Who is An Addict?
There are myths often shared in society that those who have addictions are lazy, weak, or have failed in willpower to control their behavior. Other myths center around stereotypes of specific groups and types of people being addicts. However, the reality is that addiction is a complex but treatable disease. It affects brain function and behavior. No one can pick an addict out of a crowd. They live and work among us. No one is immune to addiction. They are all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, and social classes. Moreover, they affect all of us directly or indirectly in numerous ways.
Per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 265 million people over the age of 12 years old use or abuse substances every year. 8% of this population is diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. Other reliable data suggests the prevalence of addiction is in the range of 10 to 15%. Of this population, the majority (175 million or 65%) use alcohol. 36 million (13.5%) use marijuana, 12.5 million misuse prescription pain relievers, and over 300,000 use heroin. Men are diagnosed with substance abuse disorders almost two times more than females. All ethnicities and races are diagnosed with substance abuse disorders. However, the most common populations to be diagnosed are of biracial, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaskan Native ancestries. People of Asian ancestry are far less likely to be diagnosed with substance abuse disorders. There are many complex and interacting factors that affect an individual’s vulnerability to becoming an addict.
Some other predictive factors for addiction:
● Community factors, such as:
○ Access to inexpensive alcohol and other substances
○ Availability of healthy recreational and social activities
● Caregiver and family dynamics, such as:
○ Parental monitoring
○ Family history of substance use or mental disorders
○ Level of family conflict or violence
● Individual risk factors, such as:
○ Mental health disorders
○ Low involvement in school
○ History of abuse and neglect
○ History of substance use during adolescence
○ Involvement in school
○ Engagement in healthy recreational and social activities
○ Coping skills
No one is immune to addiction. No single factor above determines whether an individual will develop a substance abuse disorder. There are many biological, sociological, psychological and social factors. One strong predictive factor is whether someone begins using substances during adolescence (20-25 years old). This may be due to the still-developing brain during this period. They can experience permanent effects from substances.
How Does Addiction Begin?
One of the reasons addiction is seen in people from all walks of life is because addiction often begins with an attempt at solving an unrelated problem or negative feeling with substances or other addictive behavior. At first, the decision to seek out substances or other reward behavior (ex: gambling, codependency, etc) is a conscious choice. But as addiction progresses, the person begins to lose more and more control over his or her thoughts, feelings, impulses, and actions. This is due to the unconscious hijacking of the brain’s reward system. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services defines addiction as a “chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” Thus, just as we are all at risk of diabetes, cancer, or other well-known diseases, we are also all at risk of falling into the intoxicating trap of addiction.
Where Does Recovery Begin?
Acknowledging that no one is immune to addiction, the best approach to reducing the risk of addiction is to prevent addiction from developing. However, once someone is an addict, there are still many paths to recovery. People will choose their pathway based on their cultural values, socioeconomic status, psychological behavioral needs, availability and access, and the nature of their addiction. In 2016, the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy published a report called “Facing Addiction in America” and claimed that approximately 50% of adults who once met diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder were in stable remission. Well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of 12-step mutual aid groups and facilitated interventions and the CDC considers recovery housing to have promising benefits as well. Most of all, the consensus is that recovery goes beyond remission of symptoms to include positive change in the whole person. This is where Serenity Vista has special expertise.
One of the leading 12 step based addiction rehabilitation centers is in Panama. At Serenity Vista, you will find a highly effective, private international drug rehab. Serenity Vista is an exceptional, yet affordable luxury private drug and addiction rehab in a tropical Caribbean paradise. It is holistic and accepts a maximum of 6 guests at a time. Hence, all guests receive highly individualized and focused therapy.
Do you or a loved one have an addiction? We can help in providing a safe space for recovery and positive transformation. Contact Serenity Vista and start your journey today!
1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
2. Surgeon General Report:
3. Psychology Today: