According to doctor of psychiatry Peter Ventre, the word “addiction” is sometimes misunderstood. Common speech regularly uses the word to denote an intense love of a particular thing or action. People claim to be addicted to things like their phone, their favorite food, a popular band, another person, or anything else that they really enjoy.
Real, clinical addiction, however, is more than just loving something to the point of preoccupation. “True addiction is a psychological disability,” explains Dr. Peter Ventre. “It gets in the way of the rest of the addicted individual’s life, upsetting their social connections and responsibilities. It’s not about liking something, it’s about dependence. An addict doesn’t necessarily engage in addiction because they enjoy it too much. They do it because they need to.”
This is especially true where drugs and alcohol are concerned, as these substances add a biological layer to an already crippling psychological problem. “When alcohol and drugs enter the equation, the addiction becomes chemical,” Dr. Peter Ventre explains. “Now it’s not just the addicted individual’s psychology that’s an issue. The chemicals in their addictive substance of choice actually change their brain chemistry, and their body goes through physical changes as a result. This is why those suffering from an addiction need professional help as early as possible, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved.”
Since September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, Dr. Ventre and his colleagues at Ventre Medical Associates have taken to spreading awareness and education on all matters concerning addiction. Below, Dr. Peter Ventre lists some of most common types of chemical addiction plaguing the United States today.
“If you know anyone suffering from an addiction to one of these substances, or if you are suffering yourself, please seek out professional help as soon as possible,” Dr. Ventre urges readers. “Where addiction recovery is concerned, the quicker the issue is seen to, the less damage it can cause.”
Dr. Peter Ventre Examines Statistics on Some of the Most Common Addictions in the United States
In moderation, alcohol can be a fun and enjoyable compliment to a party, social gathering, or simply an evening meal. But when an individual cannot get away from alcohol consumption or takes it to extremes far too often, that is a sign of a crippling addiction developing.
“Alcohol abuse is present in just about every age demographic,” says Dr. Peter Ventre, “even amongst some adolescents. It commonly stems from other, deeper-seated psychological issues which the individual in question self-medicates through excess inebriation. It may also, however, just stem from a predisposition to addiction.”
According to a study by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 19 million United States citizens over the age of 12 needed treatment for alcoholism in 2007. Of this number, only 1.6 million actually sought out their own professional psychological assistance.
“The numbers seem to indicate that the vast majority of people suffering from alcohol addiction are ignoring their issues,” explains Dr. Peter Ventre. “This is one reason why it is so important to seek help for loved ones when addictive behavior is discovered in them. Most of them will not do so on their own.”
Nicotine and Tobacco
Like alcohol, most tobacco and nicotine products are both legal and socially acceptable throughout the United States. As such, also like alcohol, nicotine addiction is one of the most common addictions to be found, with USDHHS reporting a staggering 70.9 million Americans fitting the criteria for substance abuse in a 2008 survey. Of this number, 49.1 percent admitted to smoking 16 cigarettes, or the equivalent, every day. The 18 – 25-year old demographic made up 41.4 percent of all nicotine addicts.
“Cigarettes are a relatively cheap fix,” explains Dr. Peter Ventre, “and smokers can indulge themselves at any time of day, and in very many places, without drawing too much concern or attention to themselves. The sheer accessibility of this addiction is a very large reason why it is so prevalent.”
Although drug abuse and addiction is a popular topic when talking about addiction, most of the discussion focuses on illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. An often overlooked area of drug abuse is prescription drug addiction.
However, says Dr. Peter Ventre, just because it falls through the cracks of public notice does not mean that the problem is any less serious. “The use of prescription stimulants and psychotherapeutic pharmaceuticals beyond their intended purpose is far more common than most people realize,” explains Dr. Ventre. “And in many cases, the effects can prove just as hazardous as many forms of illegal substance abuse.”
The 2008 USDHHS survey reports that 6.2 million people admitted to abusing prescription medications, with painkillers ranking in as the most popularly abused pharmaceutical drug. More than half of all of these confessed abusers reported receiving their drugs for free from friends or relatives. “A lot of times,” says Dr. Ventre, “people may not realize they’re enabling drug abuse. After all, they think, if it’s just medicine, it can’t do any harm. But dependency can occur just as easily here as with many other, more illicit substances.”
Even without the chemical factor, kicking an addiction can be hard on the addict and their loved ones alike. This, says Dr. Peter Ventre, is why timely professional intervention is so important.