Substance use disorders, clinical conditions involving the chronic misuse of alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, tobacco and other products containing addictive chemicals, affect the lives of nearly one in four Americans and their families, friends and co-workers.
Such prevalence is attributable not only to the deceptive power of addictive substances, but to the economic interests that promote them, the mixed messages our society sends about their use, the stigmas and misconceptions still associated with addiction, and to life itself. Those are formidable forces, to which some people are particularly vulnerable. In fact, a complex set of factors including genetics, family history, trauma, abuse, stress, environment, social, emotional and mental health disorders have a significant impact on the likelihood that someone will develop a substance use disorder.
So while it's not someone's fault they have a substance use disorder, it is their responsibility to get treatment for it.
The good news is that millions of people have been able to overcome the obstacles they faced to break the grip of addiction, and are living fuller, healthier, more inspired lives as a result. Now more than ever before, with many excellent treatment options available and an ever improving understanding of substance use disorders, success is likely for those wanting to take their lives back from drugs and alcohol.
It's a common myth that you have to "hit bottom" to be able to truly see the light and start recovery, and that you can help this process along by exercising "tough love" tactics, such as taking away things like money, shelter or love, involving the police, or refusing to help a loved one get out of jail. The truth is that these disproved theories can prevent someone from getting help before serious consequences result, such as homelessness, divorce, jail, and death.
The general rule now is to address problems at the earliest possible stage, with the help of highly skilled professionals who specialize in chemical abuse and dependency treatment. Research is constantly being done to improve treatment quality, and to dispel the myths and stigmas that are still associated with addiction.