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This month’s mental health blog is speaking to everything related to addiction. Like other mental illnesses, addiction can impact anyone. It does not discriminate who will be impacted. The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies addiction as a mental illness due to the changes in the brain. This causes the brain to change a person’s typical hierarchy of needs and desires. It substitutes new priorities connected with procuring and using drugs and alcohol. The behaviors resulting from this change override the ability to control impulses despite consequences. This is similar to other mental illnesses. Addiction is indeed a disease where the mechanics of the brain are rewired. 


While addiction can occur at any time in a person’s life, the most vulnerable time is during adolescence. The brain changes during adolescence which may enhance vulnerability and the development of addiction and other mental illnesses. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that enables people to assess situations, make sound decisions, and keep emotions and desires under control. This part of the brain is still maturing during this time in life. This is a critical part of an adolescent’s brain as it is still forming. However, this increases their risk for poor decision-making, such as trying drugs or alcohol. 


Addiction is something that not many people understand. Often mistakenly assumed that people suffering from addiction lack moral principles or willpower. It is a complex disease and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will, even for those ready to do so. We now know more than ever about addiction thanks to scientific advances. Currently, we are more informed about how drugs and alcohol work in the brain. We know addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop and lead productive lives. 


Multiple factors can cause addiction. Genetics account for 40% to 60% of a person’s risk of addiction. Having family that has suffered from addiction is essential to know and be aware of as it could increase a person’s risk for addiction. While genetics can play a role, environmental factors will also increase a person’s risk. A chaotic home environment, a parent who uses drugs, peer influences, a community attitude toward drugs, and poor academic achievement.


Addiction occurs worldwide, but recently we have heard much about addiction in America due to the opioid epidemic and the risk of drugs laced with fentanyl. In America, almost 21 million people have at least one addiction. Of those 21 million, only 10% receive treatment. About 20% of Americans with depression or anxiety disorder also have a substance use disorder. Over 90% of those with addiction started to drink alcohol or use drugs before they were 18. Alcohol and drug addiction costs the United States over $600 billion annually. While women are just as prone to addiction, men are more likely to abuse illicit drugs. Addiction is a severe problem that is not fully understood in this world but blogs such as this are one way to increase awareness and advocate for those suffering.