Addiction Is “A Solution” that Becomes “The Problem”

Depressed addict is praying

The often false, painful and confusing narrative of how a person becomes addictive is at the center of much debate. For many years, addiction was seen as a problem for the inner city, or the morally weak. Worse, when a person didn't fit this narrative, they were labeled with different terms. “Functional,” “binge drinker,” “alcoholic” —these are all terms used to explain why some individuals did not fit the stereotype of a drug addict. Claiming someone was functional explained away the individuals who continued to work and hold jobs while actively using cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. Binge drinker was used to explain why some people didn't always need to drink, instead, they only drank in binges. The term alcoholic was used to separate the more socially acceptable users of alcohol from the heroin addict. Certainly there were other reasons for these terms, other differences, but they also supported the narrative that drug addiction resulted from a moral deficit.

So if it's not a moral deficit and the term “disease” doesn't seem to quite fit, how do we explain the behavioral changes that accompany addiction?

There’s usually a basic concept a person has when he first starts taking drugs or drinking. He usually thinks that using those substances will solve a problem for him. What he doesn’t anticipate is that the use of substances will end up creating far more severe problems.

Some of the Problems that Drug and Alcohol Use Appear to Solve

Even if you do not personally use drugs or alcohol, you’ve probably heard some of the following concepts. These are the advertisements, peer pressures, or so-called “logics” surrounding drugs and alcohol:

  • Alcohol. Want to relax? Ease your mind? People who frequently drink alcohol will say that this is what alcohol does for them. Not only that, but alcohol is advertised and marketed by manufacturers to sell that idea.
  • Marijuana. Want to fit in? Or want to relax after a long day at work? Proponents of marijuana will say that this drug helps them “fit in” in social settings. They’ll also say that marijuana use can be a relaxing pastime, a way to unwind, chill out, and “pass the time with ease” after a hard day at work.
  • Cocaine. People take cocaine to have fun at parties, to have more energy, to get along with others who are taking the drug, to be a part of “the scene,” etc. There’s this idea that cocaine is supposed to give you a rush of energy. But it’s not mentioned that the “rush of energy” comes with reduced judgment, carelessness for safety or security, and a general reduction of one's inhibitions.
  • Prescription opioids. Marketed as a “fix” to physical pain and discomfort, opioid pills are sold as a solution in a bottle. But they never actually fix the source of the pain. They only mask the symptoms of it.
  • Heroin. A Very Well Mind article talks about how, for many users, heroin use today is more about numbing pain than it is about feeling good, which is a change from the incentives behind heroin use in previous decades. A lot of people use heroin today to “solve” the problem of pain. Many heroin users today are individuals who started with prescription opioids. Then they went on to heroin when prescription drugs became unaffordable or unworkable for them.
  • Methamphetamine. When people use meth, it causes a significant release of dopamine within the brain. Dopamine is the “feel-good chemical.” Simply stated, this causes users to feel good, to experience a rush of euphoria. It sounds good on paper, but proponents of the drug never tell you about the harmful nature of the drug. They never talk about the side effects, the habit-forming aspects of it, or the fact that the good feelings achieved from it become more elusive the more the person uses the drug.

Some of the Problems That Drug and Alcohol Use Actually Create

A man sitting with a glass of alcohol.

Drug and alcohol use has a unique nature to it with probably no precedent in human character or lifestyle in history. Drug and alcohol use is one of the only conditions in which we seek a “solution" to various problems within our lives, only to have the “solution” become more harmful than the original problem was.

The healthcare website for the province of Alberta, Canada, has a long list of questions for people who use drugs and alcohol. These open-ended questions evoke thought and reflection. They lead readers to consider how their drug use (or their loved one’s drug use) might be affecting life overall.

Along that same line of thinking, consider the following:

  • The “remedy” of drinking at night to forget stress from work ends up losing the person his job due to showing up at work drunk one morning.
  • The “solution” of smoking marijuana when the wife is stressing one out ends up losing the person his wife. And it makes it rather challenging for him to find healthy relationships going forward.
  • The “relief” one gets from using marijuana right after work leads to a drugged driving accident. That causes severe physical damage, making it impossible to even show up for work. Out of a job, no more income, problems ensue.
  • The “energy” one gets from using cocaine, a habit the person started so he could “get more done,” is now causing him to get less done because he’s spending so much time seeking out more cocaine.
  • The “surge of euphoria” one got from using methamphetamine to get out of feeling depressed ends up causing public havoc, arrest, incarceration, etc. Now he has a lot more depression and sadness living in a jail cell than he ever had before.
  • The “relaxation” one sought from heroin use leads to the very opposite of relaxation in the form of mind-numbing withdrawal symptoms and intense, painful cravings for the drug. Anything but relaxing.
  • The “ease of social engagement” one thought he’d get in a night out drinking leads to a drunk driving accident, hospitalization, and jail time. Now social engagement isn’t even a problem worthy of consideration, as the person has much more severe difficulties on his hands.
  • The “pain-free living” sought in the form of an opioid pain reliever pill ends up leading to tolerance-building, self-medication, chemical dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and illegal drug-seeking habits. What started as back pain becomes full-body pain with a costly, illicit drug habit to boot.

What all this shows is that a lifestyle of taking drugs or drinking (a daily path that one began to walk to solve a problem), ended up creating several more problems in multiple areas of the person’s life. This has a cumulative effect, with more harm caused the more the person uses drugs and alcohol. Before he knows it, the original problem he sought to solve is more or less forgotten. The new, drug or alcohol-created problem essentially takes over his life. It causes a severely reduced quality of living and many other struggles.

Addiction Affects All Aspects of a Person’s Life

It serves us some benefit to look at the varying reasons why people turn to drugs and alcohol, in the first place. It is also helpful to examine which aspects of a person’s life are then negatively affected once they start misusing substances. But the truth is, once a person becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, that habit affects all aspects of his life.

That is why there is never a “good reason” to use drugs and alcohol. Drug and alcohol use set off a series of events and reactions which lead to the point where the proposed “solution” becomes an even greater crisis than one’s previous struggles ever were.

Getting Help for Yourself or a Loved One

Addiction is a crippling affliction, a harsh condition, and a problem of growing severity the longer it is left untreated. Thankfully, addiction can be successfully treated with the help of a residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. Residential drug rehabs possess the tools to reverse the dwindling spiral of addiction, to help people overcome the crippling and seemingly unavoidable presence of addiction in their lives.

Substance abuse may start as a seemingly sensible “solution” to problems to be faced in one’s life. But before long, drug use or alcohol misuse becomes an even more significant problem than the original issue or difficulty was. Before long, the addiction becomes the most severe problem in a person’s life. It’s even life-threatening, and it could prove to be fatal if the person does not seek help.

Don’t let what you thought was a solution to your problems become your downfall. If you are struggling with an addiction or if you know someone who is, seek help from a qualified, residential drug and alcohol rehab center today.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.