Addiction: The Most Neglected Disease in America
Traditionally, addiction was defined as the intake of substances that produce a psychoactive effect on the individual. In most cases, people take such substances as fun but their bodies become dependent on them over time. This dependence on substances like alcohol and tobacco is known as addiction. Alcohol and other psychoactive substances work through changing the chemical balance of the brain. In the recent past, modern psychologists have widened this definition to include psychological dependency on an activity. Some examples of psychological dependency include addiction to shopping, sex, Internet, pornography, work, and physical workouts. Juts like alcohol and other traditional addictions, psychological dependencies should be considered as addictions because the individuals involved have no control over them. Moreover, they experience feelings like guilt, shame, anxiety, and hopelessness whenever they engage in them. Addiction is a major problem in many countries and authorities are worried, because if they don’t do anything, they risk losing future generations. One of the countries whose future is threatened by addiction is the United States. This paper will address the various types of addictions in the country as well as factors that contribute towards making America an addicted nation.
According to the recent statistics released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Americans don’t know how to deal with personal problems. Many of them panic and try to come up with quick external fixes as a way of dealing with them. It’s normal that people face challenges in their lives at one time or the other but what is important is how they deal with them (Johnson 23). Some of the common problems faced by Americans include lack of money, excessive demands at the place of work, marital challenges, and trying to bring up children in a society where the media sets the agenda. It’s a very worrying trend that when faced with the above mentioned challenges, Americans rarely turn to interpersonal or internal resources in finding a balance.
As noted earlier, the first impulse of an American when faced with a problem is to look for a quick external fix which acts as both the solution and the problem. The first place that Americans look for solutions is in dopamine spikes. Individuals have different ways of making themselves feel better about their situations (Sheff 107). Its common knowledge that dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is activated by satisfying events. Such events may occur by nature or they can be activated through the use of certain drugs like cocaine, nicotine or even methamphetamine among others. Many of these drugs make the individual feel better by stimulating the functioning of their bodies therefore making them feel drunk or “high” as they say.
Throughout the world, America is respected for the impulse of its citizens to work hard, courage, and innovations. However, the fruits of these efforts take time to be realized and this has made many Americans impatient. Consequently, people have turned to drugs and other types of addictions as a means of finding quick satisfaction. This is understandable because naturally, people like achieving the fruits of their labor within the shortest time possible. Americans have lost patience and have embraced the idea of “why wait?”, and this desperation to feel better has made them grab anything within their reach so as to feel better and survive the day. The culture of addiction in the country has seen many people opt for artificial drugs and stimulants. The situation is made worse by the fact that many Americans abuse more than one drug. Current statistics indicate that one in every ten Americans is involved in drug abuse. Moreover, the statistics released by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicate that a quarter of all adult Americans are involved in binge drinking (Johnson 20). More worrying is the fact that many people in America who are involved in drug abuse don’t accept that they have a problem and therefore don’t seek treatment.
The issue of addiction in America has brought about many other side effects. First, many people who are involved in drug and substance abuse have been reported to have eating disorders. This explains why two thirds of the adult American populations qualify to be referred to as obese. Many addicts don’t have time to enjoy a balanced diet, but instead, they go for snacks and other fast foods (Sheff 127). Families of people who are involved in any kind of addiction are not stable and mostly end up in divorce. That’s why one in every five American mothers and wives is under anti-depressants. This raises the question, how has America wrapped itself with the blanket of prescription drugs, compulsive shopping, compulsive sexual behavior, celebrity worship, Internet addiction, and video gaming among other addictions? The answer to this question is that external fixes to problems, which are readily available in America, provide only those who have money. For example, the alcohol industry in the country takes in about $ 1 billion annually and tobacco takes in about $35 billion annually. Other types of addictions like Internet, gambling, prostitution, and texting also serve to fuel the dopamine fire in the country.
Although it’s natural that people like to feel good, great care should be taken when looking for this good feeling. This is because dopamine is derived from several emotional and physical sources. People should always seek for dopamine that comes from within because external dopamine creates a vicious cycle of relief. With time, this dependence on artificial dopamine may spill out of control and result in serious health complications. For the lucky few, they may land in rehabilitation centers where they can be treated by professionals. However, those who are not lucky enough may end up in the streets or may end up dying if drastic measures are not taken to help them.
Types of Addictions
Social Media/Technology Addiction
Social media/technology addiction is the process where an individual utilizes most of his/her time on the Internet until it gets in the way of other schedules of day to day life. This type of addiction has become a major debate lately, although researchers have not yet come into a conclusion whether it is a disorder or an ailment. Social media/technology addiction is believed to be more widespread in comparison to addiction to drugs. Most health professionals have indicated that individuals who spend most of their time in the Internet suffer from depression, anxiety, and a number of psychological problems (T. Courtwright 87). Psychologists have disclosed ways of taking care of patients with social media/technology related problems and they have also confirmed that the addiction can cause severe life consequences. Additionally, the technology addiction has had great impact on marriages leading to high levels of divorce. According to many researchers and studies, this issue should be looked into seriously for it posses a huge threat to the society in general.
Every year, additional social media policies are implemented and the effortlessness of access is continuously getting better; hence, it is quite clear that social media/technology addiction is a problem that may not be eradicated any time soon. Direct conversations, status information and sending of various comments symbolize a number of the most widespread methods of interacting with associates and pals. In addition, connections completed via websites sidestep a lot of restrictions in personal conferences and discussions (T. Courtwright 98). Acquaintances all over the world interact easily on social media since movements are limited and the Internet has become quite inexpensive. Also, embargos, time-restrictions, and funds are viewed as a small issue in the practical world. The Internet can also be accessed in various parts of the world through the use of smart phones and this has led social media to be the most comparatively reachable form of interaction that provokes the urge to login anytime in the course of the day.
Despite the fact that social media and technology networking assist many people to appreciate themselves and to be more attached to the society, it has also left several individuals with a sense of loneliness. The addiction also has several negative impacts such as losing a job or disconnecting with close relatives and friends. In addition, if too much time is used on the Internet, social operations might be prejudiced and a sense of anxiety might rise if an individual is not able to access the electronic mechanisms and Internet for a long period. According to an Experian survey, on average, Americans utilize about sixteen minutes per hour on the Internet scrutinizing social networks (Mohr, 147). The report also indicates that this addiction is higher in the United States compared to other countries. However, the time spent on the Internet is still higher for countries such as Australia and United Kingdom averaging to fourteen minutes and thirteen minutes per hour correspondingly. Fighting social media/technology addiction is quite important, because it promotes social standards and good health. Individuals should time themselves on the number of hours per day on social media. This would enable them to control the level of addiction and they would be able to balance and attend to other aspects of their day to day life. Individuals are advised to practice more of offline connections in comparison to the amount of time utilized online (Juman 201). People who may want to spend more time on the Internet should try to engage in social interactions in the morning and prior to sleeping. This entails creating time for close relatives and pals instead of visiting social media websites from morning to evening. People are also encouraged to take social media break days in order to socialize with pals and close family members. It is also advisable that one should select friends cautiously on social media websites. This helps people to socialize with genuine acquaintances instead of categorization via updates from distant family members and ex-friends.
Generally, addicts lack joy in their lives and some may even commit suicide due to depression which has continued to change the way people perceive the Americans in the contemporary world. In order for the Americans to experience a change in addiction related issues, they must first embrace the fact that these are major setbacks that are affecting the nation negatively. This will be a great intervention and any person or entity disturbed about the well being of American people will be willing to help and contribute to the reduction of various America’s addictions (T. Courtwright 210). The psychologists and other health practitioners should join to fight the social medial/technology addiction for it is poses a major threat in the American culture and behavior of the American people.
The second type of addiction in America is known as behavioral addiction. Unlike substance addiction, behavioral addiction does not involve taking any substances but rather involves dependency on certain activities. A person suffering from this type of addiction experiences uncontrolled compulsion to engage in an activity repeatedly until the activity results in negative consequences to the social, mental, and physical wellbeing of the individual. Some health professionals and scientists sometimes refer to behavioral addiction as impulse control disorders and argue that they are easy to treat compared to substance addiction. In a broader sense, a person addicted to an activity feels powerless about the activity and finds himself doing it regardless of its negative consequences.
A research carried out by The Scripps Research Institute in 2009, revealed for the first time that the molecular mechanisms responsible for making people addicted to drugs were also responsible for some behavioral addictions like overeating. In this research, scientists concentrated and studied a receptor in the brain known as dopamine D2 receptor that is believed to play a key role in one’s susceptibility to drug addiction. The D2 receptor work by reacting to a neurotransmitter known as dopamine released in the brain when one goes through a pleasurable experience like sex or eating. Recently, Judith Sewel Wright identified some behavioral addictions as soft addictions because they don’t pose a great risk to the health of individuals but mostly affect their productivity.
The root cause of addiction in America is the lack of authentic and direct contact with the real world. As noted earlier, many Americans don’t like to face issues head-on but adopt the strategy of periodical mood alteration which in most cases results in addictions. In some instances, individuals may end up in weird distorted dependence where they ignore the real things and embrace the unreal ones. A good example of such a case is the Korean couple who adopted and decided to raise a virtual child in an Internet café and neglected their own child. While they were busy raising the virtual child, their child died out of neglect and starvation since the child was only fed in-between sessions of the game (T. Courtwright 142). According to the report released by the police who investigated this incident, the parents of the child spent most their time online raising the virtual child as a way of escaping from the real world. Just like in Korea, video game and Internet addiction is a major problem here in the United States.
One of the major challenges that people who work in addiction treatment institutions face is finding an authentic way of helping patients recover. This is mainly due to the American culture that seems designed to promote dependence on artificial and quick solutions to problems. Another major player in the promotion of addiction among Americans is the media. Turn the TV or radio on at any time and the prevailing wisdom says that there is no reason to suffer. The American media also promote the idea that synthetic solutions to problems are normal and that there is a pill for every problem may it be shyness, fibromyalgia, erectile dysfunction, ADHD and this further promotes immorality. Immorality, especially among the youth, has become a very common behavior practice to the extent of causing sex addiction.
The first type of behavioral addictions among Americans is sex addiction. Normally, sex is supposed to be a part time enjoyment between couples that helps them bond more and reproduce. Sexual addiction is mainly classified based on two major existing medical models namely the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) .Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to diagnose sexual addiction because it does not fit into the DSM-IV standards (T. Courtwright 114). Scientists and psychologists believe that sexual is associated with bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and obsessive—compulsive disorder (OCD). Clinicians and other health professionals faced a lot of challenges when diagnosing sexual addictions mainly because some patients may be suffering from more than one addiction. In most cases, obsession is pervasive and progressive and grows together with denial.
During early stages of addiction, addicts don’t perceive themselves as preoccupied and continue to engage in the activity while making excuses. Compulsion occurs if the person is physically reliant on the activity for his/her physiological stasis. Repeated engagement in sex or any other addictive behavior results in a state where the patient is in a state of chemical dependency. In case an addict acts when not in the chemically dependent state, it’s seen as prompted by obsession only. People who advocate for sexual addiction to be classified as a disorder argue that sex addicts display narcissistic behaviors which disappear as the addicts move towards sobriety.
As noted earlier, sex is meant to be a way of connecting between a man and woman for the purposes of pleasure and reproduction. However, people who are addicted to sex do it for the wrong reasons and may spend a lot of time thinking or doing it. The most amazing thing about people who are addicted to sex is that they actually don’t enjoy doing it but find themselves engaged in it. Due to the risk posed by STDs and HIV/Aids, people are supposed to have one sexual partner. More to this, people are also advised to use protection whenever they are having sex with a person whose HIV status they don’t know. Regardless of the danger posed by having multiple sex partners, people who are addicted to sex are helpless and find themselves getting involved with more than one partner. Instead of using sex as a way of connecting with their partners, sex addicts use it as a coping mechanism. It’s worth noting that not all sex addicts visit prostitutes or have multiple partners but rather engage in behaviors like watching porn, masturbation or visiting strip clubs (T. Courtwright 95). Early signs of addiction to sex include visiting brothels, cyber sex, masturbation, voyeurism, and exhibitionism among others. Sexual addiction is mostly treated through therapy conducted by certified sex addiction therapists. Moreover, sex addiction can also be treated using chemical inhibitors. This kind of treatment works through interfering with neurotransmitters. More specifically, they adjust the behavior of a sex addict by lowering his or her libido.
Shopping addiction is another behavioral addiction that is quite common. All over the world, shopping is a very enjoyable experience if it’s done based on the set budget. However, there are people who go overboard and shop even for things that they had not planned for. Buying things that are not planned for is known as shopping addiction, compulsive buying or oniomania. Addiction to shopping is very similar to addiction to food, gaming, and sex mainly because it involves impulse control disorder. This kind of addiction is very common in the United States and it’s believed that it affects about 9% of people in the country (Juman 114). Majority of people who suffer from this kind of addiction in the United States are women. Many people don’t this that this kind of addiction is serious and they mostly make fun out of it. According to studies carried out in the United States among compulsive shoppers, majority of them were found to have serious financial problems, anxiety and depression. Moreover, many of the people studied were found to be going through difficulties in their relationship with some having lost their spouses.
As noted above, addiction to shopping is very prevalent in the United States than in any other country. To many Americans, shopping is a very effective way of reducing negative emotions like sadness, worry and loneliness among others. This helps them escape from the real world even if it’s only for a short time. Everyone feels good when they have the latest clothes, car, phone and shoes because it boosts their confidence and raises their social status. However, compulsive shoppers continue to buy things even when it’s affecting them negatively.
The same case with other behavioral addictions, impulse buying remains a controversial topic to date as different groups continue to argue whether excessive spending qualifies as an addiction. Another disagreement among professionals is whether impulse shopping should be classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), addiction, impulse control disorder or mood disorder. People who Some of the early signs of addiction to shopping include uncontrollable spending, lying about spending, going for shopping alone, juggling bills to get money for shopping, thinking about shopping all the time and spend money of items that one knows they cannot afford. From the time people are young, they are taught that hard work is the key to success and is very desirable (Juman 85). When people graduate from colleges and university and secure jobs, they like to work hard so as to please their bosses and earn promotions. Although hard work is a virtue that must be instilled in every person, it becomes a problem when one’s job becomes the main focus of their life. This is dangerous because such people neglect other areas of their lives like marriage, families, and friends.
Many patients that suffer from this type of addiction admit that they have a problem especially in their relationships and finances. Moreover, existing statistics in the United States indicated that majority of shopping addicts respond well to treatments including medications and counseling. If a person suspects that they suffer from impulse shopping or any other type of addiction, they should be willing to openly discuss it with a doctor. This admission that one has a problem is the first step towards recovery. Other getting treatment for the addiction only, people suffering from this type of addiction are also taken through financial counseling.
It’s not a secret any longer that America is an addicted nation that needs a lot of global help to come back to soberness. This is necessitated by the fact that America boasts as the only military and economic super power in the world. It’s very shameful of America to boast of the above mentioned achievements if it can’t handle the welfare of its citizens. According to Mohr (142), many people attribute the addictive nature of many Americans to the fact that majority of them have almost everything that they require in life. With this, many of them don’t go through the hardships that people in other countries go through. With a superior economic background, the mind of many Americans is mostly preoccupied with merrymaking which exposes them to the urge to make easy passage through life. This explains why many people associate addiction in America with the need to make easy money. As stated earlier in the paper, Americans are never ready to pay the price for any achievement and mostly seek for easy answers to their problems.
Addiction can be classified into two major categories namely behavioral and substance addiction. In the past, many health professionals only recognized substance addiction. However, modern research has proved that one can also be addicted to behaviors. Some of the most common addictions include alcohol addiction, addiction to nicotine, sex addiction and addiction to one job. One main way of telling whether one is suffering from addiction is to assess whether they are always preoccupied with one thing. For example, whether one is always thinking about sex even when it’s not right to do so. More to this, people should seek for treatment if they suspect that they are suffering from any kind of addiction.
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