A large body of scientific evidence has been gathered in recent years to show that addiction can run in families. In fact, children of alcohol-addicted parents are four times more likely to develop alcohol addiction in later life than those born to parents without alcohol addictions. How this works is complex, and there is no one ‘alcohol gene’ to blame for this; instead a number of genetic variations, which mean some individuals are more pre-disposed to alcoholism than others.
Drugs affect the way a person thinks, feels, behaves and how they look. But substance use disorders are often accompanied by co-occuring mental health disorders like anxiety or depression. Some people may use drugs as a form of self-medication for these issues, while other people may develop a mental health disorder after taking substances. Either way, it’s important to look out for psychological and behavioral changes in friends or loved ones who might be struggling with addiction:
Alcoholism can creep up on you, working its way into your life almost unnoticed, and by the time it is recognised the original catalysts might seem irrelevant. Though there are many different elements that can lead to alcohol dependency, there are common risk factors shared by almost all alcoholics, and it is worthwhile considering them as understanding paves the way for recovery.
A growing literature is demonstrating the importance of emotion regulation in the treatment of substance abuse. Considering that nicotine and other psychoactive substances such as cocaine activate similar psycho-pharmacological pathways, an emotion regulation approach may be applicable to a wide array of substance abuse. Proposed models of affect-driven tobacco use have focused on negative reinforcement as the primary driving force for addiction; according to such theories, tobacco is used because it helps one escape from the undesirable effects of nicotine withdrawal or other negative moods. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), is showing evidence that it is effective in treating substance abuse, including the treatment of poly-substance abuse and cigarette smoking. Mindfulness programs that encourage patients to be aware of their own experiences in the present moment and of emotions that arise from thoughts, appear to prevent impulsive/compulsive responses. Research also indicates that mindfulness programs can reduce the consumption of substances such as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, cigarettes and opiates.
An average of about three months of residential treatment seems to be effective. The optimal treatment time seems to be similar in non-residential treatment, suggesting a combination of residential and non-residential treatment might be effective over that time. But completing the treatment program and actively participating seem to be more important than treatment setting or length.
The first stage is occasional use or binge drinking. This usually involves experimentation. If you like the taste or the way alcohol makes you feel, you might choose to drink again. However, at this stage, you can still exert control over your drinking, even if you do drink more than the recommended weekly amount. You might think that occasional binge drinking is harmless, but the reality is that it can have a negative impact on your health and put you at risk of alcohol poisoning. Furthermore, if you continue to binge drink regularly, it can lead to a bigger problem.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” Addiction can result from a variety of factors and catalysts, including genetic predisposition, circumstances, environment, trauma and mental health disorders. While addiction often starts with drug abuse, it is not an indication of a person’s moral status or stability. In fact, many addictions spring from prescription drug use or casual use of legal substances.
In a survey of treatment providers from three separate institutions, the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, Rational Recovery Systems and the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors, measuring the treatment provider's responses on the "Spiritual Belief Scale" (a scale measuring belief in the four spiritual characteristics of AA identified by Ernest Kurtz); the scores were found to explain 41% of the variance in the treatment provider's responses on the "Addiction Belief Scale" (a scale measuring adherence to the disease model or the free-will model of addiction).
The length of time an addict will remain as an inpatient in rehab will vary from individual to individual, and different facilities will offer programs of different durations. A typical stay will last around a month, although some shorter-term programs – one or two weeks – are available, in many addicts choose to stay longer than a month if they feel their recovery will be helped by an extended stay.
An inpatient rehab facility is the most structured treatment environment for those overcoming alcoholism. Generally, these rehabs are geared toward treating the most severe forms of alcoholism and require individuals to remain on-site for the duration of the program – 30, 60 or 90 days. Treatment specialists provide around-the-clock care and will prepare you for life after rehab. This may include information on how to overcome triggers, the importance of sobriety maintenance programs and what to do in the event of a relapse.
In the United States, drug policy is primarily controlled by the federal government. The Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces controlled substances laws and regulations. The Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) serve to protect and promote public health by controlling the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of products, like medications.
Within the framework of the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), substance dependence is redefined as a drug addiction, and can be diagnosed without the occurrence of a withdrawal syndrome. It was described accordingly: "When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. This, along with Substance Abuse are considered Substance Use Disorders." In the DSM-5 (released in 2013), substance abuse and substance dependence have been merged into the category of substance use disorders and they no longer exist as individual diagnosis.