Addiction has become so widespread that it is now recognized as a public health issue. The Alano Club of St. Joseph has a simple mission – hosting meeting space for 12 Step Programs, providing social activities for those in recovery, and education. This mission is designed to support recovery from addiction in a supportive community of other recovering alcoholics and addicts.
In the past addiction was seen as a health issue for individuals. Today we recognize the public health implications of active addiction. From ATTC (Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network):
Directly or indirectly, every community is affected by drug abuse and addiction, as is every family. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, lung disease, obesity, and mental disorders can all be affected by drug abuse. Some of these effects occur when drugs are used at high doses or after prolonged use; however, some may occur after just one use . . . A strong link also exists between drug abuse and top social problems such as drugged driving, violence and crime, stress, and child abuse.
As one can easily see, addiction is much more than a drunk sitting on a park bench, or the opium addict hidden in some dark den of abuse.
Addiction is defined as a “…chronic, progressive, incurable disease, characterized by a loss of control over a substance, including alcohol. Like all chronic, progressive, incurable diseases, addiction has a tendency to relapse. Consider heart disease, for example. Like addiction, heart disease has identifiable symptoms and identifiable treatments. Diabetes and arthritis are the same – identifiable symptoms and identifiable treatments.
From NIDA, 2007 (National Institute for Drug Abuse):
“Drug addiction is preventable. Researchers have developed a broad range of programs that are effective in preventing early use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs and in curbing abuse that has already begun. Preventing substance abuse early in life, especially during adolescence, can reduce the chances of later abuse and addiction” (NIDA, 2007).
Obviously, the best approach is to never begin the use of drugs in the first place. Education programs in our schools can help prevent the use of drugs by adolescents. While Alano does not endorse any particular program, we do affirm the need for early education.
More from NIDA (2007)
“Drug addiction is treatable. Like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease, drug addiction is a chronic disease that can be managed successfully. Relapse is not a sign of treatment failure, but rather an indication that treatment should be reinstated or adjusted to help addicted individuals fully recover (NIDA, 2007).
Some drugs seem to be more harmful than others. The actual difference is in time and quantities. A classic alcoholic takes about fifteen years to develop full blown alcoholism. A young person might begin alcohol use in late adolescence. This person might go to college or enter the military or find a technical school for job training. With school or military service completed that person likely gets a job, gets married, buys a house, has children, has two automobiles, and a life of dignity and respect. When the alcoholism matures the person begins having problems at home, at work, and often with the law. These are the symptoms.
Hard core narcotic use is the same as alcohol with the exception of length of time for addiction maturity. The same person in the alcohol scenario who begins use of narcotic drugs in late adolescence will probably not complete military service or college or any other form of job training. They do not begin a profession, struggle in relationships, and have trouble with the law.
As noted in the above chart, the use of methamphetamine has profound impact on our brain. Total abstinence can see the return of brain function but long term studies have yet to predict the long term damage.
Most of the addictive drugs, including alcohol, cause a wide range of other health issues. As with the tobacco chart above we know that our internal organs suffer from the constant introduction of toxins in our system.
Many people are in our hospitals with a diagnosis of liver or kidney problems. Many have heart conditions. Cancers of a wide variety present themselves. These diagnosis do not always reflect the cause of the problem – do not recognize the addiction as the dependent variable in individual illnesses.
We are convinced that addiction is a major public health issues and we work everyday to minimize the harm of addiction.