Drug addiction is a psychological state that leads an individual to a compulsive and excessive use of drugs despite having knowledge about the negative consequences. Previously, a little was known about drug addiction, its causes, its consequences and its treatment. It was thought that some individuals simply lack willpower that keeps them from quitting the drug. The reality is very different. The usage of drug modifies the brain in certain ways that make the process of quitting very difficult even for the ones with great will power. Now that we know much more about it, we can help the individuals with this menace in a much better way. If you are someone who is struggling with drug abuse or want to help someone close, here is a brief insight about drug abuse to help you understand the situation in a better way:
The concept of abuse and addiction is often confused but in fact, these two are very different terms.
The first step towards dependence is the use of drug and gradually it progresses to abuse and addiction. At this stage, the person is in control of how much and how often should he use the drug. Sometimes the user might end up using it in larger amounts or for longer periods of times than intended but it is still regarded as recreational use. For example, planning to smoke only two cigarettes but ending up smoking more.
At this stage, the user spends significant time on obtaining and using the drug. The use is no more recreational but now cravings are forcing the user to obtain the drug and satisfy the need. The abuse of drug starts to affect everyday tasks such as not being able to show up for work, failing to meet the deadlines and fulfilling commitments etc. Side effects like nausea, headache, paranoia and muscle pain also start to appear. The user starts to develop tolerance and now it takes more amounts of drug to get the same effects. The user starts using the drug in amounts and methods that are harmful for him but the pleasurable effects produced by the drug outweigh the negative consequences and user fails to quit despite the efforts. The drugs that are widely abused include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine and more.
The abuse finally turns into addiction when the user has lost all the control over himself and he would give up on anything to get his fix. He needs to regularly use the drug to keep himself functioning. He keeps using the drug despite major problems in his casual and professional relationships. Any attempts to quit the drug result into severe withdrawal symptoms that may vary depending upon the drug of use. These may include nausea, vomiting, tremors, body aches, fever, insomnia, high blood pressure and even seizures and depression. This forces the user to go back to using the drug to avoid unpleasant symptoms. It takes a proper recovery program and medical detoxification to help the user recover and even after the recovery, the user is prone to relapsing so he needs constant attention.
Drug abuse and addictions are among the most common reasons people seek psychological help for. This indicates their occurrence is not very rare. The facts and figures elaborate that this issue needs to be addressed. According to a survey conducted by World Health Organization, about 3% adults from all over the world are struggling with drug abuse. There are about 6.1% American citizens that suffer from drug abuse as per the data of National Institute of Mental Health Epidemiologic Catchment Area Program. These figures are not as small as they seem to be. Many people go unnoticed for the mental problems they are going through. Any individual who have used any drug for recreational purpose is prone to developing addiction.
The terms drug addiction or substance dependence generally refer to the compulsive and uncontrollable usage of any of the drugs available such as cocaine, meth, barbiturates, benzodiazepines etc. The drug addictions are different from each other in ways they produce the pleasurable sensations and withdrawal symptoms. Here are some of the most commonly used drugs and the effects produced by them:
There are a number of factors that determine if the user will become addicted to the substance he is using or not. Some people are more vulnerable than others. These are the factors that determine the chances:
It is evident that some people are at a greater risk of becoming an addict than others. Even to this date it is a prevalent concept that lack of willpower and morals leads to addiction but medical science now believes that using drugs can alter the structure of brain in such a way that quitting becomes harder despite the efforts. The repeated use of drugs makes the brain of user dependent on drugs to function normally.
Dependence on a drug starts to affect every aspect of an addict’s life. He wants to get the drug at the cost of his time, relationships, professional life, hobbies and other every day activities. The signs and symptoms produced by drug dependence are physical, mental and behavioral.
Physical signs and symptoms:
Behavioral signs and symptoms:
Mental signs and symptoms:
Look for these signs and symptoms in yourself or a loved one and if you spot enough of them, seek help as soon as possible.
Addiction is a menace that shrinks a person to a mere object who wants nothing but his fix. The addictions affect the body adversely and some of the harmful effects produced by them are:
These symptoms indicate the physical dependence on the drug. If the addict is treated, severe withdrawal symptoms such as involuntary tremors, vomiting, muscular cramps etc appear that can be really painful.
Addictions alter the brain in such a way that brain fails to produce and use neurotransmitters in a normal way. These neurotransmitters include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine etc and eventually, the brain fails to work without the drug. The physical changes induced by the drugs include:
If the condition is allowed to progress, the addict fails to complete even simple everyday tasks so this situation really needs to be addressed. The drugs interfere with the functioning of the parts of the brain that are associated with learning, memory, reasoning and judgment, producing an irreversible damage over the time.
Prolonged drug addiction has serious consequences. There are many physical, mental and emotional effects produced by drug addiction that can reduce a person to a mere shadow of their previous self.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, addictions can damage all parts of the body. Some of the consequences are mentioned here:
The emotional and psychological effects of drugs are just as damaging as physical ones. The mental problems caused by drugs have far reaching consequences. Mental health issues produced by drugs can range from mild to severe depending upon the drug and the period of time dependence is extended on.
There is not any definite period of time that would take for a person to become an addict. In fact, it varies greatly from person to person and drug to drug. Like it has been mentioned earlier, some people are more vulnerable to become an addict than others. It depends upon the genetic disposition, environment, and other psychological factors. For some people, it can take just a few uses to become an addict while others don’t become one even after repeated use because they lack the genes for this trait. Another important factor that determines the time to become an addict is the type of drugs being used. Some are most addictive than others. For example, cocaine, heroin, meth and all the prescription drugs that belong to benzodiazepine family are found to be very addictive.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies from one drug to the other. While some drugs do not produce severe symptoms, the others can prove to be fatal. The severity of withdrawal symptoms is determined by the following factors:
The withdrawal symptoms differ depending upon the drug.
A proper treatment program is needed to completely detoxify the body but the chances of relapse always remain.
It takes a lot of hard work and patience to help a loved one out of drug addiction. They need your constant support and attention. Do not hesitate to make a move. Here are a few things you can do to help them:
It can be a difficult task to break this painful news to your loved ones, but at the same time, it is important to be straightforward and upfront about it to let them know about the severity of the matter. Be prepared to receive any type of reaction. They can be more supportive than you ever imagined or exactly opposite to it. Develop a plan regarding how you are going to talk to your loved ones about it. Educate them about how the addictions work and that it is not always addict’s fault. Arrange a combined session with the therapist to help them understand the situation in a better way. No matter the consequences, the best available option is to let your loved ones know.
Just like any other disease, the treatment and recovery from drug addiction is possible. Extensive treatment programs are offered for the addicts. Most of them usually start from detoxification and medical treatment. Detoxification is a procedure by which body is cleansed of any remains of the drug and the physiological effects of drug withdrawal are dealt with. But detoxification alone is not enough to get rid of addiction and deal with the physical, mental and emotional effects of drug dependence. Therefore, a number of recovery programs are designed for the addicts.
Medications are used to facilitate the process of recovery since they lessen the pain and make the withdrawal symptoms less severe. The medications used for the treatment of addiction are addictive themselves so it is important to provide constant medical supervision to the patient. According to National Institute of Drug Abuse, following drugs are approved to be used for the treatment of drug addiction:
With the help of proper treatment programs, many addicts are living a drug free, happy and successful life. Recovery is possible for everyone; it just takes time, patience and determination. Even after the full recovery, there are very high chances for a relapse. Partial hospitalization treatment as well as self help programs have been found to significantly decrease the relapse rate. Getting rid of addiction is a painstaking task and relapse is an indicative of this fact. It is important to not to take it lightly and opt for Partial hospitalization and aftercare programs. Relapse prevention programs are also available for the addicts to help them effectively avoid the relapsing.