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. A dependence on illicit or prescription drugs can cause individuals to lose their families, their jobs or even their lives. 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 remain isolated, falling deeper and deeper into the cycle of addiction. But there is hope and healing through drug rehab treatment.
Drug Addiction Defined
Experts define drug addiction as a strong, unceasing craving for a drug, even when the individual is aware of the harm the drug can bring about. Those who struggle with a drug addiction will exhibit certain signs and symptoms, 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
- Needing more of the drug to achieve the same experience1
- 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. Prescription painkillers are the drugs of choice for many people, both young people and adults, around the country. Opiates, including Vicodin and OxyContin, are highly addictive and can be as dangerous as heroin if given the wrong set of circumstances.
Drug Addiction Statistics
Drug addiction touches the lives of men and women of all ages and socioeconomic groups. In order to better understand the depth of the problem, consider the following:
- Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the United States. Over 20 million American over the age of 12 use or have used marijuana in the past month.1
- Every year, more than 570,000 people die as a result of drug use.3
- 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.2
Causes and Contributing Factors
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 addiction or compulsive behaviors, and environmental influences. Simple things like early access to drugs and alcohol, childhood trauma and chronic psychological conditions increase the likelihood of developing addiction to drugs and alcohol. Determining what caused or contributed to the addiction through rehab helps those in recovery find answers and healing.
Some of the most common reasons people develop addiction include:
- 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.
- Self-esteem or self-image issues. Many women and young people develop drug addiction due to concerns about their appearance. 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. A high number of drug addicts have a history of sexual or physical abuse. The pain and shame associated with abuse leads them to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
- Mental illness. Over half of those with a drug addiction also suffer from mental illness. People with clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are all at a high risk for addiction.4
Addiction and the Brain
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 while the individual is under the influence and after the drugs have worn off.
A few other ways that drugs can affect the brain and create long-term changes include:
- Pleasure pathway changes. Drugs trigger the brain’s reward system and create feelings euphoria. Dopamine floods the brain and over-stimulates the system, creating a “high.” Over time, those who struggle with addiction can no longer trigger dopamine production on their own.
- 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.
- Impaired brain function. Drug abuse alters the brain’s ability to experience pleasure and impairs brain functioning. The individual’s perspective and cognitive abilities can be impaired long after the drug of choice wears off.
- Tolerance. Over time, the brain grows accustomed to the initial level of the chosen drug and requires more of it to enjoy the same experience.
- Lowers inhibitions. Under ordinary circumstances, the brain has limitations and boundaries; when drugs are present, those boundaries lift and inhabitations disappear.
- 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.5/li>
Finding Help for Drug Addiction
Quality drug addiction treatment is designed for the individual. Your family member’s needs may change during drug rehab, and that requires regular assessment of his or her progress. Michael’s House is one of the most well-respected drug addiction treatment facilities in California. By taking a “whole body” approach to treatment, the staff at Michael’s House provides customized care that treats the mind, body and spirit of the individual. Call our toll-free helpline now to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.
1 “Drug Abuse and Addiction.” Drug Abuse and Addiction: Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction, Dec. 2017.
2 “Welcome to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).” National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 29 Jan. 2018.
3 “Drug Facts Chat Day: Drug Use.” NIDA for Teens, 29 Jan. 2018.
4 “Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, Aug. 2016.
5 Volkow, M.D., Nora D. “Drug, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” NIDA, July 2014.
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