Addiction Treatment (Drugs and Alcohol)

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Who Becomes an Addict?

How many addicts are there in the United States? How did the number of those addicted to drugs or affected by drugs and alcohol climb so high? These are the typical questions that arise when we are discussing drug addiction.

Addiction Defined

The Merrian-Webster Dictionary defines addiction as a “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as a drug or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.”
If you speak with an addiction counselor, he or she will likely tell you that addiction is an obsession with (and uncontrolled need for) alcohol or drugs. The substance of addiction is used frequently or excessively, despite the known negative consequences. It is a chronic and recurring disease that has physiological and psychological components.

Who Becomes Addicted?

There are 23 million or close to 1 in 10 Americans who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Over two-thirds of those addicts abuse alcohol.

The top three drug addictions in the U.S. include:

Causes of Addiction

There are many risk factors that can lead to addiction. A combination of risk factors or just one can lead to becoming an addict. They include factors that are related to individual biology, age, social environment, physical environment and the person’s stage of development.

Some of the risk factors are:


  • 60 percent of alcoholics have a family history of alcoholism
  • Children with an alcoholic parent are four times more likely to become alcoholic than children without that family history
  • Gender and ethnicity might also play a role
  • Research continues identify the actual gene that predisposes a child to addiction. Current research has reported that there are possibly multiple genes involved, not just a single gene
  • A person’s genes plus their environment actually account for one-half of their addiction risk

Mental illness

  • Anxiety, depression and mood disorders can influence addiction
  • Stress is another important influencing factor

Early-in-life involvement with drugs

  • The younger a user is when he/she first tries a drug, the higher the risk of drug abuse or addiction
  • 40 percent of kids who start drinking before 15 years old, become alcoholic
  • Decision-making, judgment and self-control areas of the brain that are still developing during the teen years. Using drugs early in life can affect the developing brain and make a teen more apt to become a risk-taker. Risk-takers often develop addictions

Social environment

  • Living or working in a high drug or alcohol use environment increases the chances of developing such abuse
  • Socioeconomic status and general quality of life also influence addictive tendencies
  • How a person was parented strongly influences their risk of addiction. The more parental involvement, the less likely a child is to become an addict

Childhood trauma

  • Experiencing childhood stress or trauma such as family conflicts, physical abuse and/or sexual abuse actually changes a child’s brain chemistry and makes them vulnerable to addictive behavior
  • The more risk factors that a person has, the more likely they are to develop an addiction.

Addiction Prevention

Drug addiction can be prevented. When there is family, school, community and media involvement in preventing drug problems, drug abuse is reduced. That is a proven fact among addiction researchers.

It is imperative to educate the general American public, especially the young population, about the risks of drug abuse, which can lead to life-changing drug addiction. Trends show that when honest and critical information is provided, people listen.

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