What is Drug Addiction? Drug Addiction is defined as a dependence on a legal/illegal drug or medication. Many people are able to use prescriptive drugs without ever experiencing negative consequences or addiction. Therefore, drug or substance addiction only arises when someone compulsively engages in the consumption of such substances despite the adverse consequences. These consequences can be physical, emotional or social. According to the SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug problem in 2009.
Classed as a disease of the brain, drug addiction can lead to major changes in the structure and function of the brain leaving long-term consequences. Both physical and mental. Addiction is usually identified when larger quantities of a substance is needed to maintain the same desired effect or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. However, this is not always the case. Even in the smallest quantities, if a drug is relied upon long-term, against medical advice, this should be considered as addiction. When addicted to drugs, an attempt to stop using is unlikely to be successful without professional assistance.
There are many reasons why addiction begins. For many people, a voluntary decision to take a substance or drug can, over time affect a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions. The substances affect the way they feel, both physically and mentally. These feelings can be enjoyable at first which in-turn creates a powerful urge to use the substances again. The true causes of addiction can be a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Biological causes of drug addiction require further research but it has been suggested that addition could be partially inheritable, making some individuals more likely than others to become addicted if exposed to any sort of substance.
Psychological influences include, but are in no way limited to; existing mental health issues leading to poor choices, coping strategies for psychological distress such as abuse or neglect, as well as the stresses of life. All these experiences can cause someone to self-medicate to alleviate mental pain. Environmental factors can have a powerful influence. Peer pressure is a leading cause for initial use in the adolescent age group. Although this isn’t a condition that just affects the younger generation, 15% of all drug abuse admissions are in the 25-29 age group closely followed by 13% being in the 40-44 age group. Socioeconomic status can also have a significant influence and much research has been conducted in this area as well as looking at the impact of ethnic status.
Symptoms and signs of drug abuse vary depending on the specific drug and the individuals’ management of their addiction. There are however, changes in behaviour and physical signs that can be an obvious indication of drug addiction. Changes in sleeping or eating habits can be noticed. Many drugs are taken as stimulants; this can cause short periods of energy that reduce the ability to sleep as well as reduce the want for food. Alternatively, other drugs have a relaxing effect, making it difficult to do anything but sleep. Whilst other drugs can create an insatiable appetite. Although each offers a different effect all have in common that they are displayed in the extreme form. Mood can also change suddenly, especially when the drug is in full effect or just after. There can be a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Irritability, depression and confusion is commonly noticed. Physical signs aren´t always visible but those that are may include red eyes, loss or gain of weight, poor hygiene and needle marks on the arm or other areas of the body.
Addiction is a treatable condition, there are a lot of ways to get help. The first step is to contact a healthcare professional and explain the situation. Appropriate professionals could include a psychologist or psychiatrist, counsellor, doctor, social worker, nurse or case manager. Support can be given to plan and manage treatment. It is not advisable to detox alone as withdrawal can be dangerous without medical care.
Treatment for drug addiction can utilise a variety of different types of therapy. Group therapy can be used to vocalise recovery issues with like-minded people who are trying to recover from addiction. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is used to change thoughts and actions that influence the desire to use drugs. Motivational Interviewing (MI) allows addicts resolve negative feelings towards quitting and treatment. Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) uses MI to cultivate the motivation to quit and begin the journey to recovery. Couples or family therapy can also assist in the cessation of drug use and improve relationships with loved ones.
During the detoxification process, doctors may prescribe medicine to ease withdrawal symptoms. These medicines are mainly used for heroin or opiate addiction such as Buprenorphine and Methadone. However, the doctor will recommend the right treatment for individual cases.