Addictions: Alcohol and Substance Abuse
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Help Is Available for Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

No one knows exactly why some people get addicted to drugs while others do not. However, some contributing factors are clear. There is likely a strong genetic component to some forms of addiction (meaning that vulnerability to becoming an addict can run in families, and be inherited from your parents and grandparents). There is also much evidence suggesting that whether or not people develop addiction problems has a lot to do with experiences they have in childhood and as they are growing up. Abuse in varying forms (sexual, emotional, physical, or neglect), exposure to trauma, being a child of addicted parents, or being a victim of severe life stressors can all help push people into addictions. Some evidence also suggests that people experiencing mental illness-related difficulties (such as anxiety, depression, perfectionism, thought disorder and a host of other conditions) may use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to manage their symptoms; a situation called 'self medication'. Whatever its cause, addiction is an equal opportunity disease. People of all races, religions, ethnicities, classes and social-economic strata get addicted. It is truly a 'human' problem.

Help for addiction is available. For all the many people out there who are actively using drugs and alcohol, there are many others who have struggled with addiction and won a personal victory, on a day by day temporary basis to be sure, but a victory never the less. Help is available in the form of medical attention, medications, psychotherapy, self help groups, and spirituality, but it is only there for the addict who desires it enough to work for it. You can lead an addict to treatment but you can't make him (or her) stick with recovery.

The very first step towards recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is available to you (in part) at this very website in the form of educational materials. The articles in this topic center can help you learn the answer to important questions such as:

  • What are the drugs of abuse?
  • By what mechanism do drugs cause their effects?
  • How do I know if I'm addicted to a drug or alcohol?
  • How would my doctor go about diagnosing drug or alcohol dependence?
  • What are treatments, medications and support groups for drug and/or alcohol addiction are out there and how do they work?

We also provide links to numerous drug and alcohol related websites, and point you to books concerned with drug and alcohol addiction and recovery.

Read on to educate yourself about this most common and terrible of human problems.