Chemical dependence is a primary illness or disease that is chronic, progressive, and fatal if not treated. This disease is characterized by continued repetitive use of a mood-altering chemical despite negative consequences. Mood altering chemicals include alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, opioids, inhalants, and hallucinogens. A chemically dependent person is unable to stop drinking or taking a particular mood-altering chemical despite serious health, economic, legal, spiritual, and social consequences. It is a disease that does not see age, sex, race, religion, or economic status.
There is no one single factor that causes an individual to become dependent upon a substance.
Genetics do seem to greatly predispose children of abusers or addicts to become dependent themselves, “family, twin, and adoption studies have convincingly demonstrated that genes contribute to the development of alcohol dependence, with heritability estimates ranging from 50 to 60 percent for both men and women.” “Several studies now suggest that illicit drug abuse and dependence also are under significant genetic influence. In these studies of adult samples, heritability estimates ranged from 45 to 79 percent.” (PH.D Dick, and PH.D Agrawal 111-118) Other risk factors include “lowered self-esteem, lowered tolerance for pain and frustration, few meaningful personal relationships, few life successes, risk-taking tendencies, peer pressure, and psychological illness.”("PN Mental Health Nursing" 133) Many times substance abuse begins with casual or experimental use in adolescence. “Adolescents who report low parental monitoring are significantly more likely to use a variety of substances.” (Shillington 15)”Adolescents who have a low commitment to school or do poorly are more likely to become alcohol involved” (Birckmayer, Holder, Yacoubian, & Friend 121). Children who are victims of “abuse, neglect, loss, or have no close relationships as a result of a dysfunctional family, have behavioral problems such as aggressiveness or rebelliousness and children who are slow learners or have learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder.”(Klossner and Hatfield 941)
In the beginning stages of addiction an individual may seem asymptomatic except to those closest to them; however, with continued use the effects become increasingly detrimental to the user and those around them. General signs and symptoms that are apparent no matter the drug of choice include frequent intoxication, once user starts they cannot stop, blackouts, behavioral changes when using such as deceptive behavior and missing work and familial obligation, tolerance to and need for increased amounts of the drug to get an effect, legal issues such as being caught in possession of drug or paraphernalia or DUIs, continued use despite negative consequences, track marks, and burns. The signs and symptoms also vary depending upon the drug of choice. Chemical depressants...