Drugs and Alcohol Addiction
People ruin their lives in a number of ways, and addiction is one of them. Scientists still disagree as to why exactly some people are at more risk of addiction development than others, but they all are convinced that this dangerous habit can and should be dealt with. A person can be addicted to drugs, alcohol or sometimes both, which is often referred to as dual addiction. Chemical dependency often goes beyond affecting the life of an addict. It becomes a social problem that leads to high rates of crime, destroyed families, and significant costs for the country’s economy: “It includes productivity, health and substance abuse crime related costs, which exceed $600 billion dollars or more” (Swingler 2). Drugs and alcohol addiction has a complex nature and devastating consequences including crime, overdose, and spread of diseases, but this harm can be reduced by means of treatment and prevention programs.
Nature of Addiction
Drug and alcohol abuse arise because of continuous activation of the reward centers in human brain. Generally, reward centers in the brain help ensure people’s survival and are activated because of natural rewards, such as food, water, and sex (Ruiz and Strain 998). Drugs and alcohol make the addicts feel good, which activates the reward centers, and it makes the person get engaged in the pleasant behavior again. Since alcohol is a more powerful reward than food or water, it has stronger pleasurable effect and, consequently, stronger influence on the reward centers. Drugs are even more powerful than alcohol and can result in dependency even after the first dose. Drugs release dopamine, a chemical that gives signals to other nerve cells and is responsible for motivated behavior, which is followed by the release of glutaate, another transmitter that encodes and stores the details of drug use: “These complex signals carry the message to specialized circuits and brain regions that interpret and consolidate memories of the liking and cued associations of the experience (hippocampus, amygdala), that learn to repeat the behaviors involved in acquiring these rewards” (Ruiz and Strain 998). As a result of this process, drug and alcohol craving grows into a compulsion that can last for a sustained period of time and that is difficult to resist.
At this, it is important to distinguish between abuse and addiction. Drugs or alcohol abuse does not always mean addiction, but it is definitely the first step on a way to dependency. As a rule, a person turns to drugs or alcohol due to physical or psychological pain, which is why abuse is often regarded as a psychological element of the addition, while dependency is a physical element that evolves because of the continued use of a substance (Greene and Goodrich-Dunn 232). Therefore, a person that abuses drugs or alcohol but does not experience withdrawal symptoms when he/she stops using them cannot be considered an addict. In most cases, however, those who abuse substances fail to notice the difference between abuse and dependency and easily cross the border between these two aspects turning into addicts.
The addicts start ignoring laws and morality as easily as they cross the line between abuse and addiction. Quite a large amount of crimes is committed because of drug or alcohol abuse. According to the American Psychiatric Association, around 50% of assaults and homicides are a result of alcohol use with additional 13,000 people being killed each year in alcohol-related road accidents (Swingler 3). Together along with taking away human lives and destroying families, alcohol and drug abuse entails additional costs for the American taxpayers whose taxes are spent for the maintenance of the correctional facilities that annually house more than 78,000 of convicts arrested for the DWI (Swingler 3). In addition to this, numerous burglaries, robberies, thefts, and muggings are also committed by the addicts in search of another drug dose.
Alcohol and drug obsessions are also associated with death from the overdose. Most of the addicts use these substances as depressants. Since any type of a depressant slows the central nervous system, the understanding of how much of it is needed is also impeded. The results of this are often tragic with the addicts either consuming too much of a drug or mixing it with alcohol or other drugs causing overdoses. Most of drugs slow down breathing and heart beating to dangerous levels when used in high quantities. Most often it results in coma, brain damage, or death. Alcohol overdose is no less dangerous and frequently observed.
It is also crucial to note that alcohol and drug abuse are accountable for the spread of infectious diseases, including hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. In case of drug addicts, HIV/AIDS frequency takes place due to the sharing of dirty needles when injectable drugs are used (Van Wormer and Davis 34). Alcohol abuse also contributes to the spread of these and a range of other infectious diseases because of the unprotected intercourse that might take place under its influence. In this way, alcohol and drug addiction takes away human lives in a number of ways, sometimes rapidly, as in case with homicide or car accidents, and sometimes slowly by destroying the immunity with HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.