The New York Times calls it “America’s 50-state epidemic” because of its ruthless ability to transcend social and economic classes, city and state boundaries, friendships and even family bonds. The CDC matter-of-factly says that the U.S. “is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.”
The facts paint a picture: Opioid overdoses are at an all-time high in the U.S., with more than 33,000 overdose cases in 2015 alone, a record. Nearly half of those involved a prescription opioid. And while genetic predisposition accounts for about 50 percent of the likelihood that a person will develop an addiction, studies still show that one in seven Americans is expected to develop some kind of substance use disorder at some point during his or her life.
But while the facts are clear cut, the reason why addition can’t be shaken isn’t quite so black and white. Addiction is a progressive, chronic disease that literally changes the brain’s reward, memory and motivation circuits, altering how it receives and processes information. That’s why we’ve partnered with Caron Treatment Centers to understand what’s going on inside an addicted brain. Check out the four stages of addiction below. (Click on the names of each stage to learn more.)