Certain drugs (like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines) are infamous for how they can mess up the brain. Most people know to beware of their potency and danger. Other substances (such as alcohol, marijuana and painkillers) tend to be viewed quite differently. For many Americans, they are deemed to be much less dangerous. But is this view accurate?
Treatments and attitudes toward addiction vary widely among different countries. In the US and developing countries, the goal of commissioners of treatment for drug dependence is generally total abstinence from all drugs. Other countries, particularly in Europe, argue the aims of treatment for drug dependence are more complex, with treatment aims including reduction in use to the point that drug use no longer interferes with normal activities such as work and family commitments; shifting the addict away from more dangerous routes of drug administration such as injecting to safer routes such as oral administration; reduction in crime committed by drug addicts; and treatment of other comorbid conditions such as AIDS, hepatitis and mental health disorders. These kinds of outcomes can be achieved without eliminating drug use completely. Drug treatment programs in Europe often report more favorable outcomes than those in the US because the criteria for measuring success are functional rather than abstinence-based. The supporters of programs with total abstinence from drugs as a goal believe that enabling further drug use means prolonged drug use and risks an increase in addiction and complications from addiction.
This is an ongoing debate in the medical community, but it is generally agreed that there is no one cause for the development of addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, contributing factors may include a genetic predisposition to develop addictive tendencies, an environment that is permissive of drug abuse, access to illicit substances, and certain developmental issues. The existence of a Dual Diagnosis is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of addiction. Heroin Withdrawal | First Week In