Find out what causes addiction and who it affects
Because it’s not an area I cover, I’m delighted to be able to post this article about Addiction and who it affects. It’s written by Andrea Watson (see photo) from Life all day.
Andrea has a bachelor’s in psychology and loves applying psych to everyday life, helping other people, and breaking the stigma. Why not take a look at some of her other work.
Understanding Addiction in 2020
No, I’m not talking about applesauce here, dear readers, I am talking about addiction. What is it? How does it come into being? And most importantly, whose fault is it? Well, those are the questions we seek to answer today. And for this post, I’m breaking out the big guns; Peer Reviewed Journal Articles!
This is no baloney, folks, addiction is prevalent around the world. And we’re not just talking about hard drugs here. We’re talking coffee, video games, cigarettes, pain pills, social media, sex; just about everything we can’t get through our day without. From here on out though, the main context will be hard drugs. So strap in and we’ll get through this together.
Defining Applesauce. I mean, addiction.
The phenomenon of addiction is common and world-wide. Addiction can affect every area of a person’s life, including family relationships, health, public safety, and economic prosperity in an insidious manner. Some think addiction is purely neurological. Some think it is a moral failing, and some believe it’s society’s fault.
You can define it in different ways, but for this post we are going to stick with the theory that addiction is a syndrome that combines interpersonal, biological, and societal dimensions. You could even add family systems and spirituality in there and not be off the mark (Caan, 2012). For a more up-front and less scientific definition, consider this:
“Addiction is Hell. You want to die when you’re using and you want to use when you are sober. It’s like a perpetual merry-go-round of pain where everything blurs and disappears but the drug.”L.P.
Who Does Addiction Affect?
Anyone. Everyone. Not only addicts, but families of addicts. Policemen and women and military personnel engaged in fighting America’s “War On Drugs”. The economy suffers. The black market prospers. Families of the drug mules are affected. Relationships crumble. Politics ignite tensions.
Taxpayers spend money to support the upholding of the law (another subject entirely and a soapbox issue of mine). We see overcrowded jails and prisons as a result of addiction and bad politics. It is a plague in North America. Some countries deal with addiction far more effectively than the U.S. does. But here, we are all about punishment and making that money.
How Does Addiction Happen?
Isn’t it a bad choice? A weakness of character, a sin even? No. No, and no again. I’ll give you a hint: it involves compulsive behavior. One article by Kenada, (2019) with lots of huge fancy words says that addiction happens because the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus sends a bunch of different types of projections to the ventral tegmental area, which is associated with reward information processing and reinforcement learning. Too heavy a read for me.
What does it mean? Basically the author was saying it’s all about brain chemicals. Not quite. It is most widely accepted that addiction stems from a combination of environmental, genetic, and epigenetic factors.
So who you were born as plus what your environment is like plus how your brain changes after drug use equals addiction. I’m barely holding on here. So the hyper-focus on the drug combined with compulsive behavior patterns and lack of control make addiction what it is (Anderson, Penrod, Barry, et.al., 2019). There.
So…Who’s Fault is it, Again?
The answer is…it’s nobody’s fault. It doesn’t even count as a fault as far as science is concerned. It’s a pathology. A real, true disease. The addict is no more responsible than you are. I know, it’s hard to believe. But trust me, this is science we’re talking about here. I read the big hard words and everything.
So, Who, Then, do we Punish?
Nobody. Don’t punish anyone. The whole thing is counterproductive anyway, especially in the face of addiction. A better question would be, “What can we do to help?” Aha! There are answers for that. First and foremost, an addict needs love and support. Not, “hey, call me if you need anything” support.
The need real, actual support. Treatment. Education. Unconditional love from families and friends. Addicts need unconditional positive regard from providers. Shelter from the raging storm that is addiction. The addict needs a lifeline. Someone to be there without judgement for when they really need a hand up.
We may not be aware, but many of us know addicts in our own lives. Gamer? Possible addict. On prescription pain meds? Possible addict. Smoker, coffee drinker, overeater? Addict, addict, addict. Even eating disorders have been lumped in there during recent years. We can be understanding. We can be kind.
Over to you
Do you know an addict? Perhaps it’s someone in your family, a close friend or a colleague? What are your thoughts on their addiction? is it part of a dual-diagnosis? Do you blame them for the ‘state’ they’ve got themselves into? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on addictions and I’m happy to answer any questions.
Andrea @ Life all day