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If you ask a handful of people why they think people are addicted to drugs, they will most likely say that they’re either unsure or that those people simply lack the principle or willpower to stop. However, when push comes to shove, drug addiction is a complex disease, meaning that this type of disease is caused by the interaction of multiple genes and environmental factors, and quitting takes more than strong will. Drug addiction is considered a brain disorder, as it changes the way your brain functions and manipulates the circuits in your brain that involve reward, stress, and self-control. Simply put, drugs change the way your brain functions, which makes stopping extremely hard.
Addiction is a chronic disease that drives those suffering to search for drugs and use them compulsively, making it very hard to manage, despite harmful consequences. Like other diseases, such as lung disease, they both disrupt the way your healthy organs function and can have detrimental and severe effects. Fortunately, conditions like this are, in many cases, preventable and, in most cases, treatable. Sadly, if drug addiction isn’t treated, it can have life-altering effects and, in the worst case, be deadly.
If you or someone you love is addicted to drugs, it is important to face this issue head-on and as early as possible. Drug addiction is a very serious disease that can impact every area of your life. To learn more about drug addiction, symptoms, causes, and treatment options, read on.
Why People Take Drugs
There are many reasons why people decide to take drugs. In the most common cases, people take drugs for these reasons:
Curiosity - There are some people that are simply just curious about what it would be like to experience a certain drug. This can affect people of any age group and most often doesn’t become a problem, but certain factors, like the person’s mental health, can lead to increased use or that person becoming addicted.
Social pressure - This reason specifically affects teenagers and young adults. Peers often pressure others into trying something that they may not want to but give in to the pressure to fit in with “the cool kids.”
To feel good - Drugs are known to produce intense feelings of pleasure, especially if the drug is an opioid or psychedelic. The initial euphoric feeling can be followed by after effects, which vary from drug to drug. For example, cocaine, which is a stimulant can lead to experience feelings of extreme self-confidence and increased energy. In contrast, pain killers, such as ketamine, can be followed by feelings of total relaxation and numbing satisfaction.
To do better - There are many people that feel extreme pressure to do well and want to increase or improve their focus at work, in school, or in their sports abilities. This can contribute to someone trying or continuing to use prescription stimulants, like Adderall or cocaine.
To feel better - People that also suffer from depression and anxiety oftentimes start using drugs to ‘check out’ or relieve their feelings of stress and anxiety. Stress can play a significant role in people initially trying and continuing drug use.
Commonly Used Drugs
Many drugs have addictive properties, but according to research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the American Addiction Center have found that these drugs are most commonly used by people suffering from drug addictions.
Cocaine - A stimulant that creates an intense high when it floods the brain with dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter involved in creating pleasure. The effects of cocaine are quick and shortlived and can oftentimes increase the risk of people becoming addicted as they want to maintain a certain level of high to avoid experiencing a “crash” that can cause both physical and mental fatigue, depression, and additional drug cravings.
Heroin - A drug that activates opioid receptors in the brain, blocking feelings of pain to increase relaxation and produce a euphoric “out-of-body” sensation or experience. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin addiction is on the rise due to the increased controls over prescription drugs like oxycodone and Percocet.
Methamphetamine - Meth is an extremely potent stimulant that once it’s used an intense euphoric high occurs. In most cases, meth can increase focus, excitability, pleasure, and decrease the need for food and sleep. Tolerance to meth is usually developed very quickly, making it very easy to become addicted to. People that abuse meth continuously can damage regions of their brains that are related to learning, memory, and emotional regulation.
Benzodiazepines - commonly referred to as “benzos,” not to be confused with the slang name for a Mercedes Benz, are a prescribed, mood-regulating drug that helps to manage conditions such as anxiety and stress. People that grow addicted to this drug don’t usually realize it until it’s too late and they can’t function day-to-day without it. Like meth, benzos are super dangerous due to their impact of the brain’s chemical makeup and overtime can cause manic depression and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Prescribed stimulants - Prescribed drugs, such as Adderall or Ritalin are highly addictive and users can quickly build a tolerance to the drug’s euphoric high, which can lead to overly increased use and risk of overdose. These drugs should only be taken when a person has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and the medication is prescribed by a medical professional. This drug is commonly misused by students to increase focus and decrease the amount of sleep they get to prolong the number of hours they are able to study.
Other less common drugs people can become addicted to are:
Ketacaine (ketamine and cocaine mixed together)
MDMA or molly
Acid or LSD
Like other diseases and disorders, there are risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction, but no single factor can determine this. In general, the more risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to experiment with and become addicted to drugs.
Several risk factors can make you more likely to become addicted to drugs, including:
Your biology - People can react to drugs differently and a person’s biological makeup plays a huge part. For example, a person’s genetics and gender can impact if they become addicted to drugs.
Mental health problems - People who have mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are usually more likely to become addicted. This is usually the case because mental health issues and drug use affect the same parts of the brain that control pleasure, happiness, and focus.
Family and home life - Living in a toxic home environment, especially during childhood can severely impact your choice to use drugs. For example, if you’re currently living in an abusive household, you might seek out drugs to escape from a nasty situation. It is also said that parents or older family members who use drugs or break the law can increase a child’s risk of abusing drugs in the future.
Stressful Issues at school or work - Peer pressure is a real thing and can have an immense influence during the teenage years that can lead to addiction if not treated early on. Or, say you have a high-stress job and want to make sure you succeed, so you try amphetamines and become so tolerant to them, you then become addicted.
Early use - Taking drugs at any age can result in addiction, but research shows that the earlier a person starts taking drugs, the more likely they are to develop an addiction or serious problem. Addiction is especially risky for younger children, as their brains and bodies are still developing.
The long-term effects of continued drug use cause major changes in the brain and how its chemicals and circuits function. These functions include:
Signs of Drug Addiction
Some of the signs that you or someone you love may be addicted to drugs include:
Constant friend group changes
Spending more than a usual amount of time alone
Losing interest in daily activities or favorite things
Changes in self-care, such as not taking showers, brushing teeth, or changing clothes
Being overly tired a lot
Changing eating habits, such as eating more or less than normal
Increase in energy, talking faster than usual or saying things that don’t make sense to friends and family
Change in mood or having constant mood swings
A drastic change in feelings, for example, one minute you’re on top of the world and the next you want to crawl into a hole and die
Change in sleep patterns
Missing important appointments
Increased trouble at work or at school
Having trouble in relationships, friendships, or family problems
There is no cure for drug addiction, but please know that it is preventable and can be successfully managed with the right treatment plan. Recovering drug addicts can be at risk for relapse for years and even quite possibly for the rest of their lives. Many medical professionals believe that combining medicinal and behavioral therapy can give someone suffering from addiction the best chance of success. Each treatment plan approaches the individual's drug of choice and any preexisting medical, mental, and social problems to put together the most effective road to recovery.
It is important to know that it takes a village to help someone through their drug addiction. Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse has shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, and the media are effective for preventing drug use and addiction, for example, when young people see social media content that states, “Drugs are Bad” with their favorite pop star or athlete, this can help them to view drug use as harmful and be less interested in taking drugs.
Treatments for drug addiction include counseling, medicines, or both. Research shows that combining medicines with counseling gives most people the best chance of success. Medicines can help with the symptoms of withdrawal. For addiction to certain drugs, there are also medicines that can help you re-establish normal brain function and decrease your cravings.
Counseling can be individual, family, and/or group therapy and can help you understand how you got wrapped up using drugs in the first place, how to manage and treat your addiction, and educate you on ways to avoid places, people, and situations where you are tempted to continue your drug use.
Admitting that you have a drug addiction can be scary, but once you or someone you love comes to the honest realization that help is necessary, you can then start on the yellow brick road to recovery. It is always important to talk to your doctor before starting any treatment plan, especially if it requires the use of prescription drugs.
There are many ways to get help for your drug addiction. Some of these include:
Online counseling has become wildly popular in 2020; with the hit of COVID-19 and Shelter-In-Place ordinances, seeing a Licensed therapist became quite impossible. Online counseling gives patients similar and just as effective counseling opportunities, making it easy and convenient to seek treatment for sex and love addiction. Online counseling offers you the ability to talk to a therapist that specializes in sex and love addiction from the comfort of your own space. There is also no travel time, no need to arrange for a babysitter if you have children, and one of the best benefits is that you can speak to an online therapist at any point during the day.
A few online therapists include:
Those suffering from an addiction to drugs tend to do best when supported by others who are also experiencing addiction and on the road to recovery. This makes group therapy an ideal course of action so addicts can find a group that’s focused on drug addiction, helping them realize that their problems are not unique. This realization can help ease the shame, guilt, and remorse they feel about their addiction.
This type of care focuses on the individual's problems and after one person shares, other people in the group are encouraged to share their similar thoughts and experiences, leading to a mutual understanding that other people also struggle with drug addiction -- that you don’t have to face this journey alone.
Group therapy options include:
Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment Centers (Rehabilitation Centers)
If you have a severe addiction, you may need hospital-based or residential treatment. Residential treatment programs combine housing and treatment services. Finding the proper treatment center depends on many things, such as where you live or whether or not your insurance plan will cover some or all the cost.
If you’re not sure where to start, know that you’re not alone and that there is hope for a full recovery. With the proper treatment, you can live the life you desire; drug-free!