Addiction: Craving What Harms Us

According to recent data provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine, substance abuse disorders affect more than 20 million Americans. The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 2.5 million American middle and high school students use e-cigarettes. In a recent online survey, 48% of all respondents considered themselves addicted or somewhat addicted to digital devices, and psychologists estimate 10% of Americans are addicted to work.

Steven Herrera eventually overcame his heroin addiction with help from those who love him. (Photo by Brandon Santa Maria/Kokopelli)

There’s nothing wrong with engaging in behavior that makes us feel good. It’s not wrong to want to experience pleasure or to seek out whatever brings us joy. However, when these compulsions become so extreme that our behavior harms us or puts others at risk, there’s a good chance we’ve crossed over into addiction. 

When drinking or taking pills or using chemical substances or vaping or playing video games or shopping or working becomes so extreme it begins to have a negative effect on our lives, it’s likely we’ve crossed over into addiction.

But why do we do things that harm us? Why do we crave destructive habits and patterns? According to the National Institutes of Health, genetic and environmental factors — especially when our minds and bodies are still growing and developing — can make us more susceptible to addictive behaviors.  

Beyond genetics, environmental factors can drive addiction. The isolation, the frustration and fear generated by the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a mental health crisis across the world that caused many to develop addictions to behaviors that may have started out as coping mechanisms. In the end, the root causes of addiction are varied and complex. 

In the stories linked below, Kokopelli staff reporters take a deeper look into behaviors people in America are most addicted to in order to analyze common habitual patterns, and to provide resources for understanding addiction and for finding help. 

‘Study drugs’ on the rise

A 24-year-old graduate student studying at Concordia University Wisconsin struggled with concentration issues due to PTSD. The student's boyfriend suggested ...
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Excessive screen time increases depression, anxiety

In the modern world, many would agree that it is nearly impossible to spend an entire day without using technology, ...
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Las Cruces native overcomes alcohol dependency

Alcohol consumption can develop into a disease that can go unnoticed until something noticeably bad happens. Research data show that ...
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Homelessness, addiction go hand in hand

Aimee Martinez was homeless by the time she was just 19. Her trouble with addiction led to her being outcast ...
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Excessive gaming plagues young people

It’s June 2020, and everyone is at home in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With not much to do, ...
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Tobacco industry thrives on addiction

Nearly every person in America can name someone they've known who is or was addicted to nicotine. Some might think ...
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Caffeine: America’s substance of choice

Caffeine addiction is one of the most common addictions in North America. According to the Journal of Food Science, 90% ...
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Heroin addiction puts family to the test

It was a clear morning with a chilly breeze in the wind when Steven Herrera woke up sluggishly after another ...
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‘Retail therapy’ potentially harmful to both consumer and environment

To cope with stress and anxiety, NMSU student Dolores Melchor practices retail therapy for exactly the reasons the name suggests, ...
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Workaholism can lead to burnout

Time. It’s something that many college students cannot get enough of. From studying into the late evening hours to attending ...
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