Published in Psych Central, November 15th, 2016. View the Article Here
Approximately 40 million people in the United States – including 17 million children – have some form of mental illness. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime. These illnesses include depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder as well as addiction and Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and affects approximately one in every 10 Americans over the age of 12 – a number that is roughly equivalent to the entire population of Texas.
Many Americans do not understand why or how certain individuals become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, and there is a great deal of fear, stigma and misunderstanding about the disease. No single factor can predict whether or not a person will experience addiction. In fact, several factors – including genetics, the environment and personal development – combine to increase the risk.
The genes a person is born with account for approximately half of an individual’s risk for addiction, which sheds light on the common phrase that addiction is a family disease. It not only affects the entire family system, but science also demonstrates that addiction is passed along through generations.
Environment and social determinants of health, such as early exposure to drugs, early abuse, stress and general quality of life, are also factors that can contribute to a person becoming susceptible to addiction. When biology and environmental factors combine and result in an individual becoming addicted, personal development also comes into play. The earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more problematic it is to make sound decisions, exert self-control and practice good judgment.
Our nation is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic. More people died from overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record and more than six out of 10 deaths involved an opioid (1). It is important to stay informed about addiction and recovery and to understand that if you or someone you know has not yet been affected by addiction, it is likely you will experience the impact of addiction in the future.
Our nation is preparing for a new President, and we expect to hear the new administration address the devastating opioid epidemic, the lives lost and the social impacts that addiction has collectively cost us. Resources and budgets have been written and proposed to combat this illness and its deadly side effects. As we look ahead, addiction treatment models are shifting and recovery management will be assisted by technology and resources not previously available.