Understanding addiction 101

What is addiction? Some people still think it’s a choice a weak-willed, morally flawed person makes. These critics do not understand the workings of addiction, that “sustained use alters the brain.”

The Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation goes on to explain that the disease which is “the continued use of alcohol or other drugs even when that use causes harm or interferes with achieving goals in life.” There are both physical and psychological cravings, they say. Physical, psychological and emotional healing are integral parts of recovery.

People take drugs to feel good, feel better, do better. They experiment out of curiosity and social pressure. But the impairment of self-control is the hallmark of addiction.

“No one chooses to develop the disease that continues to worsen unless or until the person gets the help needed to manage this condition that will last for the rest of their life. It can’t be cured, but it can be managed. It’s not about morals or willpower. They can’t just stop. Even though they want to quit, the mountain is too difficult to go over, around or through to sobriety without help.

As the brain adapts to the continued use of the drugs, advises NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), the ability of the cells in the reward circuit are impaired. That’s the part of the brain that controls reward, stress and self-control. This also affects learning, judgment, decision-making, stress, memory and behavior.

What are the causes of addiction? The answer is unknown, but what is certain is that genetics (biology), influences in a person’s life and the critical stages of child development are involved.

Risk factors include aggressive behavior in childhood, lack of parental supervision, low peer refusal skills, drug experimentation, availability of drugs at school and community poverty.

Children need to learn self control. They learn from the adults who influence them as they are growing up. They need good adult role models to teach them a healthy lifestyle and why it is so important NOT to use drugs. They need to be encouraged to do their best in everything they do, including getting good grades. In some ways, it is true, it takes a village to raise a child.

“Children’s earliest interactions within the family are crucial to their healthy development and risk for drug use,” advises NIDA.

Three facts to remember about addiction are: 1.) It’s worsens over time until the person gets help to get to sobriety; 2.) It’s chronic, there is not a cure but it can be managed; and 3.) It’s potentially fatal.

Drug use and addiction are preventable. “Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction,” NIDA says.


Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 1010 North 6thStreet, Steubenville, Ohio 43952; phone, 740-283-4946; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded, in part, by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.


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