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Addiction refers to intense yearning for something we cannot control. Addicts continue to use the substance of their addiction despite knowing the adverse effect it has on them and those close to them. Addiction transforms the brain functions by disrupting the way it transmits pleasure signals.
It corrupts the normal brain functions that encourage learning and inspiration. It is easy to get into an addiction, but overcoming it is very hard. This paper looks at the causes of addiction, hindrances to recovery, and the causes of relapse or successful recovery using the life of Whitney Houston as a model.
A Short Background on Whitney Houston’s Life
Whitney Houston was conceived in a middle-class community in Newark, New Jersey on August 9th, 1963. She was the third-born child of entertainment director John Russell Houston and talented gospel musician Cissy Houston. Young Houston announced her first album at a tender age of twenty two.
Three singles on that album attained the number one spot. She later released other number one hit singles and even won a Grammy award. However, her career suffered when she married Bobby, who many suspect introduced her to drugs. Bobby Brown is on record denying these claims saying that Whitney had been already hooked to drugs when they met.
Whitney’s success goes beyond just music as she had successful roles in movies and modeling. She played a role in the movie The bodyguard and was the cover model for the magazine Seventeen in 1980. Whitney is listed as the most decorated female musician in the Guinness Book of World Records due to musical prowess. Her musical success and achievements are, however, overshadowed by her battle with drug addiction, days in court and a rocky marriage to Bobby Brown.
In 2002, Whitney confessed to using cocaine, alcohol, prescription drugs, and marijuana in an interview with Diane Sawyer. She was admitted into rehab in 2004, but relapsed and was admitted back in 2005 and subsequently in 2011. In 2012, Whitney died in a room at a Hotel in Los Angeles due to drug related complications.
The Nature of Whitney’s Addiction
Environmental signals escalate the movement of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the human brain. Dopamine influences the desire or craving an addict feels towards the object of addiction and is the main reason why we crave certain things like drugs and chocolate. The drug abused by Whitney Houston was mostly cocaine. Cocaine excites its users and increases their craving. It works by accelerating the movement of dopamine into the pleasure center of the brain and leaves the user drained.
Whitney abused cocaine in its smoked form (crack), which is more intoxicating than taking it in its powder form. Crack also works as an efficient aphrodisiac. This is probably why it is one of the most frequently abused drugs by celebrities besides marijuana. Years of abusing crack must have severely altered the chemistry of Whitney Houston’s brain.
To understand Whitney Houston’s addiction, we also need to look at her as a woman. The major impact of a woman’s addiction is psychological. Women appear to consume intoxicating drugs for different intentions from men. Their incentives for abusing drugs are particular and individual.
Whitney’s addiction was probably for mood management and not risk-taking or thrill. Another factor that complicates women’s fight against addiction is that they are less inclined to seek rehabilitation than their male counterparts. It took Whitney Houston until 2004 to enter rehab despite the fact that she was already using crack before she met Bobby. If she had sought help earlier, perhaps she could have been salvaged.
Progression of the Addiction
Like many other addicts, Whitney Houston probably began her use of drugs with a simple snort or puff. Though the age at which she started her use of drugs is not clear, she was on drugs for a major part of her life. Her elder brother Michael, whom she looked up to was a user and confided in Oprah that he introduced her younger sister Whitney to drugs. This shows the influence that addicted family members have on the lives of those who look up to them.
Whitney’s marriage in 1992 to Bobby Brown marked a major period in her abuse of multiple drugs. Bobby was a confessed addict of crack and marijuana and was an abusive husband. The maltreatment she received in her rocky marriage drove Whitney further down the self-destructive path of substance abuse. She used drugs to forget her marital turmoil. By the time they divorced in 2007, Whitney had already been in rehab three times.
The age at which Whitney got into celebrity life and strains that came with such life further accelerated her dependence drugs and alcohol. She had to meet strict deadlines and be a mother and a wife simultaneously. Such pressure can take its toll on even the strongest person. Her journey into addiction was gradual and steady as she was surrounded by other users and people who could not advise her to stop. By the time she went into rehab, Whitney was already far down the addiction path. Perhaps an earlier intervention could have saved her life.
Signs and Symptoms of the Addiction
When the high caused be cocaine deteriorates, the user becomes restless, short-tempered and uncomfortable. The user has problems with sleep and craves more of the substance. This could explain Whitney’s run-ins with the law in the later part of her addiction. She became increasingly irritable and even had an altercation with a flight attendant. She missed appointments and turned up late to performances. She became less concerned about her physical appearance and was increasingly careless about her public image.
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Reasons for Her Relapses and Failure to Recover Successfully
Though it is not easy and takes much effort, recovery from cocaine addiction is certainly possible. However, there are several barriers that can hinder this recovery. In Whitney’s case, the first barrier was her family. Whitney Houston did not receive sufficient support from her family that could have helped in her recovery.
It was hard enough dealing with rehabilitation on its own, but Whitney also had to deal with divorce cases and cases involving the inheritance of her father’s estate. Those emotional roller coasters did not provide the proper environment for recovery. In addition, Whitney should have distanced herself from Bobby who reminded her of her drug problem. To her, Bobby was a trigger and the main cause of her relapses.
Another obstacle to effective recovery is a denial of the addiction. Throughout the early stages of her addiction, Whitney denied having an addiction problem and took over ten years to seek help. It is not just enough for a person to concede that they have a problem, they must also seek professional help in dealing with the problem. Most celebrities (like Whitney) see confession to addiction as a blow to their carrier and prefer to suffer silently until it is too late.
People (even celebrities) use drugs for several reasons. However, the effects of drugs are far-reaching and can lead to loss of life. Addiction can be rehabilitated with proper therapy if detected early. Family and friends must take initiatives to help addicts conquer their substance addiction. The addicts themselves also need to recognize that they have a problem and deliberately seek professional help.