Did you know that over 22 million Americans struggle with drug addiction? The majority of them do not even consider themselves to have a problem.
In 2018, 11.7% of people over the age of 12 had used illegal drugs at least once in the past month. Substance abuse affects people of all ages. It touches the lives of people of all races and gender.
Addiction to drugs is a worldwide problem and it may have touched your life already. If not, you likely know someone affected by substance abuse.
Keep reading to learn more about this serious issue and look for our drug addiction quiz at the end.
This test is not a diagnostic tool, nor is it intended to replace a proper diagnosis. Use it only for informational purposes. Substance abuse and addiction symptoms should only be diagnosed by a licensed medical professional or doctor. Regardless of your results from our assessment, you should speak to a doctor about you or your loved ones’ addiction.
Addiction is not a loss of control or a personality weakness. It is a disease. It affects the behavior of the individual, the brain, and many other aspects of life.
Drug addiction is a chronic disease. The most common characteristics are compulsiveness and loss of control. Those who abuse substances know that drugs are bad for them however they can’t resist the temptation to use more. The longer one is addicted to a drug, the more severe the consequences can be.
Addiction is not only about getting hooked on illegal drugs. Many legal drugs are addictive as well. Alcohol addiction, nicotine, and prescription medications are the most common legal addictive drugs. Many prescription medications lead to addictions. Anti-anxiety and depression medications can be addictive. Pain medications are especially known for leading to abuse.
Those who abuse substances don’t know they will become addicted until they are addicted. You start taking a drug because you like how it makes you feel. You may take a prescribed drug because your doctor suggested it.
Most think they can control their use of a drug. Drug use affects the brain and the brain works differently after a time. This leads to damaging behaviors. Recovery from substance abuse is often a long, ongoing process and can include many relapses.
Most people start off taking a drug, illegal or legal, just to try it. They realize it feels good, relaxes them, or makes them forget their problems. So, they do it again. Each time they enjoy the feelings it gives them; from general overall happiness or to diminish feelings of poor self-esteem or mental anguish.
The more often someone takes a drug, the greater the chance they will become addicted; this also makes it more difficult to deal with the feelings that a user is masking.
Several external factors may contribute to substance abuse. These can make the difference between the person who uses a drug once and has had enough and the person who just craves more. Family history also plays a role. Seeing a parent or grandparent display signs of drug addiction can be a predictive qualifier. Genetics can also affect the speed of how fast someone becomes addicted to drugs.
People who use drugs at an early age are more likely to show signs of substance abuse. If your friends use recreational drugs, you are subjected to peer pressure. Young people often start doing drugs because their friends use.
If someone uses drugs at an early age, addiction becomes increasingly likely. Early drug use affects the brain and the ability to defend itself against the effect of the drugs decreases.
People show signs of addiction in various ways; they manifest differently from person to person.
Each of these things on their own as individual factors is not enough to determine drug addiction. When several of these traits are seen together, it is a good indication that one needs drug addiction treatment.
The brain responds to experiences that make you feel good by making you want to do them again. The chemicals in drugs reward the brain with massive amounts of dopamine. This makes the user feel very good.
The brain likes it when you feel good, so you crave more of the drug. As time goes on and you use the drug more often, the brain gets used to the levels of dopamine it’s getting. Sometimes that means you need to take more of the drug to get those same feelings of pleasure.
Other things that may have given your brain a dopamine boost in the past don’t feel as good. As a result — food, exercise, and being with people you love don’t give you the same level of satisfaction.
As time goes on —and you use increasingly high amounts of a drug— your brain is negatively affected. You may have a hard time making decisions or poor judgment. You forget things more and your ability to retain information decreases. Another side-effect is that your brain cannot handle stress as well. This may cause you to seek out the dopamine boost of drugs to relieve anxiety.
Drug dependence is not the same as addiction. You can be dependent on a drug or substance, but not have an addiction to it.
When you use a drug often, the first thing that happens is your body and brain become tolerant. You need to use the drug more often to get the effect you are looking for. Dependence occurs when the brain can’t find a balance between uses.
Using drugs regularly leads to dependence, which is a physical effect of the drug. Users of drugs might have withdrawal symptoms and get cravings as there is less of the drug in their system. Neurotransmitters in the brain are disrupted when the user decreases the number of drugs they use.
Someone that struggles with substance use is generally dependent on the drug. Someone that is dependent on a specific drug is not necessarily addicted.
The difference between dependence and addiction is the ability to stop using the drug. Someone who is drug dependent may crave more when the drug is leaving their system but they can often stop using it with help.
Drug addiction is when the individual is not able to stop using a drug. They will go to any lengths to get it and will cut off friends and family members. They may even be unable to work.
Everyone has different reactions to drugs. It all depends on how their brain works. Some people hate the way they feel on drugs and other people can’t get enough of it.
Drug addiction can happen to anyone. Drugs don’t care how old you are. Race, money, gender, sexuality, and other factors don’t matter. Not everyone that tries drugs will become addicted though. Besides family history and age of starting the drug use, there are some other commonalities seen in people who become addicted to drugs.
People with mental health disorders have higher rates of drug addiction. Drugs can be a way of self-medicating. The drugs make them feel better and thus, they use them more and more often. Biology accounts for about 50% of a person’s risk of addiction. Some of the biological factors that increase the risk for drug addiction are ethnicity, gender, and mental disorders.
The first thing you need to know if you think someone you love has a drug addiction is you cannot do the work for them. No matter how much you love them or how much you want to help, they need to want to conquer their drug addiction themselves.
There are some things you can do to encourage them and be helpful.
When you talk to them, be kind. Show compassion.
A person with a drug addiction may feel shame and may not want to talk about it. There is a huge stigma about drug addiction in our society. They may not even admit to themselves that they have an addiction. Many people will criticize them. They may already have had family or friends reject them because of their addiction. There is a great deal of shame for drug addicts.
You don’t have to accept their behavior. You will need to accept them. This can start building the path towards recovery.
When you are talking to someone you suspect has a drug addiction, it is important to be consistent with words and actions. If you invite them for dinner, don’t make drugs available or include a conversation about the great time you had doing lines of coke at a party.
Listen to them. They get enough people who talk at them. Allow them to talk without any judgment. You can disagree with their behavior but listen and be empathetic. Don’t interrupt them or finish their sentences.
Make sure that you educate yourself on their addiction. Listening is a good start but do your research. Get as much addiction information as you can. Besides doing research online, make contact with professional organizations. They can send you reading material and direct you to the best resources.
When you want to help someone with a drug addiction, you need to let them know that your love is unconditional. They need to know that even if they are not able to conquer their addiction, you will still love them.
This does not mean that you have to accept dangerous behaviors. Boundaries are important. Set your limits and follow through on them. Never put yourself or others in danger.
Support and guide them through the changing process. Change is scary for anyone but for a drug addict, it is even more fearful. Counseling can be a helpful start to the process but it may terrify them. Offer to come with them, even if you just sit in the waiting room as they have their session.
If the person who you suspect of having a drug addiction lives with you, let them know you are willing to make changes, too. This kind of support can be comforting. Let your loved one know that you are ready to stand by them when they want to seek addiction help. Have resources ready.
Finally, if you live with someone with a drug addiction, take care of yourself. You can’t help them if you don’t take care of yourself. There will be hard times ahead and you need to be mentally strong to handle them.
There are support groups for family members of drug addicts. They can provide you with addiction information to help you. Look for a group in your area and start participating.
Is it possible to convince a drug addict to seek help? There is no clear answer to this. Some say yes while others say no.
The most important factor in convincing someone to get help for drug addiction is showing them that you love them. Let them know that you want them in your life. Convince them by showing them they have value.
It is the little actions and words that they experience daily that can convince them to seek help. If you are only there once in a while, they won’t believe that you truly care. A drug addict needs a positive person in their daily life.
Be proactive and make sure that when they do give signs of wanting to seek help, you have the tools to be there for them. Learn about treatment options. Be prepared to support them. Remind them that there is no judgment if they do not make it through the program the first time. Let them know you believe in them.
Can you force them into treatment if they aren’t getting to the point where they will go themselves? Yes. It’s not the best option but if someone’s life is severely in danger it may be your last resort.
If you are the parent of a child who still lives at home, you can enroll them in a treatment program without their consent. The law can intervene with court-ordered rehabilitation if an individual is having trouble with the law.
Once someone has decided that they are ready to get treatment for their drug addiction, they will have to decide what kind.
There are three basic types of treatment for drug addiction.
Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are groups that focus on helping many people at once. Meetings give people the opportunity to learn from other people’s stories.
At self-help groups, new members can find a sponsor. Sponsors are those who have gone a significant time without using and give their time freely to help others.
These groups are voluntary. For some people, they are very helpful. Self-help groups can assist people who have gone through other forms of treatment and are trying to maintain their sober life.
Other drug treatment programs are run by health professionals. There is detoxification and withdrawal therapy. behavior therapy, and chemical dependency treatment programs.
Chemical dependency treatment programs are best for those who have not reached the point of addiction. They focus on the dangers of addiction.
Detoxification and withdrawal therapy and behavioral therapy can involve a variety of treatment methods. They may include psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors.
There can be many dangerous side effects of coming off drugs. Medical professionals need to supervise the detoxification process. They may prescribe other medications to make the physical symptoms of detoxifying less.
The detoxification process does not deal with the social and behavioral problems that come with drug addiction. Once detoxification and withdrawal are complete, behavioral therapy is often encouraged by the doctor in charge.
For some people with a drug addiction, long-term residential treatment can be the best option. The take place in non-hospital treatment centers.
The average length of stay is 6-12 months. The focus is on the individual’s community and resocialization. Staff, residents, and friends, and family members are often active participants in the treatment plan.
In a treatment center, the drug addict’s treatment considers personal responsibility and guides them in leading productive lives in society. It addresses psychological and sociological problems that the addict has encountered.
The individual in a treatment center may feel they are being confronted at times. This encourages them to examine their own beliefs and ideas about themselves. Looking at destructive behavior patterns helps them form new ones.
Some treatment centers focus on specific groups such as women, homeless people, adolescents, LGBTQ individuals and those with a criminal record. Treatment may include employment training or other relevant services.
In recent years there has been an increase in abuse of prescription drugs by adolescents. Abuse of OxyContin and Vicodin have especially seen increases.
There are two factors that professionals believe to be contributing factors to this increase. The first reason is that many adolescents think that prescription medications are safer than drugs found on the street. The other reason is that they are simply more available.
There has also been an increase in drug use by veterans. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration says that 7.1% of veterans have had a problem with drug abuse in the past year.
Drug addiction in itself is a mental disorder. It affects behavior and the brain. This leads to the inability to control substances like drugs and alcohol and even prescription medications. Researchers have learned that pre-existing mental health disorder often accompanies drug addiction.
Although drug addiction and mental health disorders may occur together, it does not suggest that one caused the other. There are three reasons why mental health disorders and drug addiction may co-exist.
First, there are similar risk factors in drug addiction and mental health disorders. The two conditions are often seen in previous generations of families. This suggests they both may be genetic.
Some studies have found that people with mental health disorders turn to drugs to deal with the complications of their disorder. Drugs make the symptoms of mental health problems worse but temporarily reward the user with good feelings.
Other studies have looked at the relationship between substance abuse and mental health. They have found that as drugs alter brain function, they increase the chances of someone developing a mental health disorder.
Whether you know someone who has a drug addiction or feels that you have a drug addiction yourself, don’t ever give up. Recovery is always an option that you can choose.
Start with learning addiction information and exploring your options. Try our drug addiction quiz to learn more. If you’re ready to explore long-term treatment, check out our residential facilities to find the best choice for you.