There’s no shortage of people in the world who haven’t tried some form of an illegal drug at one point in their life. There are even fewer individuals who haven’t had a few too many drinks at one point or another. Luckily, most people don’t let this type of behavior ruin their lives, but sadly, there are those out there who completely lose control due to addiction. It may be excessively difficult to differentiate what separates the recreational drug user from the addict, but understanding addiction in general can go a long way towards this understanding.

Addiction in a Nutshell

Addiction is a multifaceted problem that presents itself in a number of ways, and the full complexity of the issue cannot be easily described. The base definition of the problem is usually explained as a neurological condition which leads to the continued use of alcohol, psychoactive drugs or other “crutches” despite any adverse effects that come along with them.

Addiction is very serious in those who develop a physiological dependence on whatever substance they’re taking. A person’s body will literally become dependent on the substance after adjusting to it by incorporating it into the normal processes that occur within a person. This in turn creates tolerance, which is when a person will need increased doses of a drug to receive the same effects, and withdrawal from the drug. When an addicted person is prevented from partaking in their drug of choice, withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, tremors, anxiety and in some cases, even death.

Everything from biological behaviors to personality traits have been used to explain addictive behavior, but unfortunately, there is no scientific consensus on why addiction manifests in some people and not others. One of the worst parts of addiction, however, is the fact that many people simply don’t realize that they have a problem. Additionally, others often fail to, and sometimes flat out refuse to, recognize the problem in their loved ones.

Addiction is a Multifaceted Problem

Those with addictions to a substance often try their best to hide the fact from those around them. In some instances, however, the addict doesn’t even realize that they have a problem. The first thing that anyone, addict or loved one, should consider is the fact that addiction can stem from just about any illicit substance.

Though it’s not a perfect indicator of the most prevalent addictions, it’s possible to grasp which substances affect more individuals by simply looking at the percentages of people in treatment programs for certain drugs. People seeking treatment for alcoholism, for instance, make up a full 23 percent of all individuals seeking treatment. On the other end of the spectrum are cocaine users; they make up only 3.2 percent of those seeking help.

Once it’s understood how many substances addiction can stem from, it’s important to take note of behaviors that could point towards the existence of an addiction.

Identifying Addiction

The most important factor in understanding and eventually overcoming addiction is being able to identify it. Those who recognize any of these behaviors in themselves may need to consider the fact that they could be an addict:

  • Lying to doctors to obtain prescription grade drugs
  • Stealing drugs, money or property to obtain drugs
  • Lying to loved ones about drug use
  • Being arrested on drug-related charges
  • Failing performance at school or work
  • Drug use causing anxiety or anger within family or social circles

Loved ones should also keep an eye out for the aforementioned behaviors. Sadly, some addicts will recognize these behaviors in themselves and still refuse to admit that they have a problem. There are luckily a few additional red flags that loved ones could also take note of:

  • The increased need to borrow money
  • Hygienic deterioration or rapid weight changes
  • Begins hanging out with new associates or at new places

Any of the aforementioned behaviors can be telltale signs that an individual is in the throes of addiction. Once this behavior is recognized, it’s imperative to seek help. If an individual isn’t ready to accept that they have a problem, loved ones should calmly approach them about it and explain the effect that the addiction is having. No one should think that they or their family are immune to addiction. The statistics alone are enough to destroy this hopeful thought.

Addiction by the Numbers

Most people, even those who have dealt with addiction in their own lives, don’t realize just how serious the problem is in America. One of the most disheartening statistics related to addiction is the fact that there are more than 6 million children in the U.S. who have at least one parental figure who is addicted to drugs. This isn’t the greatest indicator of the number of drug addicts and alcoholics in America since many of these people don’t have children, but it does show an excessively depressing side of the issue.

Addiction also places a burden on each and every American regardless of whether they’re involved with drugs or not. Healthcare costs related to alcoholism and illicit drug use, for instance, exceed $40 million every year. Even worse is the fact that, when lost work productivity and crime is factored in, alcohol and drug use constitute a burden of well over $400 million dollars a year.

The real statistics people should be paying attention to, however, are the ones related to human loss. The fact that drug related deaths are skyrocketing has not gone unnoticed in the scientific community. In fact, since 1980 alone, the number of deaths that could be attributed to a drug overdose rose over 540 percent.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, alcohol is one of the biggest addictions that people face. In America alone, there are at least 15 million people affected by alcohol dependency or abuse at any given moment. This is actually a huge problem in college where studies show that six percent of students are dependent on alcohol. This, however, isn’t the only issue considering the fact that between two and five percent of all deaths in North America are related to alcohol.

Addiction is far too often treated like a dirty word, and in reality, it is. Unfortunately, because of the implications behind the word, many people like to ignore it and simply pretend that it’s not a part of their life. While there are those out there who aren’t touched by addiction in any way, there are also many who simply look the other way to avoid dealing with the issue. Whether it’s the person themselves facing this denial or their loved ones, it’s something they have to get over if they want to conquer this beast.