In order to prevent illicit drug abuse, it is necessary to first understand the process that causes individuals to abuse drugs in the first place, and what causes some people to get hooked on them.
A new study has found that predicting the natural history of illicit drug use is not as easy as one might expect.
Addiction Cannot Be Predicted
The study, which was published in the June issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, studied more than 34,000 adults, monitoring them for recreational drug use and problem drug use.
Researchers expected to find that the subjects would move in a linear path from non use of drugs, to recreational use, to problem use or addiction. However, this wasn’t the case. Many people continued to use drugs recreationally without it changing into problem use over the three year study, while others jumped from non use to addiction in a short amount of time.
Researchers summarized a few things from this study. First of all, some people who abuse illicit drugs occasionally are able to avoid addiction and even give up drug use altogether after some time. However, once a person is addicted, it is unlikely that they will be able to stop on their own and must have professional treatment. The study also showed how quickly other people can become addicted. As of yet, there is no way to predict if someone who tries drugs is going to be able to stop when they want, or if they are going to become addicted. Researchers did find that certain personalities or events in a person’s life, such as a history of child abuse, makes the person more likely to jump to problem drug use more quickly.
Prevention and Early Intervention Discourage Addiction
The key to helping people avoid a life of drug addiction, according to the researchers of this study, is prevention. A person can’t become addicted if they don’t start abusing drugs. We can help prevent drug abuse by teaching healthy stress management techniques and providing education about the dangers of drugs. Doctors, emergency rooms and crisis centers should be better equipped to intervene with patients who are already abusing drugs.