Americans can (and do) overcome addictions on their own

Posted by in Intriguing

Almost everyone has something that they’re addicted to; if perhaps not in the medical sense, at least in the social sense. For example, I am addicted to the internet. I’ll be productive and working, and have a moment where I’m feeling indulgent and unfocused; and then mouse away from my work, hop over to Wikipedia or a tech blog, and Ctrl+click my way through all those addicting little links for hours on end. I might start reading about refrigeration compressors or LCD screens and end up reading about WWII battles or the Russian space program, with so many tabs open in my browser that you can’t see anything other than the little tab-close “x”. I lament about this addiction, but also privately congratulate myself that it’s not something more harmful, like substance abuse.

Then today (while indulging my internet addiction) I happened upon this little article on Lifehacker about addiction that included two factoids that really struck me. (The original article at Psychology Today isn’t much longer, but is well worth a ctrl-click-read.)

The first kernel was the quote from Psychology Today, which referenced the fact that fully 22% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 25 abuse or are dependent on alcohol or recreational drugs. Frankly that scares the shit out of me. One out of five of my friends has a substance abuse problem? Like a real problem? Not just too-fun-party-guy thing, but an actual, psychological addiction or dependency? That’s more than just a huge downer; that’s a real eye-opener.

But for me, the article continues with an upbeat, hopeful note of success. Looking at the age group statistics, 22% of Americans 18 to 25 have a substance abuse problem; but by the time they get to the age of 55 to 59, this number drops to only 3%. This means that Americans do, in fact, deal with their addictions as they grow older and mature. However, you don’t see one-fifth of the country’s young population enrolling in support groups or going to therapy. The article cites another study that found that only 27% of Americans who had ever been alcoholics joined a treatment program of any kind; but that of those that didn’t, three quarters of them broke their addiction on their own. This means that tens of millions of Americans had an addiction and recovered on their own. Something as simple as a doctor’s visit may have made them realize that they had a problem; and right then and there, without any coercion or extreme measures, they thought about their families, about their lives and careers, and decided to make a change. I find it encouraging and empowering to know that so very many people were able to deal with their serious issues without expensive or drastic measures. In fact, many support programs (like AA) spend a lot of time telling success stories, to remind addicts that they can kick the habit too.

These studies are basically saying that, it’s true, people can change if and when they want to. Now if only I actually wanted to break my internet habit. Oh little blue links, I love you so!