Anyone can become a drug addict; your kids’ kindergarten teacher, your mom, the gang leader on the wrong side of the tracks, the homeless man you pass on your way to work – even you. This is because no one ever sets out to become addicted to drugs. It starts innocuously with an experiment here, a prescription pain killer there, and for some people that’s where it ends. For others, however, it’s just the beginning of a dangerous road that leads to crime, pain, suffering and, often, death.
When drug abuse leads to drug addiction
Many people consider themselves casual drug users. They indulge in a bit of cocaine at a party or spend one night a month smoking joints and watching movies with friends. They think they have it under control. But, the balance between control and out of control is delicate; it doesn’t take much more than an extraordinarily stressful week for the little bit of recreational coke to become a crutch. And then it takes even less for chemical dependence to develop. Suddenly, it’s impossible to go into a business meeting without first taking a hit.
So, it’s the chemical or physical dependence that turns drug abuse into addiction. This is also when tolerance starts to develop. When addicts try to stop, the severe withdrawal symptoms are usually enough to drive them back into the arms of their dealer.
Who’s at risk?
While anyone can become addicted to drugs, there are certain predisposing factors that can increase the risk of addiction. For example, people who have certain mood, thought and personality disorders, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, may be at greater risk of drug addiction than the ordinary population.
People who grow up in homes in low socio-economic neighbourhoods, where alcohol and drug abuse are rife, may abuse drugs as they get older. They simply follow the examples set by their parents, their neighbours and their friends.
Treatment for drug addiction
The best way to treat drug addiction is to prevent it in the first place. There are a lot of community outreach projects and government programmes that aim to educate people about the dangers of drugs and drug abuse and addiction. Unfortunately, these are not always effective as people need more than information if they are to avoid the pitfalls of drug abuse; real societal change is needed, and so far no one has been able to achieve this.