Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Drug Abuse vs. Chemical Dependence

About 25% of heroin users, 32% of nicotine users, and 15% of alcohol users will become chemically dependent during their lifetimes / a higher percentage for cocaine users -- and even higher still for those who use alcohol and cocaine at the same time (produces 'cocaethylene' in the body)..

Breakthroughs in genetics, neurobiology and neuropharmacology show that some people who drink or use drugs harmfully can develop a full-blown "disease" -- significant numbers of drug users develop the disease of "chemical dependence" (commonly known as 'addiction'). It is a definitive, diagnosable brain pathology.

It is far more serious and different from the other diagnosable drug overuse condition — called 'drug abuse' (which is a self-controllable condition that often is reduced by education, punishment, maturity, increased will power, or sometimes simply learning from an embarrassing or costly experience)).

Drug abusers are the ones who are most likely to respond to the "war on drugs" — take away their drugs or punish their use, and they usually give up. People who are chemically dependent, on the other hand, cannot 'give up'. This would require powerful intervention and intensive treatment that can be expensive and prolonged.

During Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, the national ban on alcohol manufacturing significantly reduced the amount of alcohol consumed in the United States. Yet the number of alcoholics — those chemically dependent on alcohol — remained the same. Most of these individuals had become 'dependent' before their brains finished fully physically developing at around age 20 (started drinking as teenagers). NOTE: This same higher addiction rate for teens applies to tobacco and all other addictive drugs.

Addiction Science Advances:

End to the "War on Drugs"
Related AAS article: