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Addiction does not begin with a conscious decision to become an “addict. ” Because of the availability of painkillers, central nervous system depressants, and alcohol, every socio-economical group is at risk. For many it is a slow progression from needing to wanting the drug of choice. Fortunately, there are treatment plans and therapy for those who suffer from this life changing disease. The stereotypical view of a drug addict is the poor, dirty, economically challenged, bug-eyed, and most likely of non-white ethnicity.
However, Jeff Bishop reports from an interview with Pamela Shepard, coordinator of the Coweta County Adult Drug Court, Andrews 2 that the addicts they deal with are anything but stereotypical. Shepard states that the people they deal with are not like those in the movies, they are moms, dads, college, students, nurses, teachers and every other profession. Then there are those who never stood a chance from the time they were born. Shepard also says that drug and alcohol addiction and other addictions are pervasive, not just in certain parts of a town or among certain groups of people. Bishop) There are several prescription medications that are addictive, however, some of the more commonly addictive and abused are painkillers, CNS Depressants, and Alcohol. The National Institutes of Health estimates that in the United States close to 20 % of people over the age of 12 have used these prescription drugs or alcohol for non-medical purposes. (Prescription Drug Abuse). Prescription pain killers are one of the most commonly abused medicines (Drug Addiction-Prescription). Many patients are prescribed these medicines for moderate to severe pain.
If taken exactly as prescribed, pain medicine can manage quite effectively. However, chronic use or abuse of opioids can result in physical dependence and addiction (Drug Addiction-Prescription). Pain killers tend to be over prescribed by many doctors and the option of online pharmacies only adds to the problem. (Prescription Painkillers May Be Over Prescribed) According to researchers from the University of North Carolina, physicians who treat neck pain rely on medications far too often to the point of excluding other treatment options, which may be more effective and carry less risk of addiction. Prescription Painkillers May Be Over Prescribed) Andrews 3 Another highly abused medicine is CNS Depressants such as, Xanax and Valium (Drug Addiction-Prescription). These medications are typically prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders (Prescription Drug Abuse). Depressants, for many, are a “way out” of reality which allows them to alter the ability to feel emotional pain or discomfort. Sometimes the “way out” feeling leads to addiction. Research continues to show that alcohol is the most abused substance.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health released that 22% of the American population binge drink and that over 16 million people are heavy drinkers (Catton). Two reasons to support this fact are availability and being legal to buy. Alcohol is woven into many activities in life, and it becomes difficult to recognize when drinking has crossed the line into addiction. Alcoholics have a difficult time setting limits on the amount consumed (Smith, Robinson & Segal). Many people experiment with drugs and alcohol with only a small percentage becoming addicted. Why do some succumb and others do not?
The Genetics Science Learning Center states that it is becoming increasingly clear that genetic factors play an important role in the addiction process (Genetics Science Learning Center). There is not one gene that determines addiction; it is influenced by multiple genes as well as environmental risks. These genes and environmental factors can either add up or cancel each other out. A person’s genetic makeup does not necessarily doom them to become an addict. (Genetics Science Learning Center) Andrews 4 Environment is also a major factor in addiction (Genetics Science Learning Center).
Just because a genetic map says someone is prone to addiction does not mean that it will happen, it just means that those people need to be more careful than others. Treatment plans have been in place almost as long as addiction has been a problem. There are several different treatment centers that provide multiple care plans. Through the years treatment plans have drastically changed, most defiantly for the better. History has shown that past treatments for addiction has been imprisonment, sentencing to asylums, and church-guided prayer. Of course, those methods were generally ineffective. Genetics Science Learning Center) Current methods are more based on the understanding that addiction is a disease that has many more factors than just a need to “get high”. Modern treatments involve a combination of drug and behavioral therapy, resulting in a much higher success rate. (Genetics Science Learning Center) Society tends to judge drug addiction sufferers as morally weak or may see them as if they have criminal intent. Many people do not understand that while symptoms of addiction are treatable, the disease itself is incurable. Luxury drug rehab) Many addiction sufferers will die from their disease, but those who seek help from a treatment center can treat their condition and live a wholesome life (Luxury drug rehab). Andrews 5 Truth is people who are addicted come in all shapes and sizes. It is not just the crack addict in the alley in a bad part of town. They are also the successful business men who wear business suits and successfully function in the corporate world. Addiction sufferers can also be the people who dispense and prescribe narcotics, or the stay at home parents that drive the kids to school and to ball practice every day.
They could also be the elderly neighbor or maybe even a teacher (Winkel). Because there are many beliefs and stereotypes about drug addiction that are simply not true, those who suffer from addiction find it difficult to ask for help or even admit they have a problem. Addiction stereotyping is a hard habit to break but doctors and therapists try to treat addiction as the disease it is. One of the first steps in breaking the stereotype is to stop using the words habit, fix, and abuser that reinforce the stigma with negative connotations (Salsitz). Everyone is worthy of treatment and help.
If people were more aware of the problems of drug addiction and how easily it could happen to anyone, he or she may be more likely to see an addicted person as someone who is worthy of help and respect. The more harshly people judge those who suffer from addiction and continue to make them feel as if they do not deserve treatment the less likely they will be to get help or even trust someone enough to confide in them about their problems. It is never a good idea to generalize people and their behavior. Many who are addicted to substances can move past their addictions and go on to lead productive lives.