If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, these facts about addiction might provide compelling reasons to seek out treatment.
Fact #1: The drug a person is using may impact how long it takes for them to become addicted.
While it may take considerable time for a person to become addicted to alcohol, opioids like heroin and even certain prescription medications are far more addictive and take considerably less use for a person to become dependent upon them. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) estimates that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin develop an addiction.
Fact #2: Alcohol use is very common among victims of suicide.
Among people who completed suicide, 36 percent of men and 28 percent of women had alcohol in their system at the time of their death, according to a UCLA study. While this may be partially due to the fact that alcohol is a depressant, alcohol is also known to reduce a person’s inhibitions and may make a person who has been considering suicide more likely to act.
Fact #3: Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States.
ASAM reports over 52,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2015, with around 20,000 of those deaths resulting from prescription opioid painkillers and almost 13,000 more from heroin. The number has only increased during the pandemic.
Fact #4: 80 percent of new heroin users started with prescription medications.
In one study, 94 percent of heroin users indicated that they switched to heroin when they could no longer afford prescription medications, according to ASAM.
Fact #5: Women are at especially high risk from prescription painkillers.
Women are more likely to struggle with chronic pain, be prescribed prescription pain meds, and receive them in higher doses and for longer, all of which increases the chances of women becoming addicted to prescription pain relievers. Between 1999 and 2010, 48,000 women overdosed on prescription pain medications. In that same time frame, prescription pain reliever overdoses increased 400 percent among women and 237 percent among men, ASAM reports.
Fact #6: One of the effects of prolonged, heavy alcohol use can be brain damage.
A condition commonly known as “Wet Brain Syndrome” can result from alcohol use disorder. This diagnosis carries a 20 percent fatality rate. While the earliest effects of this syndrome are reversible, if the person continues to use alcohol, the condition may become irreversible. Symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Fabricating details without necessarily knowing they are lying
- Involuntary eye movements
Fact #7: Substance use can take the fun out of other activities.
The part of our brain that allows us to feel pleasure from activities like eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, and having sex is called a neuroreceptor. Our brain’s neuroreceptors receive chemical signals telling it that we are doing something that is making us happy when we engage in activities we enjoy.
When we become addicted to substances, however, our neuroreceptors stop feeling happiness from those other activities because they don’t provide as much pleasure as the substance. It can take time, after a person stops using an addictive substance, before they can feel happiness from those other things again.
Fact #8: Transitional periods of life are when young people are most likely to have their first experiences with substance use.
Middle school is a time when young people develop their social skills and their circle of friends. It is also a time when they are likely to first encounter drug and alcohol use among their peers. Upon entering high school, teens face new challenges and increased access to substances. The added stresses they face may increase the odds that they will try alcohol or other drugs.
Leaving home and entering college or the workforce is another time when young people are at heightened risk to begin using substances. Less parental supervision and control and added interactions with same-aged peers can increase the temptation to experiment. It is important that parents use age-appropriate interventions to help their children make good choices during these times of great change. The younger a person starts using alcohol and other drugs, the more likely they are to develop an addiction.
One Not-So-Scary Fact About Addiction
While these facts may be scary, there is one very important fact about addiction that is not scary at all. This fact is that recovery is possible. No matter how unlikely it may seem that someone is going to give up addictive substances and enter a drug-free lifestyle, with treatment and support, it is possible for anyone to enter recovery at any age and at any point in their addiction. If you wish to learn more about the facts and myths surrounding substance abuse, Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, VA, is happy to answer your questions.