Miss Cleo of Science: Substance Abuse
Scientists are not psychics, as the popular TV soothsayer Miss Cleo claimed to be. Advances in preventative medicine have helped doctors learn to sight diseases in their earliest stages. They also might give treatment to patients who have higher risk for ailments later, to help prevent disease. But what about overcoming the illness of addiction? Can doctors predict where it will strike?
Addiction has long carried the stigma of a character flaw. For years, people assumed that an alcoholic or a drug addict succumbed to their vice out of a lack of will power. Modern medicine, however, has discovered that strength of will has little to nothing to do with addiction. Addiction can consume a life regardless of economic status, intelligence, gender or race. No one factor can determine who will or will not become an addict. That said, doctors have begun to recognize that a variety of qualities, when combined, can lead to substance abuse.
Channeling Miss Cleo: Knowing who’s At Risk
Doctors are not psychic, though science has identified certain qualities that can lead to addiction later. People with a history of substance abuse in their immediate family are at highest risk. Environmental and genetic factors both contribute to this likelihood. Clinical depression, anxiety or other mood disorders often indicate a chance for addiction as well. Loneliness and isolation are other factors, as an addict will use his addiction as a substitute for human contact. Because drug abuse often involves social use, a user might also enjoy the social element, and indulge in drugs more frequently. Some drugs are more habit-forming than others too, with cocaine and heroin notorious for their addictive properties. It doesn’t take Miss Cleo to see potential for problems there!
All of these factors can contribute to a person becoming dependent on substances. The more a subject’s history and behavior qualify, the higher the risk of addiction later. Like any disease, the best prevention involves vigilance. Adults should recognize patters of abusive behavior both in themselves and in their families to prevent addiction from consuming a life.