Marlene Passell


Some people become addicted while others don’t why?. No one thing can predict whether or not a person will become addicted to drugs. Risk for addiction is influenced by a person’s biology, social environment, and age or stage of development.

The good news is there are treatments that help people to counteract the powerful effects of addiction and helps people regain control. According to Lisa McWhorter, Wayside House clinical director, treatments that are based on the 12-step program and provide approaches that are tailored to each patient’s drug or alcohol abuse patterns, any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a life without drugs or alcohol.

According to national research, the more risk factors an individual has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. For example:

Biology. The genes that people are born with – combined with environmental influences – account for about half of addiction vulnerability. Additionally, gender, ethnicity, and the presenceof other mental disorders may influence risk for drug abuse and addiction.

Environment. A person’s environment includes many different influences — from family and friends to socioeconomic status and quality of life, in general. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, stress, and parental involvement can greatly influence the course of drug abuse and addiction in a person’s life.

Development. Genetic and environmental factors also affect chances of becoming addicted. Adolescents experience a double challenge. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it is to progress to more serious abuse. And because adolescents’ brains are still developing in the areas that govern decision making, judgment, and self-control, they are especially prone to risk-taking behaviors, including trying drugs.

• One very common belief is that drug abusers should be able to just stop taking drugs if they are only willing to change their behavior. Those people don’t understand that every drug that is abused affects the brain, which makes stopping difficult, not just a matter of willpower. This is why a good treatment program is so important.
• Through scientific advances we now know much more about how exactly drugs work in the brain, and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and resume productive lives.
• Drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. While it is true that for most people the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, over time the changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, and at the same time create an intense impulse to take drugs.

And, said Ms. McWhorter at Delray Beach’s Wayside House, as with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, drug and alcohol addiction can be managed and arrested. Yet, it is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin abusing drugs/alcohol again. Relapse does not signal failure; rather, it indicates that the individual must get back to basics and work a 12-step program of recovery, ensure they are taking care of mental and physical health and, if needed, seek additional treatment. The success rate is much higher for those who continue outpatient services and ongoing group sessions.

Marlene Passell is Communications and Marketing Coordinator for Wayside House. Wayside House is a 40-year-old drug and alcohol abuse treatment program in Delray Beach for women, by women. It includes 90-day inpatient, as well as intensive outpatient and other services. Call 561.278.0055 for more information or go to www.waysidehouse.net