A lot of people try drugs.
Seriously. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates just over half of US adults aged over 26 have used illicit drugs at least once during their lives.
So why aren’t there more people dealing with drug and alcohol addiction? Well … the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says around 4% of Americans qualify as having substance use disorders (SUDs) each year, and about 10% of Americans have had SUDs at least once during their lives. That’s not nothing; one out of every 10 Americans probably includes people you know.
Plus, the thing to remember about data on drug use, addiction, and so on is it relies on self-reporting. Thanks to the needless stigma surrounding addiction, a lot of people who take surveys on difficult subjects like substance abuse – even anonymously – might not always accurately report their own behaviors.
Still, though. How come some people can play around with drugs and yet never have a compulsion to keep on using them? Drugs are chemicals; shouldn’t they act the same way for everyone?
The answer’s frustratingly complicated.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction Roots Run Deep & Complex
Let’s establish one point first: nobody chooses to get addicted.
That said, the reasons driving addiction are as complex and varied as the people who wind up in its trap. Much of it is due to the ways psychoactive drugs affect brain chemistry.
Drugs release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. Over time, users develop a tolerance to the drug’s effects and so take more and more of the substance to get that feeling again.
Eventually, this increased use over time turns into compulsion and addiction. As for the reasons people fall into that long-term use, that’s where things get a little unclear.
Self-medication is a big driver of addiction: people who are bored, lonely, suffering from past traumas and so on sometimes turn to substances as a coping mechanism. As for mental disorders, it’s unclear if mental illness causes addiction or if it’s the other way around. It’s very common to see people receiving treatment for both conditions at a drug rehab or addiction center. This combination is called a dual diagnosis.
Unfortunately, it’s also entirely possible to get addicted through prescription medications, even if that wasn’t a person’s intention. The overprescription of powerful painkillers was one of the chief causes behind the epidemic of overdoses in the US (Check it out for yourself in Patrick Radden Keefe’s “Empire of Pain: the Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty,” a must-read book for anyone interested in the roots of our current crisis).
Surroundings play a role, too – a person who spends a lot of time around people who abuse drugs runs a risk of developing the habit themselves, particularly if they’re young.
Finally, there appears to be a genetic link. A recent study from Rutgers University in New Jersey explored how certain genetic traits can make individuals less resistant to addiction.
A Thirst For New Experiences & Attention Can Be A Risk For Addictive Behaviors
It’s been suspected that a high drive for attention-seeking and new experiences drive addictive behaviors. The Rutgers study involved rats given access to amounts of cocaine. Traditionally, rats are cautious animals who tend to fear new objects and surroundings. Like humans, however, some rats possess a drive to seek out new experiences. The test examined the behaviors of these “high responder” rats and compared them to traditionally cautious, “low responder” rats.
Both rat types eventually developed a demand for cocaine. Interestingly, the high-responder rats learned to access cocaine more quickly and consume a higher amount of it than their more cautious counterparts. The high-responder rats’ behaviors and relationship with the drug seemed to resemble human addiction in some ways.
Moreover, it seemed to show a link between a genetic personality trait – a desire for new experiences – and addictive behavior.
“The interaction found between sensation-seeking traits and the drug-taking experience show that predisposition to addiction has a genetic basis, and that this interacts with environmental factors such as patterns of drug use,” said Morgan James, PhD, study author and assistant professor at Rutgers University in a press release.
“The sensation-seeking trait was predictive of rats’ likelihood to exhibit stronger motivation for drugs when we gave them the opportunity to take cocaine.”
It’s not surprising the rats developed an addiction to cocaine; available in a powder or a crystalline form known as crack, the stimulant is highly addictive. It’s also becoming more and more popular.
From Wonder Drug to Major Health Threat: Cocaine’s Journey
Cocaine was once considered a wonder drug. Its anesthetic properties made eye surgeries relatively painless instead of excruciating. It was used as an ingredient in soft drinks. Even Sigmund Freud championed it in a paper called “Uber Coca.”
It soon became clear cocaine had some less-than-ideal qualities to it. Namely, it was addictive. The drug was made illegal in the 1920s. In the 1970s, it came back into vogue and usage has climbed since, along with overdoses. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found cocaine overdose deaths nearly doubled over two years between 2014 and 2016.
Worse, the drug is often combined with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, leading to a dangerous and lethal combination. The CDC’s report found most of the deaths involving cocaine also involved fentanyl.
Cocaine’s alternately been a drug associated with high fashion and glamour … and with horrific drug cartel violence and desperate street users. It’s hard to say how many cocaine users become addicted due to genetics, background, experiences, or personality traits, but they all walk a path that’s dangerous.
This is exceptionally true for people in recovery. It can be all too easy to fall back into old habits, undoing the work of recovery. Worse, with fentanyl’s steady presence, this setback can be potentially lethal.
How Sober Living Can Help You Beat Cocaine Addiction
Sober living isn’t just helpful in recovery – it’s a potential lifesaver. Spending time in a sober home during your recovery won’t just make your recovery stronger, it adds another layer of protection from the temptations and risks of substance abuse. Living with like-minded people who share your recovery goals helps you stay accountable to your own goals, and there’s nothing like the security of a drug-free environment.
Finding a sober home? That’s a challenge. With so many to choose from, how do you know what one’s the right choice for you?
SoberLivingNearYou.com provides you with a vast assortment of sober home listings across the US. With our directory, you’ll be able to find a sober home for your needs, budget, and location.
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