So, what is an addiction anyway? It’s simply defined as compulsive seeking and use of drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences. It is true that the initial decision to use a drug or to drink is voluntary most all the time. Additionally, many people have experimented with drugs or drink alcohol and never become addicted. No single factor determined is someone will become addicted, but generally accepted risk factors include, genetics, age, social environment, mental illness, and quality of life in general.
As with any illness, prevention is key and this knowledge of risk factors can be used to aid families and healthcare providers. Prevention of experimentation, delaying the age of first time drug use, reducing how many times a person tries a drug, mental illness prevention, child abuse prevention, and learning ways to manage stress are all components to addiction prevention and overall wellness of our communities.
Treatment is available. However, 47% of people with drug and alcohol addictions relapse withing the first year. It is important to remember that this is a setback-not failure. Although that number can sound a little scary, 40-60% of patients with hypertension, diabetes, and asthma also experience setbacks making addiction comparable with other diseases. Other health and mental health problems, being in the presence of drugs and alcohol, the type of drug addicted to as well as how successful the person is in other parts of his or her life can predict someone’s chances of relapse.
As a community health center, we offer integrated behavioral healthcare. This means that we can provide follow-up and support for patients who are experiencing mental health and alcohol and drug related issues. Mental illness and addictions are health problems—not signs of weakness. We want to be the medical home for all individuals, including those with these types of healthcare needs.