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The human brain is an extremely complex organ. With its precarious chemical balance, the introduction of a hormone can wreak havoc in many profound ways. Take alcoholism as an example: It may seem harmless to have the occasional drink, but alcohol can quick change the brain in profound structural and functional ways, resulting in a complex and potentially deadly disease. But even without disease, the brain can lead evoke some extremely bizarre behaviors, whether it’s making people feel entitled or rationalizing legislation that leaves addicts with no access to substance abuse treatment.

This week, we’re talking about the impending legislation that will replace Obama’s Affordable Care Act; according to analysts, Trump’s health care re-reform could exacerbate the current opioid epidemic. Additionally, there’s further evidence of the connection between childhood emotional trauma and addiction in adulthood. Last but not least, a recent article identifies a new addiction that could potentially be even more dangerous than alcohol and drugs.

Could Republicans’ health care bill make addiction crisis worse?

As we’re all acutely aware, the Trump Administration has made it their mission to replace Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has been colloquially known as ‘Obamacare’. Among the many changes enacted by Obama’s divisive legislation, the health care reforms made medical coverage more accessible to millions of more people and even made addiction an essential health benefit, coverable by most insurance plans. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump expressed having no interest in making legislative changes that would cause people to lose their newfound coverage or make it more difficult to receive the medical treatments they need; however, it wasn’t long after his inauguration that Trump stated his intent to repeal Obamacare and implement some new legislation pertaining to health coverage.

There have been a number of reports lately regarding the impending legislative changes and what they might mean for various people, but the most recent reports suggest that ‘Trumpcare’ could actually exacerbate the United States’ addiction crisis. But how?

When Obama signed Obamacare into law, the legislation declared ten types of care to be designated as essential health benefits, which essentially meant that individual plans in the marketplace, Medicaid, and Medicare would be required to cover those types of care. Among those ten health benefits was mental health treatment for substance abuse problems, which has been one of the most acclaimed features of Obamacare. What was previously one of the most prohibitive aspects of treatment — the potentially high cost — instantly became much less an obstacle, making quality addiction treatment accessible to many more of the people who needed it. Unfortunately, the latest information suggests that substance abuse treatment will no longer be an essential health benefit. In fact, there may be no essential health benefits at all.

Largely the brainchild of members of the Republican party, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is an imminent bill that would effectively repeal the essential health benefits for insurers in the individual marketplace. Prior to Obamacare, people with pre-existing conditions, substance abuse problems, and other serious medical problems would have to search for health insurance plans that offered the coverage they needed; in many cases, this meant having to pay a significantly higher premium for the needed coverage. It was even a possibility that a person could be denied coverage altogether if insurance companies deemed that offering that individual coverage would be more costly and, therefore, not in their best interests. In effect, repealing the essential health benefits of Obamacare would be tantamount to a return to individuals struggling to find, pay for, and keep health insurance coverage that met their medical needs.

If substance abuse treatment was no longer covered by health insurance plans, the Americans who would lose access to treatment for addiction would number in the millions. In turn, there would be an increase in the number of annual overdose deaths, which is already at an all-time high, according to the latest federal data. With the passing of the American Health Care Act as currently proposed, even federal health plans like Medicaid and Medicare would lose essential health benefits, so the negative effects of this bill could be devastating. We will have to continue monitoring the situation as we move forward. Although analysts aren’t optimistic, there’s still a chance that the upcoming health care re-reform may not strip those in need of the substance abuse treatment that would otherwise be much less accessible.

Childhood trauma once again linked to adult addiction

One of the many things we’ve learned through years of addiction research is that there are many different circumstances that can lead a person to develop an addiction. In particular, there have been many studies to have connected the experience of trauma in a person’s childhood to the development of addiction in his or her adulthood, so this isn’t exactly unheard of; however, new evidence has strengthened the connection between childhood trauma and addiction.

Led by a team of researchers and investigators at the University of Vermont, the study found evidence that emotional abuse and “negative urgency” during childhood were related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which, in turn, is known to sometimes result in addiction. Therefore, with posttraumatic stress disorder as the connective tissue, there’s a strong relationship between childhood trauma and addiction. In particular, childhood emotional abuse was found to be the strongest indicator of addiction in adulthood compared to other types of abuse, including physical and sexual.

According to the researchers, emotional abuse during childhood resulted in a sense of negative urgency, which is what resulted in posttraumatic stress. Over time, the victims of childhood emotional abuse would become increasingly agitated by their posttraumatic stress, eventually reaching the point of being so desperate as to resort to alcohol and/or drugs as a means of alleviating their stress. In fact, self-medication with opioids was observed among the study subjects particularly frequently, which is consistent with the surge in opioid use among drug users that we’ve seen in recent years.

Again, the relationship between childhood trauma and addiction in adulthood isn’t new, so why is this study important? There are a couple key reasons why it’s important. For one thing, increased susceptibility to addiction — as well as the many lasting effects in general — should be part of our crusade against violence toward children. As well, it shows the potential importance that abuse counseling can have for an individual who has developed a substance abuse problem while attempting to self-medicate for posttraumatic stress resulting from childhood abuse.

Entitlement: The most dangerous addiction of all?

It’s often said that millennials are the most entitled generation as it’s the first generation to receive trophies merely for participating. However, some have suggested that entitlement has become a problem on a grander scale. A common example that’s often given is the many able-bodied citizens who receive federal assistance in the form of welfare, subsidized housing, food stamps, and other types of aid instead of having to support themselves.

Let’s consider, for a moment, the mere word “entitlement”, which essentially refers to the tendency to want something for nothing. To be more specific, someone who’s entitled wants things handed to him or her, including those things that are expensive or hard-won. Those who are entitled don’t feel they should have to exert themselves or earn privileges and, instead, want things to be provided to them merely at request. According to a report in National Review, entitlement in the United States has become an addiction that stands to be at least as dangerous and destructive as addictions to alcohol and drugs.

In the article, the illustration used to portray addiction to entitlement is the infrequency with which people who receive federal aid give up the aid to support themselves compared to the number of people who seek treatment to overcome alcoholism and drug addiction. As well, entitlement is suggested to be behind many individuals’ motivations, including those of politicians; those who are entitled tend to support entitlements while those who aren’t entitled wish to be. But part of what makes entitlement addiction so dangerous is that nobody sees it as an addiction and we’re often blind to entitlement, making it a ‘silent killer’.

Interestingly, entitlement addiction and chemical dependency are portrayed as being opposing views. For instance, those who are entitled feel that society owes them something while those who are addicted to drugs don’t often feel that they’re owed the alcohol or drugs to which they’re addicted. Of course, addicts recognize that they need these substances, but they don’t feel entitled to them or as though others should be readily providing them.

There’s also the potential for entitlement to bring whole societies to their knees. One of the key tenets of entitlement is that a person feels he or she is owed something; of course, if the person is receiving that to which he or she feels entitled while others aren’t, there can be a significant cultural upset.

Unfortunately, many Americans feel entitled in some ways. But are we actually addicted to entitlement? It’s difficult to say. In some instances, it certainly seems like Americans are addicted to entitlement since we’re becoming increasingly expectant to receive something for nothing. Oftentimes we talk of entitlement with regard to politics and how most legislation entitles some while excluding others. Whether or not we’re actually addicted to entitlement, the important thing is to be wary of this susceptibility as entitlement is an extremely dangerous habit in which to get.