Substance abuse, including alcohol, is harmful in ways that go well beyond what many comprehend. Most people think of a drug as a substance that is ingested into the body in one form or another that subsequently alters the physiology of the body. The result: a feeling of euphoria and pleasure and nothing more, right? Not necessarily. In fact, if we really delve into the matter what we find is that even just casual use leaves long-lasting damage to one’s body and brain.
In the field of addiction treatment there is a wide variety of beliefs as to what exactly causes one to start abusing substances. Some say that genetics take part in this. Others are of the opinion that it is not biology but rather life experiences such as trauma or the like. And some even subscribe to the idea that personality or even one’s environment may be the culprit. Often, however, there is one essential question that goes unanswered, thereby leaving the person in a repetitive cycle of self-harm and abuse that goes untreated, often leading to addiction. What is the underlying factor that draws the person to use in the first place?
Many will tell you that that “somehow” they inevitably end up causing damage to themselves, as well as others. On many levels the families of those who use substances are affected as well. One might even argue that it is the ones closest to such individuals who are hurt the most. How often do we hear that the turmoil that takes place during the time of active use, abuse or addiction leaves people with a need to drink or drug almost always without regard for the consequences that may follow? That it is a time that cannot be outmaneuvered by any other necessity and that it surely outplays the needs of those around them? Why does this happen? Does this occur by choice or by desire? These may be difficult questions to ask, let alone receive answers to.
Furthermore, why are people who use substances the last to recognize the damage being caused? Clearly, it is much easier to mask the hurt and negative or even uncomfortable feelings than it is to deal with them head on. The issue, though, is that ignoring the problem does not make it go away. The drugs may kill or dull the pain, or even make the problem disappear momentarily, but when the high subsides, that initial problem is still there waiting for you—staring you right in the face.
In the end, no matter what the reason for beginning to use or abuse substances, the true message that needs to be delivered is that drugs are not the answer. In fact all they do is make the question at hand more trying and challenging to deal with. It is vital that substance abusers address the issues underlying their addiction. They need to ask the question, what is making me want to run away and not deal with my emotions? Most importantly, let us remember that addiction is a physical and mental disorder that knows no bounds. It doesn’t matter what your race, creed or religion is. It doesn’t matter if you’re well off or struggling, young or old. Addiction does not discriminate against anything or anyone; so why take the chance of even experimenting in the first place?
By Assaf Amos
Assaf Amos is an LSW, LCADC (Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor). Assaf is the Director of the Giant Steps Program at Carepoint Health, Hoboken University Medical Center. He works with a wide variety of clients seeking mental health treatment and specializes in addictions counseling. If you would like to contact him, you can do so at [email protected]