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The Truth Behind Drug And Alcohol Addiction In The United States

addiction truthDrug addiction in the U.S. is a very touchy subject for many people and there are always a lot of differing opinions floating around. I believe that those who are of the opinion that addiction is caused by a lack of willpower have a very limited understanding and as such are unable to speak objectively about it. I want to use this article as a platform for briefly helping further the education of these people on the subject.

Let’s start by discussing what addiction actually is. There are 2 types of addiction: physical and psychological. A physical addiction means that there will be adverse affects on the body upon stopping use of the drug such as nausea, stomach cramps, insomnia and sweating. A psychological one, however, has little to no physical affects on the body upon ceasing its use and it is literally a case of the mind controlling the thoughts and telling the person that they will not be able to quit the drug. This does not mean that quitting a psychological drug is any easier than a physical one though.

Addiction is a disease of the brain. It causes a compulsion to find and use drugs with little to no regard for personal safety, the affects on the body and the damage it can cause to personal relationships. Although first use of any drug, be it alcohol, cigarettes or illegal substances, is usually voluntary, repeated use quickly causes changes in the brain affecting the self control of the user, their ability to make decisions and their compulsion to take/use more.

There are many, many reasons why a person would choose to take drugs but it often goes hand in hand with many mental health problems. Certain personality disorders cause the impulse to be reckless and dangerous to oneself by using drugs and alcohol. Lots of sufferers of depression will use them to try and self medicate and block out any feelings of despair. In reality, using these drugs only serves to make problems worse but it is difficult to see clearly when under the influence of these drugs.

It sounds cheesy but the first step to getting over your addiction really does need to be admitting that you have a problem. Many users do have moments of clarity where they realize what they are doing is wrong but admitting it to anyone other than yourself is extremely difficult and can take a long time to come about. Once you have admitted the problem you can then work on getting the help that is needed. Self help groups are particularly popular and have proven to be very beneficial as addiction is a very lonely disease and finding others who are dealing with the same issues can only be a positive thing. In severe cases where self help groups are unable to reach out, a person may need to be admitted to a rehabilitation center where they can be isolated from their supply of drugs and monitored in a safe environment until they are ready to face the world again.

If your or someone you know suffers from addiction and needs more information on drug or alcohol rehabilitation please call (866) 434-2630 or click here for more information

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17 Responses to "The Truth Behind Drug And Alcohol Addiction In The United States"

  • Michael Shumate
    February 12, 2014 - 1:54 pm Reply

    I am an alcoholic. In getting sober, I took the scenic route. I just didn’t know any better. First I tried willpower, and I spent 18 years as a dry drunk. After two failed marriages, a suicide attempt, and the alienation of three children, I went to a therapist, group therapy, Survivors of Incest, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and finally Alcoholics Anonymous. It was through the program of AA that I became sober at age 58. I am now 64.
    I’m surprised that your article doesn’t mention AA, unless you include AA as a self-help group – which it is not. We have a “daily reprieve” because of a “psychic change.” The program saved my life, and has saved the lives of countless others. Many of us have other addictions, but the 12-step program is the backbone of recovery.
    On the other hand, your article contains a lot of valuable myth-busting information. Thank you.

    • Fritz Quindt
      February 12, 2014 - 9:55 pm Reply


      Thanks for the commentary. We always appreciate insight from our readers. While we believe that AA is a powerful means of recovery that has helped millions worldwide, this article had a specific purpose, namely, to dispel the myth that addiction is a “simple” problem that willpower alone can cure. Addiction, as you point out in your commentary and through your lived experience, is anything but simple.

      We’re happy you took the time to reply to us. Stay strong!

    • Irma Gerd
      February 19, 2014 - 8:55 am Reply

      Congratulations to you on getting sober. I’m very curious why you say that AA is not a self-help group. I think most people would consider it an iconic self-help group, and if you asked people to name a self-help group, AA would be the most common answer. The description of AA on its website sounds like the definition of a self-help group to me.

    • Fritz Quindt
      February 21, 2014 - 1:04 am Reply


      Thanks for the commentary. We love it when people add to the discussion on our website. As for us not including AA or NA in this article, there was no specific reason on our part “not” to make reference to it. The focus of this article was specifically to dispel some pretty bad “myths” regarding addiction that assume people that are dependent are, at base, bad people. As you’ll recognize just in the commentary other people have posted regarding this article, emotional response to this subject is touchy.

      On AA and NA, we believe it’s a positive, worthwhile endeavor for those that find sobriety through it. Many people do and it’s self-supporting. We like that! There’s so many opinions about AA and NA, positive and negative and we just like to say this: if it works and saves lives for some, it’s a good thing. If some people don’t like it for personal reasons, that’s ok too.

      Thanks Michael…Keep coming back.

  • Robert Lyles
    February 16, 2014 - 2:49 pm Reply

    I am an ex addict and I have 4 years clean. I want to say that there was four things I had to do to be successful, that is I had to completely break all contact with all my drug friends and connections. I also had to promise myself I would be truthful in everything I did or said no matter what it caused me to face up to. I also had to rely on God and the Word of God and prayer for everything. I feel all of these things have helped me to get to where I am today, and will continue to help me to be successful in keeping clean. Now I will admit that of all four the hardest one was the first one, a lot of my friends got very upset. I found out though the ones that got mad wasn’t really my friends at all, and the ones that understood were my real friends, in fact the ones that understood said if I got to a place where I could be there friends, they would be there for me and without any drugs. so my advice to all who are trying to get clean, please try what I’ve done and see if it will help you like it has me! God Bless and I wish all of you good luck and my prayers are with you always.

  • William Johns
    February 18, 2014 - 10:14 am Reply

    I am curious as to why you thing drug addiction is a desease. It’s like saying pregnancy is a desease and abortion is the cure. I think that if you keep your panties up and your skirt down that you won’t need an abortion. Likewise if you don’t use drugs you won’t become addicted. What am I missing? Don’t want to get aids don’t engage in anal sex with another man. It’s called being responsible and having self discipline. If you lack moral understanding as to the consequences of your actions or disregard morality and choose to participate in illegal drug use maybe it would be better to start there and stop whining about the horrors of drug addiction. No kidding, drug addiction is terrible. Everybody knows that and everybody is saying don’t use drugs, they will kill you. You don’t participate in the drug culture. You don’t find access to drug dealers and you don’t tolerate them in your community.
    I had a friend who died of a heroin overdose. Came home from Vietnam and went to New Mexico and did some heroin with his hippie “buddies” and dropped dead. People are dropping dead all over the place from heroin dosed with fentanyl and drugs manufactured in pig pens of God knows what.
    You patronize people when you infer they don’t understand the problem and you have the answer. You talk about an illness like depression as though it’s related to drug use. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and doctor’s prescribe anti-depressant drugs and cognitive therapy to rewire the brain. You are right that heroin can play a role in creating an addiction problem with the brain but you have to administer the heroin in order for it to get to the brain. A person who suffers from depression or a psychosis isn’t using heroin for a relief from depression or psychosis and if people are using drugs because of emotional issues, for escape or whatever that is the complete lack of help by the mental health community. There is none. Kids are being shot down by other kids and kids are giving kids drugs to kill themselves and their friends and society condones it. You want to end the scourge of drugs stop whining about the problem and pretending there is some evil force out there that doesn’t get it but you and the druggies do get it. It’s time to grow a set of balls and reject the whole drug scene. Kids are dying and people are being politically correct and it’s total bullshit. They want to legalize pot and end the oppression so people can smoke pot and I think it’s crap. Well, then comes amyl nitrate and LSD and amphetamines and pretty soon you are taking snorts of coke and shooting heroin and golly maybe it’s time to leave and go home and not do that crap because you are around people that are not nice and they don’t give a damn about you or they would not be waving drugs in your face that can kill you.
    I know you won’t agree with what I say but I think people that use drugs are real assholes and have contributed a lot to the way society is screwed up. If you don’t have morality you have corruption like Congress selling out the nation for a fast buck. It starts when people say that using drugs are ok and those people are not there when you need help. All they do is hand you some more drugs and say, “C’mon down in this slime hole with me.” If you tell people that they are weak and can’t use there will power to say no to drug use then you rob them of the power to reject drugs. “Oh yea the reason I use drugs is because I have a decease in my brain. ” No, the reason you have a decease in your brain is because you put an addictive substance in your body and the substance locked on to a synapse and that synapse or cog in the machinery wants more substance. You want to build a whole freaking self serving bureaucracy and it’s bullshit. What you are doing is sucking needed money from real emotional problems that create great suffering to pat the poor druggies on their head and say, “It’s not your fault, it’s your brain and you can’t control your brain so let’s not judge people.” Sorry, but every time a drug sale is made in my community or my nation or the planet I make a judgement and say it’s wrong, it’s harmful and it’s dangerous and I urge people to get serious about drugs and say. (I hate to quote from Nancy Reagan because I don’t like conservatives ) but she is right about saying no and the more Americans that do it the less Americans we will have condoning illegal and prescription drug use and abuse. I read Rolling Stone magazine and they think people who are anti-drug are right wing nuts and just are not hip. Then they write a story about a great guitarist that died of a heroin overdose and the next month it’s about a great actor that died of a heroin overdose. Seems to me it’s time to grow up. Drugs are not cool and they are not hip and people that use drugs to het high are total assholes.

    • Robert Lyles
      February 18, 2014 - 7:24 pm Reply

      I’m not sure what your talking about. I have never thought drug addiction was a disease, I do believe some people fail that approach it in that way. I am sorry if that is what you think I was saying but I can promise you I don’t think of drug addiction that way. In fact I even like your example. there is another one you can add to the list, some people are saying that being over weight is a disease, I cant believe that claim either.

    • Robert Lyles
      February 18, 2014 - 7:27 pm Reply

      I just wrote a response to your response to me about drug addiction being a disease. I might of made a mistake with who you was talking to, if so sorry!

    • Carissa
      February 20, 2014 - 10:17 pm Reply

      Well, given that people can’t exactly rewind their lives and un-do that first choice to administer the drug, your approach is not helpful. There are all sorts of reasons given in the article that explain why people take the first hit of a drug – personality disorders (certain people’s brains are wired to be more impulsive). mental disorders, peer pressure, youthful ignorance. Discouraging initial drug use is a different issue entirely from what is discussed in the article, and that is how to combat existing addiction. If you have a time machine, hand me that remote control! Until then, learn more about the problem.

      You obviously have a brain that is not quite as given to impulsivities as some people – good for you. But you sound extremely ignorant and judgmental of the nature of addiction. I am a mental health professional, and encounter co-occurring disorders frequently. I beg you to educate yourself and stop giving useless advice (“don’t try it in the first place” Um, it’s a little too late for that).

    • LLH
      February 27, 2014 - 3:09 pm Reply

      William, unfortunately you are one of countless people who do not understand addiction. Addiction and alcoholism has nothing to do with self-control. The affected person is powerless regarding the substance. It has nothing to do with morals or values. Typically people with addiction are missing spirituality which causes a chasm within them. For most people overcoming addiction, the solution is developing spirituality and a relationship with a Higher Power.

      You say “if you don’t use drugs you won’t become addicted”. What about the person who is spiritually ill, and has to have emergency surgery for example. Their physician prescribes them a narcotic pain reliever. The person starts taking the medication as prescribed by their physician, however because they are spiritually unfit they begin to self medicate with the prescribed narcotic. Now they have inadvertently become addicted. They can no longer get the medication from their surgeon so they start doctor shopping, or forge prescriptions, or go to the streets to buy heroin.

      Again people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol don’t wake up in the morning and say “I want to be an addict”. It is a difficult and lonely life filled with shame and self-loathing. And having to deal with closed-minded individuals who do not understand make it worse for the addicted person.

      We are not perfect, I will bet neither are you. Instead of being so narrow-minded about this topic do a little research, and develop some empathy, tolerance, and love.

      BTW desease is spelled disease.

    • karen sullivan
      February 27, 2014 - 7:44 pm Reply

      Sorry you have that attitude everyone is entitled to their opinion, however,I have to disagree with the term they are all assholes. Not every addict became one by choice they have suffered injuries that lead to addiction from long term use. Do terminally ill patients on morphine choose that road. I dont think so. Not every addict has chosen that path and some have chosen to get help. Don’t stereotype all addicts.Blame the dealers on the streets they are the assholes. Rethink what you said because someday you could end up in the same situation inadvertently.

  • Doc
    February 18, 2014 - 1:06 pm Reply

    Generally speaking, I would agree that AA works fine for some people but, I also think it’s 1930’s quasi- religious dogma. There are now a number of other treatment modalities that work just as well or better for people with issues with the whole “God Thing.” You have to be willing to accept the basic precepts in order for it to really work. I don’t have a “problem” with anything that works for someone. The main thing is to find something/anything that does “work.”

    Bummer about Mister Hoffman. I liked (always will) allot of his work.

  • Steve Conner
    February 18, 2014 - 5:26 pm Reply

    The article is good because it touches on the cause and effect of any addiction. As a former addict of over 33 + yrs and I have been clean and sober for over 13 yrs. I became a drug and alcohol counselor because I can relate on a personal level those at risk people. There are many good programs out there both Christian and non-Christian programs. But one has to look at the statistics of both programs. I have been a counselor since 2007 as a minister and counselor for at risk people. I have found that in a Christian program if the person at risk stays with the program for one year or more we had over about an 80% Plus success rate that the person will stay clean and sober the rest of their lives. This includes drug, alcohol, gambling, sexual, tobacco and a host of other addictions. The non-Christian programs only had about a 30% or less success rate of staying clean and sober. So these are factors that one who is afflicted needs to consider when looking for help. You see in a Christian environment we look at the whole person, physical, spiritual and mental. Where as the non- Christian programs even the best ones only look at the person’s physical and mental attitudes and try to change the mindset of thinking. So these are concepts to keep in mind when seeking help. Do you want complete help or just want to go through the motions? It starts with you, how badly do you want help, how committed will you be to be free and start restoring your relationship with family and relatives and get your life back? The choice is yours and yours alone.

  • L
    February 19, 2014 - 4:36 pm Reply

    Thanks for an informative article. I have a relative who is a sex addict, and her path is growing increasingly destructive. I fear that one day I’m going to have to ID her body in a morgue, as the victim of some serial killer or something. My question is, would you categorize any addiction as a disease of the brain, or just alcohol/chemical addictions? Are there programs that would help my relative?

  • ray
    February 20, 2014 - 12:01 pm Reply

    I have been sober since 1993 I went to AA long enough to know Ii never wanted to go again the things people admit to and the more dramatic they get week after week wasn’t for me. I just decided I could not drink any more enough was enough I wanted a normal life and be a more productive person to society and to myself so I changed my life for the better it is sad to see people waste there years away trying to get sober and never getting there the pain they live with no one will ever know.

  • bethany burnette
    February 25, 2014 - 7:41 pm Reply

    If we could all just go back in time and choose not to take the first drug, life would b so easy wouldnt it? But the reality is that we cant. im 27 years old and am a recovering addict, picked up my first drug when i was 12 years old, at a age where right and wrong was very backwards and unclear to me, just like n e other teenager i ignored the warnings teachers and parents gave me about n e thing especially drugs. i didnt believe n e thing adults had to say, they lied about santa, boogeyman, even the easter bunny too y would this be any different. Right? I found out the hard way how wrong i was. people who are addicted to anything i feel its way beyond will power, i feel the drugs took over any control i had. i chose to get high over spending time with my daughters nmerous times not because i didnt luv them but because i didnt want them to see me n that shape and i couldnt seem to stop. at age 22 i got sentenced to 10 years and done 30 months before i made parole and there is whre i got help thru a Substance Abuse Program. There i learned how to live life on lifes terms, there i learned how to accept reality, there i realized i wasnt a bad person i just made horrible decisions. I have accepted my past and made my amends to the best of my ability, still am actually. I do believe addiction is a form of a disease simply because it takes our life away without the proper treatment and help. once we get clean it becomes our choice again to use or not to and i thank God every day He gives me the strength not to. NA/AA isnt for everyone but it has helped save my life and gave me hope when i thought there was none. Im workin on 4 years clean and wake up to my daughters everyday, just one day at a time!

  • Jon Ham
    February 26, 2014 - 3:10 pm Reply

    I was in an accident and in a wheel chair for 2 years finally was able to heal and walk I was on Fentayl pain patches strength 50 and using 5 vicodon strength 10 per day I quit the narcotic pain patches first then cut my self down to 2 pills per day then 0 I never had withdrawals at all

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