The Causes of Addiction
- Genetics, including the impact of one’s environment on gene expression, account for about 40% to 60% of a person’s risk of addiction.
- Environmental factors that may increase a person’s risk of addiction include a chaotic home environment and abuse, parent’s drug use and attitude toward drugs, peer influences, community attitudes toward drugs, and poor academic achievement.
- Teenagers and people with mental health disorders are more at risk for drug use and addiction than other populations.
An Important Quote from the Mayo Clinic:
“Drug addiction can start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and, for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. For others, particularly with opioids, drug addiction begins with exposure to prescribed medications, or receiving medications from a friend or relative who has been prescribed the medication. The risk of addiction and how fast you become addicted varies by drug. Some drugs, such as opioid painkillers, have a higher risk and cause addiction more quickly than others.”
The Ethical Component:
How do the principles of autonomy, beneficence & non-maleficence contribute to addiction?
Hearing From All Perspectives
Please follow this link for a discussion on 2 distinct perspectives on this issue.
The issue of addiction has many contributors. The medical community must straddle a very thin line between inadvertently contributing to the development of addiction, which would violate the principle of non-maleficence, and caring for patients in need — adhering to the principle of beneficence with regards to prescription drugs which often lead to a variety of drug addictions.
The addicts role and perspective on this issue is rooted mostly in their autonomy. They have the ability to choose to take or not take drugs of any kind recreationally. It is also their choice to seek treatment, or not. In a physical sense, the consumption of most drugs is harmful to the body, and can be lethal, which clearly violates the principle of non-maleficence. Yet, if an individual is choosing to violate that principle for themselves, relying on their own autonomy, is that unethical? Who’s role is it to intervene / impede on their autonomy, in the name of beneficence?
The Ever-Evolving Narrative
In pop-culture, the issue of drug use and addiction is seldom taken seriously, inadvertently restricting each addicts feeling of need to seek help. In music, television, and movies, the use of drugs is often depicted casually, without an indication of the recognition of the consequences of this use.
The medical community is often found at “fault” for certain addictions. The excessive prescription of drugs that are known to be addictive, is a commonplace. This initially legal drug consumption can very quickly turn into an uncontrollable addiction. Yet, these prescriptions are often initially necessary. Additionally, the medical community are the ones to help treat individuals who have ODed, or are going through withdrawal — if those individuals are not in a facility already.
The family members of addicts have a very different role in this situation. Speaking from personal experience, the family will struggle to find a balance between providing the necessary resources (food, money, a place to sleep, clothes, etc) and providing too many resources which will ultimately enable the addict to sell said resource — thereby enabling the further development of their addiction. Some individuals believe family members should have no role in the addicts life, because they believe it inhibited the cessation of drug consumption. But, for those family members, it can be extraordinarily difficult to leave the addict alone either because they believe they are helping, or fear the worst should they be left to their own devices.
The perspective of addicts on this issue often evolves over time, alongside their addiction. But, the narrative that these individuals develop around this issue is one of the most important and influential perspectives to consider. For a first hand narrative, please see the video below, as well as the poem titled Welcome to Hell.
The Story of a Survivor
The issue of addiction is much more complicated than can be explained simply through the context of hypothetical situations regarding bio-ethical principles. Try watching the video below with these principles in mind. You will find that this mindset will enhance your deeper understanding of the role of these principles in the world of drug addiction.
A Poem by an Recovering Addict: Welcome to Hell
‘Welcome to Hell,” the sign should’ve read,
Reaching your destination-all in your head!
“Last call for the train heading to Nowhere Fast,”
The memories you create will forever last.
You want to buy a ticket? What’s the cost, you ask?
Just hop on board, we’ll talk once you’re trashed.
Close your eyes and picture something grand.
No peeking! Now trust me, and give me your hand!
To a beach with water and the sun shining down.
Open up! No beach here, you’re hell-bound.
Of course there’s water! But it’s for your rig and spoon.
Lil’ girl, don’t be afraid; 14 years old isn’t that soon.
The men don’t bite, but you’ll be messed up beyond belief.
When you do pass out, not remembering – a relief.
Ashamed to face Mommy! Got to have that coke!
Shooting dope every day; a girl with dreams lost all hope.
I laugh at you as you toss your life in the wind.
Too far gone…it’s us ’til the end.
I’ll be there when you lose your pride.
When you forget your morals, I’m at your side.
You’ll cheat and steal to have that fix.
Won’t take baby to the doctor although she’s sick.
Getting a pill – definitely #1 on the list.
Oops. Another appointment baby missed.
Nanny buys diapers because Mommy stays high.
Daddy hits Mommy and the children cry.
After years of this bliss the kids got took,
Mommy is a junkie and fast becoming a crook.
You’ll land in jail, a drug addict you remain.
Your heart turns cold as you play the game.
Do not pass go – strip your dignity right here.
This old man wants you, dry your tears,
Quote a price! Self-respect long forgotten,
You’d sell your soul to the devil for an Oxycontin.
I told you girl the destination is in your head!
“Welcome To Hell!” Next stop… Well, she’s dead.
I told you that I’d stick it out ’til the end.
For me, you traded your dreams and kids,
Your Addiction, Life, and your faithful Friend.
An Analysis of Welcome to Hell
The author, Nelly Barnes, chose to include a piece of her story to help explain her poem:
This poem is my life from the age of 13. I’m still losing the battle to addiction at age 33. Prisons, rehabs, and a passed Mom has become my fate. This is all I know… I don’t want it, but I’m too tired to try something different (failure would do me in). My kids and family accept me being a junkie. They’re scared I’ll die in the drug world? No, I’m one of the unlucky ones- I’ve lived every heart-breaking day of it. In the poem I wrote “she’s dead” because that’s how I feel. Dead, merely existing…
This addict’s trying journey has left her feeling powerless in the face of addiction, and she feels worthless. At this point in her journey, her poem and the excerpt of her story helps demonstrate only a small portion of an addict’s perspective on this issue — as each narrative will differ person to person. Yet, her story is valuable, and can provide a more nuanced understanding of an given addict’s mental state and their perception of addiction.
The narrative around drug addiction from many non-medical individuals is one of ignorance, often relying on the idea that addicted individuals are weak or immoral. But, as the medical community knows, and tries to spread, a dependency on drugs results from an imbalance in brain chemistry.
The issue of drug addiction is one that affects the majority of Americans either directly or indirectly. Thus, this issue should be met with a barrage of education, compassion, and understanding of the issue at its core.
What Needs Improvement?
Call to Action
Throughout my research, I have discovered a variety of perspectives and influences that contribute to the cultural narrative that we have as a society surrounding drugs, their use & abuse. Namely, the medical community, addicts & their family members, and pop-culture. The vast variety of these groups, and the nuanced opinions each group may posses, contribute to a narrative that varies based on who is asked — and their respective perspectives on the role of autonomy, beneficence & maleficence on this issue, as detailed above.
Yet, across all groups, there seems to be a lack of urgency expressed regarding the necessity that addicts admit they have the disease of addiction, and seek out help. This is easier said than done, yet the easiest part of the recovery process. Getting, and staying sober is the most difficult part.
There is no one easy solution to this problem. Yet, I believe a cultural shift would help, alongside more restrictions on the prescriptions the medical community can issue for drugs that are known to be highly addictive.
Personally, I wish there were more positive pop-culture influences that could help contribute more constructively, and positively, to this issue. Additionally, I think that family members of addicts should seek out support groups as well (linked below), so they can best help the addict, and themselves during this time.
The most important concept for individuals to understand regarding this topic is that addiction is a disease. It is not a matter of will power, strength, or morals. It is a disease. Thus, this issue must be dealt with accordingly: with compassion, patience, the adequate use of available resources and organizations, and mutual support.
Where to Go From Here?
Please see the following links for groups and organizations that offer a variety of services regarding the treatment of drug addiction, including advice for family members that have a relative struggling with addiction.
Flip Grid Q & A
Should you have any further questions and or thoughts, please feel free to share them through this flipgrid.