Addiction is a touchy subject in our society. Those suffering from the condition whether they are addicted to opiates or alcohol are treated as if their problem is primarily a personal flaw or a moral failing. The truth is that addiction is a disease of the brain that affects judgement, decision-making, and the very way that an addict perceives the world around them.

Drug use and abuse is on the rise across the world, but particularly in the United States. The US has the single largest incarcerated population of any nation on Earth at the current estimate of 2,220,300 adults (1/110 of the population), and the number is only increasing. Of that number, just over 50% are serving drug-related crimes according to the US Bureau of Justice statistics. That is a terrifying number that needs to come down!

  • Every day, 46 people die from an overdose of opiate or prescription painkillers within the United States.
  • Millions of people worldwide abuse opiates – approximately 15 million as of 2013, according to SAMSHA.
  • Within the United States, it is estimated that 2.1 million people are misusing prescription painkillers.
  • In 2009, more than 49,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 visited the emergency room for misuse of prescription painkillers.
  • It’s more common than you think!

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What happens to muscles in the body when we do not use them for an extended period of time? They atrophy – that is to say that they grow weaker over time. The same can be said for part of our brain. In particular when we talk about drug use and abuse, we are talking about the reward pathway of the brain. Think of that feeling that you get when you accomplish something special. You know, that little shiver and feeling of accomplishment when you finish a good day at work, or when you solve a major problem. That joy that you feel when your daughter walks across the stage to begin her first dance recital. That is the feeling of a part of the brain called the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) releasing a neural transmitter called Dopamine to another part of the brain called the Nucleus Accumbens. Neural Transmitters are chemical messengers that our nerve cells use to communicate with one-another.

The VTA acts a lot like a muscle in the body – if it is not used, it begins to deteriorate. In cases of drug use and abuse, the drug actually circumvents the VTA and causes an influx of happiness in the Nucleus Accumbens which in turn gives those suffering from addiction their feeling of being ‘high’. The problem is, prolonged exposure to this causes the VTA to atrophy – to wither and grow weak. This means that events in life which would normally give us that rewarding feeling begin to not mean anything. In this way, drugs literally hijack our happiness, and cause us to rely on the drug for what would be considered a ‘normal’ feeling.

What happens then? Well before long, the person suffering from addiction begins to require more and more of the drug to achieve the same levels of ‘normal feeling’. This leads to growing expense, and even growing risk on the user’s behalf. Imagine having to spend $300 a week just to feel NORMAL. It’s a difficult prospect for many to face, and even leads to many to take up illegal acts which wrestle with their conscience just to continue to be able to function. The withdrawal effects from many of these drugs are nothing short of brutal, with a very real risk of death if not managed properly. Because of this, as well as the societal view of drug use, many people shy away from seeking help until it is far too late.

That is where A New Crossroad comes in. Please feel free to view any of the sub-sections within the site to see more information about our treatment options and how they can help you or your loved one to find peace and take back their lives.