5 Facts You Might Not Know About Addiction
It’s taken the health care community many decades of hard work, but addiction is widely recognized as the disease it is by most of the population.
This makes recognizing and treating addiction a bit easier in that we now have a shared vocabulary and a reduction in social stigma. Yet nearly 21 million Americans struggle with addiction with only 10% of those getting the help they need.
However, with so much known about addiction, there is still much to be learned not only by the community treating addicts but by the friends and families who are trying to help loved ones. Here are five things you may not know about addiction.
Many Species Seek Out Intoxicating Substances
From reindeer to dolphins to cats and dogs, there are many animals who seek out mind-altering substances in their environment. Mushrooms, catnip, and other naturally hallucinogenic plants are sought out simply for their mental effect according to researchers. So humans aren’t the only mammals who seek intoxication.
Men and Women Are Nearly Equal in Likeliness of Having an Addiction
It turns out that the biological differences between men and women do not determine whether one sex is more likely to become addicted to a substance. The difference comes when social and environmental conditions are factored.
Genes Are Only Half the Story
While gender may not be an indicator of the likelihood of addiction, genes are. No single gene points to a predisposition for addiction, but many genes and combinations of genetic material can play a role. Most scientists believe that genetics are only 40 to 60 percent responsible with the remaining factors attributed to lifestyle and environment.
Substances Damage the Brain’s Structure
Most addicting substances trigger a rush of dopamine, one of the brain’s feel-good chemicals. With repeated use of addictive substances, the structure of the brain can change as the reward center becomes damaged. When this happens, the addict requires more and more of the substance to achieve the same feeling and the brain becomes more damaged. This damage also affects areas of the brain that govern self-control, making it even harder to quit.
Many Addictions Are Co-Occurring
Many substance addictions occur alongside mental health conditions as people look for relief from disorders including anxiety, bi-polar, depression, post-traumatic stress, and personality. People with mental illness have been reported as being twice as likely to use illegal drugs as those without. This co-occurrence makes treating the addiction even more complex in some cases.
If you suspect a loved one is struggling with addiction, or you yourself need help, please contact us. We are committed to supporting you in your lasting journey to recovery.