What is Addiction? And Why is Prevention Important?

imagesWhat is Addiction? And Why is Prevention Important?

Most adults know someone in their youth that drank heavily or smoked pot, that grew up to be successful without any of the affects of addiction or substance abuse. But not everyone is that lucky. Approximately one in every 10 Americans over the age of 12 – roughly equal to the entire population of Texas, are addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Addiction is a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function; the person is unable to control the aspects of the addiction without help because of the mental or physical conditions involved. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. The causes of addiction vary considerably, and are not often fully understood. They are generally caused by a combination of physical, mental, circumstantial and emotional factors.

Nobody starts out intending to develop an addiction, but many people get caught in its snare. Consider the latest government statistics:

  • Nearly 23 million Americans are in long term recovery.
  • More than two-thirds of people with addiction abuse alcohol.
  • The top three illegal drugs causing addiction are marijuana, opioid (narcotic) pain relievers, and heroin.

No single factor can predict whether or not a person will become addicted to drugs. Risk for addiction is influenced by a person’s biology (the genes that people are born with), social environment, (peer pressure, abuse, stress, and parental involvement) and age or stage of development. The more risk factors an individual has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction.

Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it is to progress to more serious abuse. And because adolescents’ brains are still developing in the areas that govern decision making, judgment, and self-control, they are especially prone to risk-taking behaviors, including trying drugs of abuse.

Prevention is therefore particularly important for youth. The primary goal of prevention is to delay the first use of alcohol or other drugs. Effective prevention requires that the same messages about alcohol, drugs, and tobacco be delivered by multiple messengers–schools, parents, peers, and the community–repeatedly throughout childhood and adolescence.

For further information on the dangers of alcohol and other drugs, contact Talbot Partnership at 410-819-8067. Please also visit our website at www.talbotpartnership.org or find us on Facebook.