Drug addiction can affect anyone, regardless of race, age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, many people struggling with drug addiction feel ashamed and embarrassed to ask for help. They may feel like they are the only person dealing with this problem. In reality, drug addiction is a very real and common problem affecting millions of people.
Addiction is a disease that can be difficult to overcome without help. This article will discuss drug addiction and how you can get help for yourself or someone you love.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that can be difficult to overcome without help. Also known as substance use disorder, drug addiction is a disease that leads to an inability to control the use of a medication or drug (legal or illegal).
Addiction causes changes in a person’s behavior, brain structure, and function that make it hard for someone addicted to quit drug use on their own. Drug addiction is characterized by uncontrollable drug use and drug-seeking behaviors despite harmful consequences.
These drug-seeking behaviors are often due to cravings, and drug addiction can result in intense drug-seeking behaviors even after long periods of abstinence.
The Cause of Drug Addiction: Where Does it Start?
Drug addiction is a complex disease that has many different possible causes. These can include genetic predisposition, drug use history, individual characteristics, and psychological factors such as stress or anxiety levels in your everyday life.
For some people, drug addiction starts by using drugs recreationally to cope with stressors at work or school, such as poor exams or feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities. Experimental use can also start in social situations, becoming more frequent for some individuals.
For other people, drug addiction starts with prescription medications, whether a person has been prescribed one or receives it from someone else they know. This is typically the case with exposure to opioid painkillers.
Some substances that can be addictive, dangerous, and even deadly include:
- Sedative-hypnotics, such as barbiturates
- Stimulants such as amphetamine and cocaine
- Club drugs, such as MDMA and ketamine
- Inhalants, such as paint thinners or household aerosol products
It’s important to note that cannabis, hallucinogens, and nicotine are classified as drugs.
How Drug Addiction Progresses
As drug addiction progresses, an addict will need drugs to feel normal and may start using drugs in situations where it’s unsafe or illegal to do so.
The risk and danger of addiction, including how quickly a person can become addicted, differ depending on the drug. Some drugs, such as opioids, have a higher risk of drug addiction, typically leading to addiction more quickly than other drugs.
As drug addiction progresses, addicts will often lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and isolate themselves from friends and family members. They may also begin to engage in secretive, risky, or criminal activity to get money to buy drugs.
How to Recognize Unhealthy Drug Use or Drug Addiction in Others
The first step in overcoming drug addiction is recognizing that there’s a problem. Sometimes drug addiction can be extremely difficult to spot in someone you love. It’s even more difficult if the drug addiction is hidden due to prescription drug use or social drug use like marijuana.
Furthermore, the signs of drug addiction, unhealthy drug use, or intoxication tend to vary depending on the drug type.
In general, some helpful signs to look for that may indicate your child or loved one is engaging in risky drug behaviors include:
- Neglected appearance – lack of maintenance and interest in looks, including grooming and clothing
- Physical health issues – weight changes, lack of energy, red eyes
- Sudden changes in mood and behavior – may become highly secretive; changes can also be more drastic and include becoming irritable, angry, or argumentative.
- Money problems – stealing or borrowing money without a reasonable explanation; missing items from home sold to support a drug addiction.
- Poor performance or problems and work or school (i.e., lower grades, frequently missing days) due to loss of interest.
If you notice any of these signs, talk to your child or loved one about drug addiction and find help right away. Treatment for drug addiction is available and can be extremely successful if caught early.
When to Seek Help for Yourself
If you’re unsure whether you have a drug addiction but your drug use is getting out of control or causing problems in your life, make an appointment with your doctor.
A few reasons to seek the help of your primary healthcare provider or a mental health professional include:
- You can’t stop your drug use.
- You take more of the drug to get the same high or feeling.
- You’re engaging in unsafe behaviors due to your drug use, such as unprotected sex, sharing needles, or drug use while operating a motor vehicle.
- You continue using a drug despite the harm it is causing.
- Your drug use makes it difficult to maintain relationships with friends and family.
- You’ve lost touch with some friends and distanced yourself from other family members.
- You neglect your responsibilities and important activities, such as work or school, in favor of drug use.
- You avoid or relieve drug cravings, anxiety, or depression with drug use.
- You have drug cravings or believe that drug withdrawal symptoms are present when you stop using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms may include drug cravings, intense drug urges, depression, drug sweats, chills, nausea, and vomiting.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek help. While there is no cure for drug addiction, treatment is available to help you overcome it, and the sooner you seek help, the better.
Treatment Options for Drug Addiction
A licensed alcohol and drug counselor, psychologist, or doctor specializing in addiction psychiatry or addiction medicine can perform a thorough evaluation to diagnose drug addiction.
There are many different types of drug addiction treatment available, and the most effective type of treatment depends on the individual’s needs. Your treatment route will depend on how long you have used a particular drug and any related mental health or medical issues.
Detoxification (“detox”) is the first step in drug addiction treatment. It may be recommended if you have been using a drug for a long time, have health problems related to drug use, or are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification removes the drug from your system under medical supervision.
Inpatient drug rehab programs offer around-the-clock care and supervision in a residential setting. They are recommended for people with severe drug addiction or co-occurring mental health issues.
Outpatient drug rehab programs offer treatment during the day, evening, or weekend. They do not require that you live at the treatment facility. This program is typically for people with less severe drug addictions or co-occurring mental health issues.
Therapy and Support for Drug Addiction
Individual or group therapy may help you address the psychological factors contributing to drug addiction.
Medications may also be prescribed as part of your treatment plan for drug addiction. These medications can include naltrexone (ReVia, Vivitrol), which helps reduce cravings for alcohol or opioids, and acamprosate (Campral), which helps reduce cravings for alcohol.
Behavioral therapies, such as contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy, are effective drug addiction treatments. These therapies help you learn how to manage drug cravings and triggers, abstain from drug use, and cope with problems and stressors that may lead to drug use.
Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can also be helpful during drug addiction treatment. These groups offer peer support and positive reinforcement to help you stay motivated in your recovery.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Drug Addiction
If you’re struggling with drug addiction, there’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. You’re not alone – drug addiction is a common problem.
It is important to remember that drug addiction is a chronic disease, and relapse is common. But like many other diseases, it can also be treated – more than once if necessary.
All of the above treatments prioritize and teach strategies for relapse prevention, so you can overcome your addiction and stay drug-free.