Drug addiction is a condition that affects millions of individuals and their families every day. The devastation that drug addiction leaves in its wake can be felt in relationships, careers and the health of the individual struggling with the disease. Sadly, the majority of people who suffer from a drug addiction will never seek the help they need. Instead of contacting a drug rehab facility, they will remain isolated, falling deeper and deeper into the cycle of addiction over the course of time. The following information is designed to help individuals who believe they may have an addiction to drugs, as well as concerned family and friends who want to help but are not sure where to begin.
From marijuana to prescription painkillers, drug addiction is a condition that can strike anyone at any time. A dependence on illicit or prescription drugs can cause individuals to lose their families, their jobs or even their lives. And while millions of individuals who develop drug addictions get the help they need from rehab programs, many more live their lives without treatment, suffering alone in isolation as they fall deeper and deeper into a desperate cycle.
If you would like to learn more about our inpatient drug addiction treatment program here in Palm Springs, California, we’re here to help. Call us at Michael’s House today at 877-345-8494 and get the addiction help you need.
The Medical Definition
Experts define drug addiction as a strong, unceasing craving for a drug, even when the individual is aware of the risks and potential harm that the drug can bring about. Patients with a drug addiction will exhibit certain signs and symptoms of their condition, including:
- Mood swings from euphoria to depression or rage
- Anxious or restless behavior
- Paranoia or delusional behavior
- Manic levels of energy
- Secretive behavior
- Theft or other unlawful behavior
- Intense craving for the drug in question
- Withdrawal symptoms experienced when use stops
- Developed a tolerance to the drug1
- Unable to stop despite knowing the harm caused2
Though medical professionals may disagree on the specifics, it is generally agreed that in order to be technically classified as having a drug addiction, individuals must display any one or more of the symptoms above for a period of no less than a year, according to the National Institutes of Health.
1: In other words, they need more and more of the substance over time in order to obtain the desired euphoric or stimulant effect.
2: In terms of their health, personal relationships, well-being and/or finances.
Heroin addiction. This powerful opiate remains one of the most dangerous in the world. The constant fear of overdose, long-term health problems and the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS all make heroin addiction a certified killer.
Marijuana addiction. While medical professionals debate whether or not marijuana is technically addictive, the drug continues to keep individuals from reaching their full potential and even acts as a gateway drug to more serious substances.
Cocaine addiction. Although cocaine use is nowhere near its peak from the 1980s and 1990s thousands of people each day enter drug rehab in an attempt to break free from the strong psychological pull of cocaine addiction.
Prescription drug addiction. Easier to access than ever before thanks to the Internet, prescription painkillers are fast becoming the drug of choice for young people around the country. These opiates, including Vicodin and OxyContin, are highly addictive and can be as dangerous as heroin if given the wrong set of circumstances.
Facts and Statistics
The problem of drug addiction touches the lives of men and women of all ages and socioeconomic groups. In order to better understand just how deep the problem goes, consider the following information supplied by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
- Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the United States. Over three-quarters of all drug addicts use, or have used marijuana.
- Every year, more than 20,000 individuals die as a result of illicit drug use.
- In the past 20 years, the number of people living with drug addictions in the United States has increased by 500 percent.
- More than 15 million Americans use illicit drugs each year. Of these individuals, many become addicts but few seek the treatment they need.
Contributing Factors to the Development of Addiction
Though there are a number of theories about what causes drug addiction, the truth is that for each individual, the answer is different. Usually, it is a combination of genetic impulse toward either addiction or compulsive behavior and environmental influence. Simple things like early access to drugs and alcohol can influence whether or not a person becomes addicted to a drug or simply experiments and moves on. Traumatic events and chronic psychological conditions can also contribute to the likelihood of developing addiction to drugs and alcohol. It is important to determine what your personal causes of drug addiction are so you can address them or vanquish them and heal from drug addiction at a drug rehab.
There are a number of environmental and hereditary reasons why individuals may develop an addiction, according to the National Institutes of Health including:
- Genetics. A large proportion of those who receive treatment for a drug addiction report having a parent or other family member who had a similar condition.
- Co-dependence. Found predominantly in women, co-dependence occurs when an individual becomes addicted to drugs because their significant other has the same condition. Women tend to be co-dependent over fears that they will lose their relationship if they stop taking drugs.
- Self-esteem or self-image issues. Many women and young people develop a drug addiction after concerns about their appearance lead them to substance abuse. This commonly occurs with teens who have trouble fitting in at school and women who suffer from eating disorders due to a distorted view of their own self-image.
- Physical or sexual abuse. An inordinately high number of drug addicts have incidence of sexual or physical abuse in their personal history. The pain and shame they experience as a result of these incidents lead them to self-medicate their pain with drugs or alcohol.
- Mental health issues. It is believed that over half of those individuals with a drug addiction also have a mental illness of some kind. People with clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are all at a high risk for addiction.
At-Risk Populations for the Development of Addiction
While drug addiction can strike anyone of any age or gender, there are several groups of people who are at higher risk that others. These groups include:
Individuals with a family history of addiction. Studies have found that people who have a parent or close relation with a history of drug addiction will be predisposed to having one themselves (given appropriate environmental conditions).
Individuals who have been abused. Men and women who suffered traumatic physical or sexual abuse in their past are more likely to develop a drug addiction than the general population. They turn to drugs as a means of masking or numbing the pain these past events have brought into their lives.
Women. Women who are in co-dependent relationships, are struggling with self-image issues, or have been sexually assaulted are all at risk for developing a drug addiction. In the case of co-dependency, many women use drugs because their significant other does as well. They fear that if they stop using, they lose the relationship as well.
Individuals with a mental illness. It is believed that a large percentage of those individuals who have a drug addiction are also suffering from a mental illness. Most commonly, these individuals have conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and other common but serious illnesses. This is a dangerous mix, as each condition tends to make the other worse.
How Addiction Affects the Brain
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drugs work by tapping into the brain’s communication system and changing the way cells process, receive and transmit information to other parts of the body. Some drugs activate neurotransmitters while others inhibit them; either way, abnormal messages are transmitted both while the individual is under the influence and after the drugs have worn off. Here are a few other ways that drugs can affect the brain and create long-term changes that alter an individual’s perception and experience:
- Pleasure pathway changes. Drugs also trigger the reward system in the brain and create a feeling of euphoria among users. Dopamine floods the brain and over-stimulates the system, creating a “high.” Over time, many patients have a difficult time triggering the production of dopamine on their own and struggle with depression as a result of chronic drug addiction.
- Cravings. The body and the brain enjoy the feel-good effect of drugs. Over time, the individual can come to crave the “high” associated with drug abuse and believe that they can’t enjoy themselves or feel good without using their drug of choice.
- Impaired brain functioning. Drug abuse alters not only the brain’s ability to experience pleasure naturally, but it also impairs brain functioning. The individual’s perspective and cognitive abilities can be impaired long after the drug of choice wears off.
- Tolerance development. Over time, the brain grows accustomed to the initial level of the chosen drug and requires more and more of it to enjoy the same, or close to the same, experience.
- Lowers inhibitions. Under ordinary circumstances, the brain has limitations and boundaries; when drugs are present, those boundaries lift and inhabitations disappear. With chronic drug addiction, the lack of inhibitions can lead to compulsive behaviors.
- Long-term changes. In the same way that the brain develops a tolerance to a particular drug, there are concurrent changes in the brain caused by getting high repeatedly. The brain has to be retrained to return to its old level of cognitive function; in some cases, the changes cannot be completely reversed.
Principles to Remember
The following principles that define effective drug addiction treatment are taken from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s new research-based guide and should be applied to your search for the best drug rehab for your loved one:
- Drug addiction treatment should be designed to meet the individual’s problems and needs. The appropriate treatment settings, interventions and services available should be shared with your family member and adjusted to suit their needs.
- Your family member’s needs and problems may change during drug rehab. There should be a constant assessment of his or her progress and changing needs so that they get the most out of their drug addiction treatment experience.
- Based on your loved one’s needs, drug addiction treatment should continue for an appropriate length of time so that it is effective. They should not leave early! Statistically speaking, the longer the treatment, the better they will do when they return home.