All About Addiction and Dental Issues



When people hear the word “addiction,” they think of drugs.

When they think of drugs, they think of the homeless, prostituting, criminal, physically and psychologically-dependent drug junkie. But this image, which was created through education and the media, has nothing to do with addiction.

The pharmaceutical industry is very much interested in presenting a substance-based, linear career of addiction, which – you guessed it – can only be treated with medication. The success of the pharmaceutical industry can be demonstrated in the area of nutritional supplements. Today, there are thousands of homeopathic preparations, pills, vitamin substitutes, and coenzymes that claim to fight against all kinds of deficiency symptoms. However, hospitals in industrialized countries are not filled with people suffering from deficiencies, but from people suffering from “affluenza”.

Nevertheless, the market thrives – why? The list of societal problems today is long: Envy, anxiety about the future, frustration about one’s job, lack of time, an increase of unethical conflicts in private as well as public life, the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources, the careless handling of environmental resources, and the loss of human values.

The individual is surrounded by a boundless omnipotence in which youthfulness and capability can be bought, and in which death and disease seem to be controllable. This strains us; people are exhausted, and rightly so. The pharmaceutical industry cleverly interprets this as a deficiency.

This can take on a curious light, as in the following example. For a long time, there was no word for “depression” in Japan. A slightly depressive old man was seen as wise, and his mood was referred to as a kind of “wise melancholy.” Thirty years ago, the term “depression” did not exist in Japan. These men were respected until the pharmaceutical industry in Japan introduced the term “depression” through universities, general practitioners, and marketing.

Then, matching medication was introduced and, no surprise, there were suddenly depressed people. But there must be a reason, of course, why all pharmaceutical giants invest umpteen times more money in marketing than in research

Whether a supposedly addictive substance is legal or illegal is primarily decided by political and economic aspects, not, unfortunately, by ethical ones. Again and again, parts of the population are called “addicts” and subjected to society’s control. For example, in the United States, LSD could be bought in pharmacies for a long time, and cannabis in Holland, etc. At present, we are experiencing a paradigm shift with nicotine, but, unfortunately, not yet with alcohol.

Such views about addiction are unreasonable and will not end people’s suffering. Addiction is not substance-based; for example, addictions to work, sex, computers, shopping, eating, and vomiting are not substance-based addictions. Thus, how we define addictions does not depend on the type of substance. Furthermore, we should not forget that in the end, the way we evaluate something depends on our state of knowledge.

We form our opinions on the present based on our past and on the knowledge we have acquired in the process. Thus, the term “addiction” cannot be judged in black and white, in terms of those included and those excluded, or in terms of right or wrong.

Medical research concerning addiction is still in the early stages. It began almost at the same time that people began to differentiate between objective health and subjective wellness in medicine. Scientifically, it was recognized very early on that there were no classic addictive substances. Now the focus in medicine is directed more towards addictive personalities. In general, the term “addiction” is still a very young word. There are many explanation models for addiction in sociology; however, we find the model presenting addiction as a social construct very interesting.

Whether you’re addicted or not, every substance that is used excessively can harm the body. Smoking primarily harms the periodontal apparatus, which may lead to receding gums and even to tooth loss – more on that in the videos "Periodontitis Treatment" and "Periodontology". The tooth decay visible in many substance-based addicts is only rarely traced back to the addictive substance. Instead, tooth decay is a component of the physical neglect that takes place in many cases of substance addiction.

The dental problems such people face are hardly different from those of non-addicted patients; the only difference is that the diseases are more advanced and have already created more damage – caries, periodontitis, abscesses, root fragments, and infected wisdom teeth can be found here and there.

From the view of dentistry, it makes sense to offer addiction patients a regular recall schedule and to adjust individual treatment to the respective situation. In general, it’s important not to reproach the patient regarding the condition of his teeth; this is particularly true in cases of addiction.

This post is also available in: German

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