Drug addiction is a complex disease of the brain that is characterized by the compulsive, powerful, often uncontrollable, drug use and abuse even in the face of negative consequences.
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships.
Like other chronic diseases, addiction involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
Many people take drugs to escape physical and emotional discomfort. It's a short-term fix to a long term problem.
Information about alcohol addiction can be found here.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug Addiction is compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences, inability to stop using a drug, failure to meet work, social and family obligations, and sometimes tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
What is Drug Dependence?
Drug Dependence occurs after the body has adapted to the drug, requiring more of the drug to achieve the same effects. It also causes drug-specific physical and/or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly stopped.
Why Do People Take Drugs?
To feel better: some people who suffer social anxiety or other high-stress disorders may abuse drugs in an attempt to combat those feelings of distress.
To perform better: many people feel that drugs will help with their academic, cognitive, or athletic prowess.
To feel good: Most drugs produce a euphoric high that are pleasurable to the user.
Curiosity: if everyone else around the individual is doing it, the individual may be inclined to try.
Why Do Some People Become Addicts?
There is no single reason that some people become addicts and others do not. Addiction is caused by a multitude of social, biological and environmental factors.
- Family history of addiction - it's estimated that genetics account for forty to sixty percent of a person's vulnerability to drug abuse.
- Early drug use - the earlier the person begins taking drugs, the more likely it is that they will have a serious addiction problem.
- Abuse, neglect or other childhood trauma
- Mental or mood disorders
- Peers have the greatest influence during adolescence.
Warning Signs of Drug Abuse:
Behavioral Warning Signs of Drug Abuse:
- Decreased work/school attendance and performance
- Unexplained need for money
- Financial issues
- Getting into trouble
- Sudden change in friends, hangouts and hobbies
- Secretive and suspicious behavior
Psychological Signs of Drug Abuse:
- Unexplained mood swings
- Sudden change in personality
- Irritable and agitated for no good reason
- Lack of motivation
- Periods of intense hyperactivity
- Paranoid without reason
Physical Signs of Drug Abuse:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Pupils that are larger (or smaller) than normal
- Changes in appetite and sleep schedule
- Tremors, slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Unusual smells from body, clothes, or breath
What Are The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Addiction?
What Are The Effects of Drug Abuse on Others?
Injected drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin account for over a third of new HIV/AIDS cases.
Injected drug use spreads Hepatitis B and C.
All drugs cause a degree of intoxication which interferes with judgment and increases the likelihood of risky sexual encounters, which increases the spread of HIV/ADS, both Hepatitis B and C as well as other STD's.
Prenatal Drug Exposure can cause negative cognitive effects on babies and children who were born to drug addicted mothers.
The effects of second-hand smoke is particularly hazardous to the health of children.
Treatment of Substance Abuse:
Addiction is a treatable chronic disease and can be managed successfully.
The best combination for successful treatment of addiction is to combine medications with behavioral therapy. The treatment plan must be designed specifically for each person's drug abuse patterns and any existing mental illnesses.
Good outcomes require adequate treatment lengths.
A solid support structure is imperative and can be found in family, friends, therapists, other people in recovery and people in the faith community.
Substances Of Abuse:
Alcohol - drinking alcohol to excess can cause damage to the body and the brain - especially the cerebral cortex (responsible for higher-brain functions like decision-making and problem-solving), the cerebellum (responsible for coordination of movement), and the hippocampus (controls memory and learning).
Amphetamines (including methamphetamine) - powerful stimulants that produce symptoms of euphoria and alertness. Methamphetamines are particularly damaging to the brain. These can cause serious heart problems as well as seizures.
Ecstasy (MDMA) - causes stimulant and mind-altering effects and may be toxic to nerve cells. It can increase body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and stress to the heart's wall.
Heroin (including Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percodan)- powerful opiate that produces euphoria and relaxation. It can slow breathing and is linked to serious infectious diseases when used intravenously.
Inhalants - volatile substances found in household products that induce mild-altering effects. Inhalants are extremely toxic to the human body and can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, lungs and brain. Even the healthiest person can suffer heart failure and die within minutes of huffing a stimulant.
LSD - one of the most powerful hallucinogenic drugs, causing the user to see colors, images, and sounds that do not exist. The effects of LSD are unpredictable and may cause traumatic feelings and emotions that last many hours. Short-term effects include increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, sleeplessness, tremors, and loss of appetite.
Marijuana - causes short-term memory and learning loss, impacts the ability to focus and coordination. Physically, it increases heart rate, can harm lungs, and may increase the onset of psychosis in those who have a predisposition to that condition.
Nicotine - an addictive stimulant found in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Smoke from tobacco increases risks for cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other bronchial diseases. Tobacco use is responsible for the deaths of 5 million people a year worldwide.
Prescription Medications - increasingly used and abused for non-medical purposes. This can be addictive and lethal. Commonly abused prescription medications include painkillers, sedatives and stimulants.
Steroids - may be prescribed for certain medical conditions to increase muscle mass. Serious consequences of steroid abuse include acne, heart disease, liver problems, depression, suicide and infectious diseases (if taken intravenously).
What To Do When A Loved One Has A Drug Problem:
Avoid blaming yourself. It's not your fault and you cannot force someone else to change.
Remember to take care of yourself. You can't get so caught up in someone else's problems that you neglect yourself.
Speak up. Don't watch from afar. Confront the addict with your fears and concerns and specific examples of behavior.
What NOT To Do When A Loved One Has A Drug Problem:
Don't be a martyr. Avoid emotional appeals that may further push the addict to use.
Don't bribe, threaten, punish or preach.
Don't take over their responsibilities and eliminate their sense of self-worth.
Don't make excuses for their behavior or fix the consequences of their choices.
Don't hide or throw out their drugs.
Don't take drugs with the user.
Don't argue with the user when they are high.
Try not to feel guilty or responsible for their behavior.
Hotlines for Substance Abuse:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-HELP
Substance Abuse Resources:
Substance Abuse Treatment Program Locator- state-by-state locator of drug and alcohol treatment facilities.
Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment - a FAQ index from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
Narcotics Anonymous: is an international, community-based association of recovering drug addicts with more than 58,000 weekly meetings in 131 countries worldwide.
Al-Anon/Ala-Teen: a family support group.
Cocaine Anonymous: a recovery and support group for those addicted to cocaine.
Marijuana Anonymous: a recovery and support group for those addicted to marijuana.
Crystal Meth Anonymous: a recovery and support group for those addicted to crystal meth.