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Addiction: One High with Many Lows

Jayden Piercer

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Human beings are capable of incredible things. Just our presence on this planet after centuries of war, disease, famine and a proclivity for self-destructive behavior proves that we’re a resilient species, determined to use our unique mental gifts to further and better our existence and not simply destroy it on a quest of vanity. However, strong-willed as the mind may be, intent on survival, there’s also a darker, destructive side dwelling within us all. Every human is susceptible to addiction and its crippling effects on the mind, body and spirit.

The pathological condition known as drug addiction affects millions of people across the globe, seizing millions more in its unrelenting grasp every year. Like all addiction, the compulsion to use drugs is characterized in a few ways: the continued use of a substance regardless of the damaging effects; a preoccupation with the drug; severely impaired control over the drug’s use.

There are certain genetic markers which make a person more prone to addiction, and with drugs in particular, the substances cross the blood-brain barrier, changing the chemical milieu of the brain, creating a feeling of euphoria, in some cases, thus signaling to the user that they’re enjoying the drug. This is why drug addiction is so incredibly difficult to fight. An addict literally becomes dependent on a drug, and that pathology is an improbable obstacle to overcome. The drug addict is forever at risk of relapse.

Other forms of addiction, including problem gambling, overeating, sex and work dependencies, though also damaging, are thought to be more easily treated. Through therapy or just a higher degree of self-control, non-chemical addictions can be overcome without the physical effects seen with chemical dependency. The mind-altering drugs are so dangerous that a person doesn’t even have to abuse them to form this dependent relationship. Recreational users are often victims of full-blown addiction.

The types of drugs an individual can become dependent on are vast. They include inhalants, marijuana, nicotine, phencyclidine (PCP), steroids, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and even prescription and over-the-counter drugs. It is impossible to police or to reign in the drugs; any individual is capable of receiving drugs from a multitude of sources if the need is strong enough.

With drugs, some experts claim, the losing “war” effort is better spent on treatment and especially prevention. Drugs will always exist in the world; there will always be mind-altering substances. By focusing on the user and not the user’s drug, awareness and discipline can be helped along. Whereas with drugs, another takes the place of the one removed, resulting in a cycle that’s impossible to stop.

Once an addict, the treatment options are a lifelong process. Drug addiction is a certified brain disease. As such, prolonged, individually-tailored treatment courses are offered. Over time, the dependency, intensity, and risk of relapse do diminish. However, the disease is only cured by the individual choosing to not use. Abstinence only is the only ironclad option. Therapy sessions and behavioral exercises can help, but free will is both the bane and blessing of existence.

Through prevention, awareness is raised in hopes that the individual exercises personal responsibility. Throughout schools and in homes across the globe, lessons are taught on ways to overcome peer pressure and curiosity. The adverse effects of drug use and addiction are illustrated and individuals are left with shocking images and horrific tales of what drugs can do to their lives. Even still, these measures need to be greatly increased, as more people fall victim to addiction every day.

As science evolves and technology advances, we see the human brain in ways which previous generations would have never dreamed possible. Perhaps science will one day find a permanent cure for addiction. But until then—and, moreover, if and when it does—individuals should still be aware of addiction and exercise common sense and self discipline as to not fall prey to the clutches of dependency.

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