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What causes addiction, and why is it so hard to treat? - Judy Grisel


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As of 2021, more than 36 million people were estimated to be experiencing substance use disorder. This condition spans a spectrum of patterned drug use that causes issues in a person’s life, with substance addiction at the more severe end. Why are some people more susceptible to addiction, and why can it be so difficult to treat? Judy Grisel takes a look at how addictive drugs affect the body.

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More than 10,000 people die every day around the globe as a result of excessive drug use. 

Addictive disorders develop as the brain adapts to counteract frequent dosing, and while we’re capable of learning throughout our lifetime, because our brains are especially malleable or “plastic” during development, experiences during childhood have an outsized impact on who we become. The brain is particularly primed for experiencing pleasure during the period of adolescence between puberty and approximately age 25 when the brain reaches its mature state. A study of more than 5,000 people followed from their teens to middle age confirmed that addiction is largely a developmental disorder, usually beginning during adolescence. In fact, one in four Americans who excessively use any addictive substance before age 18 develop an addiction, compared to only one in 25 who start using at age 21 or later.

People, including kids, use drugs to cope with states of boredom, anxiety, and depression. Effectively treating addiction will depend on providing kids support for coping with life’s challenges as well as access to stimulating and developmentally appropriate experiences.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Judy Grisel
  • Director Gabriella Marsh
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Composer André Aires
  • Sound Designer André Aires
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Produced by Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Cella Wright
  • Script Editor Shannon Odell

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