Someone struggling with addiction faces several choices. One option is to keep up the substance use because it’s easy to believe it’s not a problem. Another option is to get help. People with addictions often fight getting help, but even unwilling patients find success with evidence-based addiction treatments.
Old attitudes about addiction treatment once stigmatized the disease and made it harder for people to find help. Medical research into new treatments and decades of success stories reveal a brighter future for people with addiction. When people find a facility with treatments that manage all of their symptoms, including mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety, they want to participate in the process and find hope in sobriety.
Drug Abuse Prevalence
Addictions are isolating, placing a wall of lies and deception between the addicted person and everyone she cares about. As a result, addicted people feel alone, as though no one else in the world faces the same problems. In reality, addictions in the United States are common. Around 20.8 million people age 12 and older report having an addiction. An estimated 15.7 million have alcohol addictions, while 7.7 million have drug addictions. Of those reporting and addiction 2.7 million have an alcohol and drug addiction. Addiction to more than one substance is a serious form of addiction that requires more intensive treatment.1
When a person feels compelled to take a substance, even when he experiences negative consequences from taking it, he has an addiction. An addiction forms due to chemical changes in the brain. In lab experiments with rats, researchers have duplicated many behaviors seen in addicted humans. Rats given unlimited access to many drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, started taking more and more of the substance even after experiencing punishments related to drug taking. The rats also suffered cognitive deficits, including problems with attention, memory, planning, impulse control and decision-making. An addicted person’s problems with impulse control and decision making make it harder for him to stop drug use and stay sober. It’s this cycle of abuse, where drugs impair a person’s ability to identify problems in his life that makes it challenging for people to quit without help.2
Humans are not rats, of course, but the addiction process looks similar in a human as it does in a rat. A human chooses to take drugs, the drugs elicit changes in the brain and the addiction takes hold. Research into drug trends shows some drugs are more popular in certain decades than others. Cocaine, for example, was more popular in the 1980s and 1990s than today. The current prescription opiate epidemic has people concerned now, with addiction specialists, researchers and local, state and federal governments looking for answers to fight it. Education programs that highlight the dangers of drugs and alcohol make a significant impact, just as addiction treatment programs that use evidence-based therapies.3
Dangers of Addiction
Addiction is devastating to the well-being of the addicted person. For example, a study in the journal Substance Use and Misuse found quality of life scores for people addicted to heroin were universally poor, regardless of gender or age. The one thing the people had in common was addiction, and it made their lives worse than the lives of non-addicted people.4
It’s easy to understand why, as addiction costs a person his:
- Parental rights
Substance addiction also is deadly. In 2009 alone, there were nearly 4.6 million drug-related visits to emergency departments due to drug use.5 Some people received treatment for their drug use, but it’s likely others did not receive help in time. Addicted people often must take high doses of their drugs to achieve the results they want. Sometimes, addicts walk a fine line between feeling the effects of the drug and overdosing on the drug. For example, heroin from an unknown source could be stronger than an addict’s usual heroin source and lead to an overdose that stops breathing. It’s a risk addicts willingly take. In addition, illicit drugs aren’t regulated by governmental agencies, so addicts never know if the drugs they take are pure or tainted. People who take tainted drugs face infections or diseases from unknown toxins.
Drug Abuse Costs
The cost of addiction doesn’t end with money, however. An entire community foots the bill for addiction, when statistics include money spent on crime resources, health care and lost workplace productivity.
There is a silver lining in the discussion about drug abuse costs: Multiple studies show the cost of treating addiction results in a benefit to society. In one such study, researchers found for every $1,583 spent on substance abuse treatment, there was a societal benefit of $11,487.9 Treatment centers that help people turn away from their addictions reap much more than they cost.
When to Intervene
Someone with a substance abuse problem rarely wants to acknowledge the struggle they’re going through, especially when confronted. As a result, many talks with an addicted person end with tears, yelling or worse. People who go through these conversations multiple times might be leery to bring the topic up again, even though they know the addiction issue is serious and must be stopped. Sometimes, hiring an interventionist turns the cycle around. While loved ones have the most complete picture of the addiction, emotion often clouds the issue. A professional remains calm and objective, and may help break through to the person who needs help.
An interventionist is a professional addiction counselor with experience talking to addicted people. An interventionist can help families with the following:
- Understand addiction
- Determine how to talk about the addiction with the addicted person
Ideally, an interventionist escorts the person to a treatment center when the talk is over, but sometimes, smaller steps toward recovery are just as transformative. For example, some interventionists focus on convincing the person with the problem to simply agree to a professional evaluation. This could be a small step that leads to a greater understanding for that addicted person.10
Families that prefer not to initiate a dramatic intervention may hold smaller, private conversations about addiction. An interventionist can help the family plan these informal chats as well.
Drug Rehab at The Oaks at La Paloma
If your family is dealing with an addiction issue, we’d like to help you at La Paloma. Our staff is experienced in drug addiction, and we keep a low staff-to-client ratio, assuring personalized care. We also use integrated treatment plans that treat addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders. At The Oaks at La Paloma, continuing care is part of the plan, assuring that recovery lasts long after you leave us.
If you or someone you know is in need of treatment for drug addiction, contact The Oaks at La Paloma at our toll-free number.
1 “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results From the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. September, 2016.
4 Puigdollers, Elisabet, et. al. “Characteristics of Heroin Addicts Entering Methadone Maintenance Treatment: Quality of Life and Gender.” Substance Use & Misuse. July 3, 2009.
7 “The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992-2002.” Office of National Drug Control Policy. December, 2004.
9 Ettner, S. L., Huang, D., et.al. “Benefit–Cost in the California Treatment Outcome Project: Does Substance Abuse Treatment “Pay for Itself”?” Health Services Research, vol. 41, no. 1.February, 2006.
10 Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014). “Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic. September 26, 2014.