Addiction is classified as a chronic disease characterized by the inability to control the use of legal and illegal substances, despite negative consequences. Often society views addiction as a moral failing, even though the addiction itself is not a choice. And not everyone will develop an addiction after using drugs. However, anyone can become addicted after trying a substance once or partaking recreationally. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors can contribute to someone becoming an addict.
Many will also not be able to admit that they have a problem for fear of being embarrassed or shamed by others. Sadly, drug addiction not only hurts the individual but can often affect family and loved ones as well. It can also seriously mess up a person’s life by resulting in the inability to hold down a job, alienating close ones, and draining financial resources, just to name a few possibilities.
Types of Substances?
People can develop a substance abuse problem with any of the five classes of drugs, which fall under narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids. Some of these are:
- Prescription Medications
- Over-the-Counter Medications
- Club Drugs (substances generally taken at parties and concerts, like Ecstasy and Molly)
- Soft Drugs (substances that trigger more of a psychological dependence rather than a physical one, like marijuana, LSD, mescaline, and DMT)
- Hard Drugs (substances that can trigger both a psychological and physical dependence, like heroin, cocaine, and meth)
The most addictive drugs are considered to be heroin, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, and methamphetamine. Sadly, these drugs can be especially problematic because there is no way of knowing exactly what is in them. Dangerous chemicals are used to manufacture these drugs and they can be very toxic to the body.
All of these substances can potentially cause major damage to the mind and the body. The chemicals in the brain can literally be changed permanently and affect things, like memory, decision-making, and behavior. Some drugs can also alter the way someone physically looks. Abusing methamphetamines can lead to dental problems (discolored teeth or tooth loss), premature aging, acne, hair loss, and weight loss from suppressed appetite. Research suggests that meth directly impacts people on a cellular level. Cocaine, which is a stimulant, can cause similar problems, and snorting it will possibly destroy the cartilage in your nose. Unfortunately, it is also possible to build up a tolerance to these substances, where it requires more and more to experience that “high” they are looking for.
Signs Someone Could Have a Drug Addiction
Substance use can be hidden, depending on the type of addiction someone has. Others may not be aware of an issue if someone is able to keep up pretenses. And admitting to oneself that they have a problem can be very difficult. Knowing the signs of a drug addiction in others or yourself can potentially lead to treatment and recovery.
If someone is doing any of the following on a regular basis then they may have a substance abuse problem. They can seek help by going to a treatment center or looking for an addiction counselor nearby.
- Have a strong urge to use the substance on a regular basis.
- Have constant thoughts about the substance, making it difficult to concentrate on anything else.
- Over time, you need more of that substance in order to feel that rush or high.
- Have a stash and consistently maintain that supply.
- Put money towards the substance, despite not being able to afford it.
- Miss work or are unable to meet expectations. Shirk responsibilities, like cleaning or grocery shopping, or miss out on social outings with family and friends.
- Not being able to stop using the substance, whether cutting back or quitting cold turkey.
- Have a change in behavior and begin to do things that you would not normally do otherwise, like stealing money or items, even from loved ones.
- Experience withdrawal symptoms when you go too long without using the substance or try to quit.
- Unable to give up the substance, regardless of being aware of a problem and past harm to yourself and others.
If you are a family member or close one then you may notice some of the following behavior. You might be able to help by providing resources and staging an intervention. However, please remember that you cannot force anyone to get treatment and it has to be a personal choice.
- That person begins to act secretive and starts pushing people away.
- Their habits start to change and they begin engaging in risky behavior.
- They are not keeping up with personal hygiene.
- They start hanging out with different people and avoiding certain social situations.
- Their mood alters and they become depressed and/or anxious.
Convincing Someone to Get Help
Getting someone to recognize that they have an addiction can be very difficult, let alone getting them to receive treatment for it. One way to possibly convince someone to seek help is to talk to the individual in a safe and judgment free environment. If it is productive then other family members and friends can also partake in the conversation so that they can express how that person’s addiction makes them feel or how it affects their lives. There should be careful planning and consideration before having any conversations so that the person needing help feels comfortable with the situation and will actually listen to what is being said. Knowing what everyone is going to say ahead of time also helps so that emotions do not rise, which might derail the conversation and possibly make the person say no to treatment. It is also a very good idea to consult with a trained professional to receive guidance and make the conversation more productive.
Therapy for Addiction
Overcoming addiction is not an easy feat. The road to recovery is long and many will relapse, sometimes multiple times. Consistent therapy and treatment can aid a person in being able to manage their addiction and get to a place where they are in recovery. Addiction counselors are trained to work with people in either an individual, family, or group setting. Sometimes medication may be used in combination with therapy. Medication can be prescribed to help cope with withdrawal symptoms and some other side effects of drug use, but they cannot rid someone of their addiction.
Working with a therapist, you will unpack the motivations for why you are engaging in this kind of behavior. When you get to the root of the addiction then you can start to move forward and work through these issues. The therapist will also help you identify the ways substance abuse has affected your life and those around you so that you can start to rebuild your life and possibly heal any damaged relationships. By learning to handle your problems in a healthy and safe way, then you will be less likely to turn to these more destructive habits. Creating better decision-making skills and avoiding people and situations that are too tempting is an important step in the recovery process.
It is also necessary to address any other possible mental disorders that could be fueling the substance abuse. Disorders like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, other personality disorders, and so on increase the likelihood that someone will develop a substance abuse problem. So, treating these disorders along with the addiction can help ensure long-term success. Unfortunately, like most chronic diseases, drug addiction cannot be “cured,” in the same way that an infection can be. There will always be a lingering pull to turn towards drugs when someone is struggling, but having the right tools and resources can make the difference in how they handle those struggles without relapsing.
It is also important that people do not villainize those with a drug addiction, as they are not inherently bad people. Offering encouragement and support is vital to those who are trying to better themselves and move past their addiction.
Overdosing is a major risk of taking drugs and can quickly result in death. An overdose can occur when quantities of a substance have reached toxic levels in someone’s system, whether done on purpose or by accident. Learning and recognizing the symptoms of an overdose can save a life, whether it’s for yourself or someone else.
People can experience different types of symptoms and it is not always immediately apparent that someone is having an overdose. The general symptoms are chest pain, seizures, headaches, difficulty breathing, delirium, extreme agitation, and anxiety. Some other possible symptoms are poor body temperature regulation, passing out, changes in skin color, and irregular pulse.
An overdose needs immediate medical attention. So, if you believe someone is having an overdose then call 911 right away. Most places do not treat overdose or reporting an overdose as a criminal offense.
Ready to Get Help for Substance Abuse?
If you are struggling with substance abuse and are ready to seek help then reach out to Gemini Health for the appropriate treatment. Our healthcare professionals are highly skilled and experienced to provide you with quality health services. They offer both individual and group therapy, as well as access to psychiatrists for all patients. Plus, there are no wait times to join groups. Call (301) 363-1063 and speak to our staff to schedule your appointment today!