Overcoming Addiction Once Lowers The Risk Of Developing a New Addiction
Contrary to previous belief, a new study says people who manage to get clean after being addicted to drugs are at lower risk of developing an addiction to another substance compared to those who never overcame the fist substance use disorder.
“The results are surprising, they cut against conventional clinical lore which holds that people who stop one addiction are at increased risk of picking up a new one,” said senior author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “The results challenge the old stereotype that people switch or substitute addictions but never truly overcome them,” Olfson told Reuters Health.
Olfon’s team also found that getting over substance addiction reduces criminal activity, improves health and social functioning, and can raise overall quality of life according to the report in JAMA Psychiatry.
Despite their findings, the team also points out that research into the common assumption that former addicts are vulnerable to another addiction has so far produced mixed results.
The latest study used nationally representative data from surveys undertaken in 2001 and 2004, then they compared the occurrence of a new addiction among the adults who initially had at least on substance addiction.
For the surveys nearly 35,000 people were asked about their use of sedatives, tranquilizers, painkillers, stimulants, cannabis, cocaine, or crack, hallucinogens, inhalants, heroin, alcohol and nicotine dependence. Participants were then surveyed again three years later.
About 20 percent of participants developed addictions to a new substance by the third year after the initial survey. That includes 27 percent of those who had not gotten clean from their original addiction and 13 percent of those who had gotten clean.
After adjusting for other factors, the researchers saw that those who had overcome their substance abuse disorder had less than half of the risk of developing a new condition compared to those who didn’t overcome their initial disorder.
“While it would be foolish to assume that people who quit one drug have no risk of becoming addicted to another drug, the new results should give encouragement to people who succeed in overcoming an addiction,” Olfson said.
Young, unmarried men with psychiatric problems in addition to substance abuse were most likely to develop a new substance use disorder during the study.
It has been widely believed that quitting one addiction still left individuals at risk for substituting another substance, but there is little scientific evidence to support the so-called “substitution hypothesis”.