detoxification, therapy, and sometimes a liver transplant.
Drug Addiction Happens the Same Way
Medical professionals classify alcohol and drug addiction into the same category of substance use disorders because they happen pretty much the same way. Casual use of drugs may bring temporary pleasure, but people’s tolerance levels build up, and they begin using higher and higher dosages to get the same effect. Meanwhile, withdrawal symptoms start to show up, which discourages people from quitting.
Today, drugs are becoming more accessible to young people than alcohol. Due to peer pressure, they are more vulnerable to experimenting with prescription drugs and illicit drugs for blending in. While young people’s brains are still developing, these drugs may have more addictive effects on them. Like alcohol, drug addiction is more than just a chemical process in the brain. Several combined risks reinforce their ongoing use, such as genetic predisposition, gender, ethnicity, or having a co-occurring mental disorder.
Preventing Alcohol or Drug Addiction
Since substance addiction is increasingly becoming a public health crisis, everyone plays a role in addiction prevention. This involves a lot of awareness advocacy and continued education about how addiction happens and what recovery entails.
On the one hand, we need to understand and educate others about the long-term harmful effects of substance addiction. On the other hand, we also need to resist the danger of stigmatization by emphasizing that addiction is treatable. Because no one single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to alcohol or drugs, we need to understand prevention and recovery from a combination of factors.
Removing Barriers to Treatment
Lack of education about addiction is a major barrier to receiving treatment. Another is shame and guilt related to the stigma brought by substance addiction. As citizens, educators, and health professionals, we all need to play an active role in raising awareness about removing barriers to treatment. The general public needs to know that early intervention can ensure better recovery.
Addiction recovery is not a failure stage. Many people who have recovered from addiction can testify that recovery is a journey of self-discovery, like healing from other chronic diseases. Rebuilding connections with a real community and learning to care for yourself is what everyone needs. Recovering individuals just need some extra help from health professionals.
Do you or a loved one have casual drinking or substance use habits? Are you aware that even casual drinking may lead to alcohol dependence? You need to stay on top of the knowledge about addiction recovery. If you are concerned about how to intervene with a loved one’s substance use, we have trusted recovery experts to work with you. At Capo Canyon Recovery, near Mission Viejo, CA, we take pride in our holistic path, which is incremental to a sustainable, long-term recovery. We focus on each stage of recovery, both in terms of physical health and mental health. Our inpatient residential care and outpatient, long-term care programs offer unmatched benefits. We provide excess comfort with an in-house chef, luxurious beds, and an onsite organic garden during your sobriety journey. With Capo Canyon Recovery, you can rely on us to help you achieve long-term sobriety. Call us at (800) 804-8714.