These are only a few of the statements made about addicts and their addition. There is a common misperception that addiction is the fault of the addict; that addiction is a controllable choice. According to many different studies, science tells us otherwise. What follows are seven reasons why addiction is not the fault of the addict.
- Genetics: Genetics account for 50 percent of the susceptibility to addiction. Some individuals simply have a genetic predisposition to addiction, and prolonged drug use can create additional chemical changes in the brain that increase feelings of dependence.
- Instincts for Survival: Opioids stimulate the areas of the brain that define what is necessary for us to survive. Survival activities such as finding food and water release the neurotransmitter dopamine into our brain. This causes feelings of pleasure and makes us want to repeat the activity that brought on the sensation. Repeated use of opioids triggers this same release of dopamine, which tells our brain to repeat the activity and wrongly believe that painkillers are essential to survival.
- Euphoria vs. Vertigo: For some, opioids provide a euphoric rush — a sensation of happiness and pleasure. For many, this is a sensation that they desperately want to continue experiencing. For others, the side effects of opioids, such as nausea and vertigo, outweigh any pleasurable benefits, which deters these users from becoming addicted, further indicating that addiction stems from how our brains are wired.
- Environmental Factors: Uncontrollable, and often traumatic life experiences can impact a person’s susceptibility for addition. Traumatic events that occur in childhood, such as abuse, losing a parent, or witnessing a violent act, can create physical, permanent changes in the brain, which makes the individual more susceptible to drug abuse.
- Co-Existing Mental Health Conditions: Individuals with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder, are more likely to become addicted to opioids out of a desire to simply continuously, and significantly feel better.
- Ease of Access: Painkiller prescriptions are common. This increase in access has led to stashes of prescription painkillers in homes across the country. With such easy access to a drug that can provide significant feelings of euphoria, addiction can easily follow.
- Teenage Recreational Drug Use: Opioids are now the second most common recreational drug used among teenagers, followed only by marijuana. Approximately one in every ten high school seniors has reported taking Vicodin recreationally, the most commonly prescribed opioid drug. For teens who are in their formative years, and who may be susceptible to addition, consistent use of painkillers recreationally, can turn into an addition, and a lifelong battle.
If someone you love is addicted to substances, it is not his/her fault and he/she can’t just stop without help. Call the 24/7 Painkillers Kill HOPE line anytime for advice or to connect to different treatment options — (855) 969-HOPE.