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We keep hearing about all of the educational and prevention programs available. Yet, the addiction rate keeps escalating — from tragic teenage overdoses to overdoses of pandemic proportions among all age groups. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the healthcare costs from tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and opioids have risen to an all-time high of 740 billion dollars annually. This data doesn’t include health costs from other addictions — food, gambling, pornography, compulsive spending, and digital addiction, to name a few.

The #1 Killer

The addiction crisis is far more deadly than any other illness on the planet. That’s because it hides out under more socially acceptable diagnoses. The World Health Organization reports that the leading unnatural causes of death are heart attack, cancer, Diabetes II, lung and kidney disease, and stroke, totaling over 40 million lives per year. But, most of these illnesses are caused by deadly toxins in alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sugar, and trans fats that have been ingested to the point of causing permanent damage to the body.

At the Root of Most Failure

Addiction also is at the root of most crime, child abuse, dysfunctional families, suicides, and personal failure. Many people suffering from anxiety and depression have been misdiagnosed, and are often prescribed medication when the real problem is addiction. Anyone struggling with behavior they cannot control will have symptoms of prolonged sorrow, mood swings, fear, insomnia, and lack of energy. Once the addiction is treated with abstinence and proper therapy, then the emotions stabilize.

Addiction is Blind

Most people don’t even realize that they are addicted. They often stop on will power and think they have control, but they always go back. The new normal — getting a quick fix for everything — has blinded us to our impending danger.

Addiction is anything a person continues to do despite negative consequences. If a person isn’t addicted and something bad happens, the person stops. With addiction, there is only stopping and then starting again. No matter the loss to health, finances, or personal relationships, the addiction marches on.

The current treatment models have not succeeded. Psychologists, psychiatrists, addiction counselors, and mental health professionals have conflicting views on treatment. Some professionals teach patients to have a better thought process, some treat with experiential techniques, and others treat with pills. Treatment centers charge up to $100,000 a month for a 30-day program, and most have the same relapse rate as 12-step (and other) recovery meetings that are free of charge.

The Bottomless Pit

Addiction is the result of trying to fill a void deep within. Patients are provided education, therapy, and relaxation tools, but when the void is left untreated, the addiction remains alive and well and simply morphs into another form. The addiction transfers from drugs to alcohol, cigarettes to sugar, cocaine to gambling, food to sex, and so on — a never-ending maze.

The new, worst-case scenario for treating the void is to treat addiction with pill addiction. While some people have mental health issues that require medication, pills have become the standard for almost all mental health issues. Medication is not a substitute for emotional healing, and some medication is more addictive than the substances for which the patient sought treatment. The benefits of psychotherapy with someone who is numbed out on drugs are questionable at best.

A Way to Success

Treatment is successful when a person learns how to replace the addiction with actions that build self-esteem rather than fuel the shame and guilt. If a person is not experiencing internal peace and healthy self-care, they are not likely to remain addiction-free. Recovery means learning how to care for yourself like a young child. Nutritious food, plenty of rest, comfort, healthy expression of feelings, structure, and fun time are the essentials of self-love.

Addicts are taught that there is no cure for addiction: “Once an addict, always an addict.” While it’s true that addiction is irreversible, it can be cured. A cure is defined as “the absence of symptoms.” Once an addict is free of the desire ever to use again, the healing has taken place. When a person learns how to replace self-destruction with self-love, that person walks away from addiction like any other bad relationship.

Having a sound support system also is key to remaining abstinent. While it’s essential to understand the causes and remedies for addiction, it’s not enough. As much as anything, addiction is a disease of aloneness. The relationship with alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, or sex must be replaced with caring relationships. Most addicts have suffered betrayal. A relationship built on trust is essential to long-term healing. Working with a skilled therapist is often the first step in learning how to have a reliable, consistent relationship built on honest, healing communication.

Every life is of great value and has a purpose. We are born to be loved and to grow up feeling good about ourselves. Addictions rob humans of their true essence and meaning. We are here to share and receive love; instead, we have replaced loving relationships with deadly addictions. It’s time for us to reclaim our minds and our power so that we fulfill our life purpose and enjoy the happiness we are meant to have.

If you want to connect with Dr. Donna Marks, and find out about her tools and programs on how to Reclaim Your Power Over Addiction, visit her website

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