Addiction: A Disease That Does Not Discriminate


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A skin-and-bones figure squatting in the alleyway sticks a needle into her leg, then offers to prostitute herself to the first man that walks by so she can buy more drugs. Or maybe, a dirty man staggers around a run-down neighborhood, taking a drink from a brown paper bag. These are common stereotypes of what alcoholism and addiction look like, but they are completely wrong almost all the time. Substance abuse does not discriminate; it can affect anyone at any time. People from all walks of life can become addicts, and they can and should seek addiction treatment to find their way to a healthier life.

The stereotypes that first come to mind when you first think of addiction are not necessarily true. Whether you are rich, poor, male, female, young or old, you can be affected equally by substance use disorders. Although some may end up homeless and completely alienated, for others the financial and social difficulties involve strain rather than a complete break. Health problems and mental illness can affect people across all walks of life, and substance use disorders make up a part of this reality.

Common Misconceptions of Addiction

One of the first major misconceptions that people have is that alcohol and drug abuse are mainly problems affecting people from marginalized backgrounds. When thinking of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and opiates, your mind might automatically go to a run-down inner-city neighborhood overrun with addict criminals. The truth, however, is that addiction affects picturesque suburban streets and glamorous mansions just as much as it affects less affluent communities. Economic divides mean nothing to this disease.

Another familiar stereotype is that drug addiction and alcohol addiction usually affect people with lower levels of education. You may not think of people struggling with substance use disorders sitting in Wall Street offices, presenting a case in front of a judge or performing surgery, but even the most educated, highly trained professionals can develop an addiction.

Many people struggling with a drug abuse disorder or alcohol use disorder are also able to control their addiction well enough to lead outwardly normal lives. Media depictions of addiction frequently end with the addict dying of an overdose, becoming homeless, or losing their family. While such depictions are valuable to show the most drastic outcomes of substance use and to expose how serious this condition truly is, they do not completely reflect reality. In many cases, people with substance use disorders can enjoy financial success and preserve their relationships with their families. Drug or alcohol use, of course, puts a large strain on all aspects of the addict’s life and will make work more difficult, deplete at least some financial savings, and start distancing them from their loved ones. The only way to truly enjoy a happy, romantically and socially stable life is to seek recovery at a substance abuse treatment center.

Addiction can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It is not just a problem for experimenting teenagers. People of any age can try a substance for the first time, and just one try can leave you addicted for life. Even if you first abuse substances in high school or college, your addiction could last well into adulthood. The disease does not discriminate based on age, and it certainly will not disappear as you age. Adults can also develop substance abuse disorders. One common time that this can occur is during surgery when doctors administer opiate painkillers. These prescription painkillers can quickly cause someone to become physically dependent, leaving a patient addicted and desperate for more of them by the time they finish their hospital stay.

Influence of Co-Occurring Disorders

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If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol abuse or drug abuse, contact an addiction treatment center. One of the few common factors among substance abuse treatment patients is the presence of co-occurring mental health disorders. Drug and alcohol abuse can be coping skills for any stressors in your life, but they are most frequently related to the management of untreated mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, and PTSD. Part of recovery is uncovering these conditions and learning healthier coping mechanisms to handle them.

Impact on Health

Drug addiction and alcohol addiction may be the symptom of a problem rather than the cause, but they can still have many negative impacts on your life. They can cause health problems such as liver failure, lung problems, heart disease, and cancer. Overdoses can kill you immediately as well. Overdose does not have to mean dying slumped in an alley corner. It can just as easily mean taking too much heroin at a party or collapsing on the living room floor after too much cocaine. No matter who you are or where you come from, the health detriments that come with drug and alcohol addiction will impact you. With the right help, however, it is not too late to find recovery and make your way to a happier, healthier life.

Impact on Relationships

Not everyone with a substance use disorder will end up completely alienating all of their relationships, either. Many families affected by alcohol or drug addiction stay together, but substance use makes these relationships much less fulfilling than they would be otherwise. Although this is not always the case, substance use can lead to domestic violence, financial disputes, and dishonesty. Even in situations where this is not true, your loved ones will worry about you and may find it harder to connect with you while you struggle with drug or alcohol abuse. Seeking treatment at a drug rehab center or alcohol rehab center will significantly improve your ability to have an honest, supportive, and fulfilling relationship with the people that you love.

Financial Impact of Addiction

You also may think of financial problems. According to stereotypes, addicts cannot hold down jobs and frequently end up homeless. They also sell everything they own or prostitute themselves to obtain the money that they need for drugs. This is the reality for some addicts, but the financial problems look different for many others. A large proportion of those struggling with substance use disorders manages to perform adequately at their jobs, although they might be more prone to making mistakes. While most addicts spend a large amount of money on drugs and alcohol, many spend enough to make a dent in their and their families’ financial stability but not enough to leave their loved ones destitute.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addictions such as cocaine abuse, heroin abuse, opiate abuse, Xanax abuse, or alcoholism, don’t wait to ask for help. Finding a drug rehab center or alcohol rehab center is the first step towards wellness. Addiction does not discriminate and neither does rehab. No matter where you come from, treatment can help you find the path to physical, mental, and social health. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? You are not alone. We are here for you and we are here to help.

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