Terminology Related to Addictions
The first scenario is about a female calling an addictions professional employee to make an appointment, as she has been referred by a court. She claims that another car, which ran a red light, hit her vehicle. A police officer who arrived at the scene of the accident suspected that the woman was in a state of alcoholic intoxication. Even though she admits alcohol abuse during that night, she does not consider herself an alcoholic. She claims to drink only a limited amount of low alcohol drinks on rare occasions. In short, the woman describes herself as a social user and does not experience any problem with systematic abuse of addictive substances.
The term substance abuse refers to the use of alcohol or drugs in amounts or with methods, which are harmful to the user or the others. The discussed scenario represents a case of abuse, as the woman drank an excessive amount of alcohol, which may have caused danger to herself and other members of society. The woman may also be considered a social user, as she drank during a birthday party. However, alcohol misuse did not cause any mental or physical health problems connected to dependence or addiction; therefore, the woman in this scenario cannot be called an alcoholic.
People in the first three scenarios described the cases of alcohol or abuse because they all demonstrate how addictive substance administration may be harmful or hazardous. In the first situation, impairment may have prevented a driver from avoiding a car accident. The second case demonstrates how systematic alcohol misuse is hurting marriage, making the spouse of the addict fear for his well-being. The third scenario describes how smoking marijuana can cause financial problems and conflicts with other family members. In short, the term “substance abuse” is applicable in three out of four offered scenarios.
Explaining Individual Nature of Addiction through Theories
Addiction is a phenomenon that is widely spread in human society; however, there is no universal explanation of why some people develop this condition, and others do not. Some theorists argue that all mammals have signs of compulsive drug-seeking and drug-taking behaviors (Ouzir and Errami 61). At the same time, there are different ways of explaining the matter through neurobiology, genetics, and social learning. Some theorists explain addiction as an inherited matter, as there are changes in genes of addicts (Ouzir and Errami 64).
Therefore, one of the answers to the question of how a man becomes an addict is that an individual has a genetic predisposition to the condition. However, even though there is significant evidence to the matter, scientists failed to find a specific gene that increases the risk for a person to acquire a certain addiction (Ouzir and Errami 64). In short, genetics cannot perfectly explain the phenomenon.
There is no doubt that drug addiction is related to brain activity and, hence, the matter can be explained through neurobiology. According to Ouzir and Errami, the brain is constantly seeking pleasure and enjoyment, which is controlled by the brain reward system (64). A disorder in dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and stress systems can cause addictions (64-65). Additionally, the environment can contribute to the matter, as people that see that the behavior is accepted by peers are more exposed to the condition (Ouzir and Errami 65). In other words, an individual acquires a habit from other members of society; therefore, people exposed to the matter have a higher chance of becoming an addict.
The theory that resonates the most for me is social learning, as I believe that humans are social creatures in the first instance. I have several real-life examples when people become alcoholics or drug addicts because they live in a bad neighborhood, where almost everyone including their parents are substance abusers. However, I understand that addiction may be a result of mental illness, as people may become unable to control their actions. In conclusion, even though I lean towards social learning theory, I understand that it cannot explain every case of addiction.
Short- and Long-Term Dangers of Substances
The hallmarks of addiction are tolerance, withdrawal, impaired control over substance use or behavior, preoccupation with the matter, and continued use despite consequences. All these can be summarized by impaired self-control, as continued use of a substance or practice of behavior a person usually demonstrates a deterioration in the ability to regulate his or her actions (National Institutes of Health 6). These hallmarks are a result of a person perceiving only positive effects of a drug or action when he or she first tries it (National Institutes of Health 5). In short, the hallmarks of addiction are rather explicit and can be easily explained.
The number of people taking drugs in the United States is disturbing. Even though the National Institute of Drug Abuse reports a decrease in the number of hard drugs, there is “a substantial and significant increase in vaping” (para 1). The number of drug abusers is the result of the psychological effects of addictive substances. At first, drugs produce pleasurable effects such as a feeling of power, self-confidence, or relaxation and satisfaction (National Institutes of Health 5).
However, chronic use of addictive substances can lead to pathological changes to the brain and long-term mental problems, while enjoyment and satisfaction are no longer achieved. These effects can be related to the hallmarks of addiction, as people become obsessed with getting pleasure from substances and cannot see the adverse effects of the matter.
For instance, medical professionals are well aware of the positive effects of some painkillers to relieve stress. These professionals may tend to use the drug for the positive effect as they think they can control behavior. Over time, they need to increase the dose of the drug as a positive impact becomes harder to achieve. This causes a preoccupation with consuming the substance.
National Institutes of Health. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. NIH Publications, 2018.
National Institute of Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends.” Drugabuse, 2018. Web.
Ouzir, Mounir, and Mohammed Errami. “Etiological Theories of Addiction: A Comprehensive Update on Neurobiological, Genetic and Behavioural Vulnerability”. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, vol 148, 2016, pp. 59-68. Elsevier BV. Web.