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Breaking the cycle of addiction isn't as easy as just "saying no" to drugs -- if it were, addiction wouldn't be a struggle. Where traditional models of addiction represent substance use itself as the problem, we see substance use as a symptom or a manifestation of underlying, complex, deep-rooted problems.

and consider sustained abstinence from the abused substance to be the solution,


People often turn to substances as a way to cope with their internal struggles and wounds. We see this casually represented in mainstream media when a character eats ice cream and drinks wine to soothe their heartbreak after a breakup, or when a character takes a shot of liquor to calm their nerves before getting in front of an audience. Examples like this are so common, socially acceptable, and seemingly benign that we think nothing of it. But compare those images with that of a character stealing pills from someone's medicine cabinet, or following a seedy fellow down a dark alley to buy heroin. Sense a difference? While a glass of wine or shot of liquor is not illegal to someone of-age imbibing responsibly, and taking pills not prescribed to you or using heroin is illegal and irresponsible -- the impulse to use substances among all of these characters is exactly the same. They all just want to cope, numb, calm, forget, or heal.


Drug use, drug misuse, and addiction are each different. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) differentiates drug use ("use of a medication as prescribed or alcohol in moderation") from drug misuse as "improper or unhealthy drug use. These include the repeated use of drugs to produce pleasure, alleviate stress, and/or alter or avoid reality. This includes using prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed or using someone else's prescription." NIDA further defines addiction as "substance use disorders at the severe end of the spectrum, characterized by a person’s inability to control the impulse to use drugs even when there are negative consequences. These behavioral changes are also accompanied by changes in brain function, especially in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers." This means that when drug use or misuse becomes consistent and compulsive, and the user begins to harm self, family, friends, and community to get what they need, it's considered a substance use disorder or an addiction.

The effects of drug use on the brain is well studied.

As NIDA mentions, addiction alters brain function and behavior. The


People cannot recover from addiction or heal from their underlying wounds alone.



While there are many layers to this


only to get physiologically hijacked and sucked deeper and deeper into a spiral of desperation, secrecy, and shame.


only to get physically and mentally hijacked by the substance


People use substances as a way to cope with their painful wounds


Until someone's underlying wounds are addressed and healed,


We see substance use as a symptom

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