To Be or Not to Be: Is Addiction Really a Choice?

July 8, 2017

There is a startling crisis sweeping the nation. A silent killer of sorts. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, on average $224,000,000,000 are spent annually treating alcohol-related addictions, $295,000,000,000 on tobacco, and $193,000,000,000 on illicit drugs. In total, we spend close to $700,000,000,000 annually on “curing” addiction, yet there are very few fruits to this labor.

So, what exactly is this issue? The problem with addiction is that it is classified as a mental/psychological disorder, and today, the stigma around mental health is so great that it becomes common for addicts to delay treatment until it is far too late, thus perpetuating the issue at hand.

 

Photo: Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash  

 

Often, we see that addiction is comorbid to another mental health issue. According to the September 2011 article Substance Disorders in Patients with Anxiety Disorders: Understanding the Link by Matt G. Kushner, Sheila M. Specker and Eric Maurer “The odds of alcohol dependence being diagnosed are 2-3x greater among patients with an anxiety disorder. These correlations are even greater for drug dependence.”

Not only is there an almost direct link between anxiety disorders and alcoholism, but there is also “a known association between personality disorders and substance abuse across age, sex and culture” per doctors S. K. Mattoo and S. M. Singh (High Risk Behaviors and Alcohol Dependence) (2009). Women in fact are more likely to abuse chemicals, according to a 2005 article entitled Examination of Addiction Treatment Completion by Gender and Ethnicity (Connie R. Matthews, Peggy Loran. P. 144)

 

So how can this problem be solved? The only solution for addiction is to treat it as a standard illness. Imagine a world where there is no treatment for mental disorders, no medication, and barely any funding. Now imagine a world where treatment for mental health is priority, among emergency amputations, births, and organ transplants. There is always someone who can help you, and you are made to feel like a part of society. Which would you prefer? So how can we make this a reality?

 

There are two things that we can do to help understand the effects of substance abuse. The first being to get educated on what addiction is, because it’s much deeper than “I chug bottles of vodka at 6 in the morning”.

 

Also, feel free to log on to centeronaddiction.org where you can find great resources and even donate to the cause.

 

Dominique is currently studying Psychology at Bridgewater State University with a double minor in Middle East Studies and Music. In her spare time, she is a poet and artist. She hopes to use her voice as both a journalist and artist to empower the unheard.

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