Addiction. That word holds a lot of baggage for many people. Broken relationships, missed opportunities and pointed fingers. But the addict isn’t always the one to blame. Doctors are reporting that undiagnosed mental issues and trauma might be the real recipe for addiction.
Undiagnosed Mental Issues can Lead to Addiction
In 2001, while facing drug charges after violating house arrest orders, MLB All-Star Darryl Strawberry said, “My brain is broken. I have never quit trying to fight the demons, and I won’t quit trying to fight the demons. I do care about recovering. I don’t know why I go out and use drugs. I don’t know what happens to me.” Darryl Strawberry was a baseball icon, yet addiction almost ruined his career. It doesn’t matter who you are; everyone is susceptible to addiction.
The desire for recovery can be strong. However, addictive tendencies and a need for relief are strong, too. Oftentimes the addict has to deal with an inner battle between the two opposing forces.
“The problem is that many people have secondary problems that they’ve always had,” said Leonard Lado, M.D., psychiatrist at The Willough in Naples, Fla. “It appears that people have generalized anxiety disorders. They have mood disorders. They’re not treated, but they function with it.”
“So just imagine you have an injury, or even a small amount of pain that requires a painkiller,” Dr Lado says. “Suddenly, not only are you treating the pain, but suddenly you have this incredible relief of anxiety, which you’re not even aware of, and your mood becomes elevated and your focus becomes very sharp.”
When taking a painkiller relieves undiagnosed anxiety or depression, which a person does not even realize that he or she has, becoming addicted can be very easy. Sometimes people function with anxiety or depression, but do not even realize they feel bad until that feeling has been lifted.
A taste of relief can be very powerful. While not all people who suffer from depression or anxiety will become addicts, having issues such as these can lead to addiction in some, a condition referred to as co-morbidity.
Reasons for Addiction and What You Can Do
Doctors, researchers and psychologists continue to investigate addiction so they can help people better. One thing they all agree on is that addiction is a complex, chronic condition. It is not something that can be simply overcome with willpower. Because of this, people living with addiction may feel confused, overwhelmed or frustrated. Additionally, the families and friends of people living with addiction may also feel worried, overwhelmed and frustrated.
Recently, the opioid epidemic has caused widespread panic over doctors prescribing painkillers.
“When pain medicines are used in a prescribed manor, the risk of addiction is minimal,” said Dr. Lado. “The problem is that most people that come in with the treatment of pain killers have secondary problems that they always had.”
There is no single reason for addiction or its cause. Some issues that may increase a person’s chance for developing an addiction include:
- Peer Pressure
- Childhood Trauma
- Mental Health Disorders
- Chronic Pain or Chronic Illness
These issues often occur alongside an addiction, and need to be addressed individually to holistically address addictive behaviors. As with any medical condition, it’s important to have the information you need, so you can start your path to a healthier, happier life.
Treatment Can Help
The first step is recognizing that you or your loved one may have a problem with addiction, and the next step is seeking help. While it may be scary or hard to ask for help, it’s a necessary step toward feeling better.
“There’s an old saying that the people in AA have, and they say that when you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, that may be the impetus for getting help,” said Mark Lokitus, D.O., staff psychiatrist at The Willough.
Everyone is unique. You have your own story. When you work with a dedicated team of addictions specialists, you have a higher likelihood of staying sober. Your team will develop a treatment plan that will fit your needs—both short- and long -term.
While you may have really rough days and you may want to give up, remember that you can do this with the support of your team, and that you are not alone.
“That’s what you’re looking at a lot with addiction, is giving up something to get your life back,” said Rich Capiola, M.D., medical director for Oglethorpe, Inc.
If you or a loved one suffers from addiction and you reside in the UK, please reach out to the free helpline: UKAT – UK Addiction Treatment Centres