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It’s A Disease: 7 Things To Know About Drug And Alcohol Addiction

by Sarah Landrum

No matter which source you look at, the numbers are staggering.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says 2.5 million people die each year due to alcohol-related deaths. And, according to the United Nations, 200,000 people lose their lives each year due to drug abuse.

Keep in mind, those numbers both represent deaths, not serious illnesses or the significant damage drug users are doing to their bodies every time they partake in this addiction.

September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. All around us, people are suffering: currently 23.5 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Health. Some are in plain view, and some in the quiet corners of their own private dungeons.

The good news is, drug and alcohol addiction is not uncommon. As such, those who suffer are able to track down support networks to try and kick their addictions (if they so choose).

Whether you know someone who’s struggling with addiction, or maybe find yourself consuming more than you’d like, education can go a long way toward helping us either help others overcome their demons, or conquer those of our own.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven facts you need to know about drug and alcohol addiction:

1. It only takes one taste

On an average day, 4.8 million young adults drink and 3.4 million use drugs, with alarming first-time usage rates. While users can’t become addicted to a drug they never try, users can become addicted to a drug they try once. After all, a positive initial experience will likely lead to a second try.

And even if the user doesn’t like it the first time, peer pressure -- particularly amongst younger users -- might play a role in encouraging repeat usage. Even a single use can land you in the emergency room (or the morgue).

The best choice is to not even try it once, in order to be sure you’re not one of the 850,000 young adults sent to the ER for drug-related visits.

2. Getting sober and living sober are entirely different

Big time drinkers, for example, might not have an insanely difficult time giving up booze for a day or two. But what happens by day three? Day four? Day 100?

Getting sober is one thing, but it’s much harder for recovering addicts to live sober.

3. Genetics play a role in addiction

Believe it or not, the biggest indicator of whether or not someone is likely to use drugs lies in his or her family history. The evidence suggests that substance dependence is influenced, in part, by genetics.

That means that folks are much more inclined to become addicts themselves if other addicts populate their family trees.

4. So does biology

After repeated drug or alcohol use, the abuser can begin to feel abnormal if he or she is not partaking in the illicit substance habit.

Part of the reason why drug addicts are constantly seeking a fix is because their brains are biologically telling them they need it. It's similar to your stomach alerting you that you need to eat when you’re hungry.

5. Overdosing is dangerous, but it’s not the only concern

While overdosing should be a major concern to those who know addicts, it’s not the only one.

Drugs and alcohol can lead to a whole host of bad decisions. For example, drug users may not overdose, but they may get behind the wheel of the car when they’re high, putting their lives -- and the lives of others -- at risk.

6. There isn’t a stereotypical drug addict

Homeless people aren’t the only drug addicts. In fact, any kind of person can suffer from a drug addiction, including the rich and famous.

For example, Josh Hamilton, a baseball player on the Texas Rangers, severely suffers from addiction. It's something he has constantly had to work at to overcome over the years.

7. Recovery is hard, but not impossible

According to medical professionals, about half of those who “recover” from addiction relapse within one year. While a relapse might be very discouraging to an addict’s support network, it’s important to understand just how hard kicking an addiction can be.

If you find yourself in such a network, do your best to be understanding and supportive. These things, however unfortunate, are not uncommon.

Drug and alcohol addiction are terrible diseases that tests a person's character, brain power and will to live -- not to mention the toll they take on their loved ones.

The good news is, conquering addiction -- though it seems impossible -- can get considerably easier, thanks to education and a strong support system.

In honor of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, if you know someone who’s suffering -- even if that person is you -- please reach out. There are so many who want to help.