Most people associate dangerous addiction with the use of illegal drugs, but substance abuse consists of any dangerous dependence, including alcoholism and reliance on prescription drugs. For centuries, substance abuse was regarded by society as a personal failing or moral fault, and addicts were shunned and forced to the fringes of the community. Substance abuse today is recognized as a disease, typified by the brain becoming reliant on certain substances to deliver neurotransmitters like dopamine or serotonin. Street drugs like marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines react with the brain in a similar way to legal addictives, such as alcohol, tobacco, and inhalants.
These substances all increase the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in various “highs,” drunkenness, or relaxation of the nerves and it is this rise in dopamine levels which is the root of substance abuse. As drug abusers, alcoholics, pill poppers or cigarette smokers continue to engage in substance abuse, their brains eventually lose the ability to produce critical neurotransmitters on their own. Because dopamine and similar neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings like pleasure, the drug user becomes dependent on the substance being abused which causes the intense cravings and feelings of addiction.
Fortunately for the victims of chemical dependency, societal attitudes towards addiction have softened and treatment programs for drug, alcohol, prescription pills or tobacco use are commonplace. Rehabilitation clinics strive to assist those suffering from substance abuse, helping them to cope with their cravings incrementally, and providing personal, psychological, and spiritual guidance through the recovery process. There are national substance abuse programs, such as the 12-step Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), psychiatric help, medicinal options and even loving support from friends and family can help addicts rid themselves of their dependencies.
People afflicted with substance addictions can rely on an extremely accessible network of meetings, found in almost every city or town in the country, which serve as a coping mechanism, a therapy session, and a confessional at the same time. Drug testing kits are now readily and cheaply available for home use to help stop the addictions privately. Substance abuse is worth the efforts being made to combat it, because the damage caused by addiction is extensive and far reaching. Almost every aspect of society, from the legal system and the medical field to families and schools, is touched in some way by the destructive power of substance abuse, and the battle to prevent dangerous addictions will always be one worth fighting.
Help put a stop to substance abuse and chemical dependency by interfering and impeding at the first signs of addiction. Openly talking to the individual about your concerns and the effects of their addiction is the first stride towards acceptance and recovery. Do not be afraid to drug test at the first signs of misuse. This is especially true of prescription pills abuse as many individuals do not view Oxycontin or Vicodin as habit forming because of a prescription.