An estimated 10% of all adults in the United States will suffer from addiction to drugs at some time in their lives. Sadly, fewer than 10% of those who are addicted to drugs will receive appropriate drug addiction treatment. Perhaps that’s why the number of drug overdose deaths exceed 67K in the U.S. in a recent year? Too many people are struggling with substance use disorder and underlying behavioral health conditions with limited access or understanding of the drug addiction treatment programs available to help them.
Statistically, opioids account for nearly 70% of all overdose deaths, but cocaine, benzos such as Xanax or Ativan, and psychostimulants like crystal meth also play a key role in our overdose figures. These statistics show that drug addiction is a serious situation faced by millions of Americans. Recognizing the various drugs and substances that lead to addiction and how to identify drug abuse or addiction in yourself or someone you love may lead your early search for addiction treatment.
At St. John’s Recovery Place, we treat most drug addictions and co-occurring disorders with compassion and care. Although the statistics above are alarming and difficult to fathom, it is our goal to help those who suffer from addiction discover the information, support and treatment needed for recovery, and that starts with developing a strong understand of addiction, treatment, and the next steps in the recovery process.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is a disorder that can be identified by behaviors such as compulsive drug seeking, harmful use of toxic mind-altering substances regardless of the consequences such drug abuse results in, and distinct changes in the brain that result in a physical and psychological dependence on the chemicals. The changes that occur within the brain are persistent and can interfere with the power to say, “no,” to a substance regardless of how harmful the user may recognize the drug to be.
For many years, drug abuse has been classified as an initially chosen behavior that can quickly spiral out of control resulting in drug addiction. Use of addictive drugs causes the brain’s reward system to flood the circuits with dopamine, the “feel good” chemical responsible for laughter, happiness and motivation. Overstimulation of the brain’s reward system, by using drugs or alcohol, can lead to changes in the chemical structure of the brain and a desire to reinforce the stimulated behaviors. This is where early behaviors of drug use are repeated and addiction occurs.
Is Drug Addiction a Disease?
Drug addiction is a chronic brain disease that is characterized by relapse which occurs frequently and repeatedly in many cases. Like diabetes or heart disease, addiction can be treated but there is no cure. People that struggle with addiction can develop coping skills and supportive tools that will help them to minimize their risk of relapse, but the underlying potential for relapse will still be present in those with the highest drug addiction risk factors.
Substance abuse and addiction is considered a biological disease of the brain in which the prefrontal cortex inappropriately reacts to stress. However, the disease model of addiction was not always the “go-to” explanation and, as such, stigma and shame became very much a part of the diagnosis and treatment of addiction. Thankfully, advances in medicine and addiction research have led to what we now call the disease model of addiction. This basically states that addiction is a brain disease, not a lack of willpower or strength, and that genes, experiences, and a wide range of both controllable and uncontrollable factors all play a role in a person’s potential to suffer from drug addiction.
Why Do People Use Drugs?
It is unknown exactly why every person chooses to use drugs or alcohol. Many turn to drugs as a way of “destressing” after a long or particularly stressful day at work. Others use drugs to mask underlying pain or symptoms of physical or psychological conditions that are undiagnosed or untreated. Still others use drugs to induce feelings of pleasure or excitement.
While we cannot specify all of the reasons why people use drugs, we do know that the majority of those who begin using drugs, either recreationally or as prescribed, do not start taking drugs with any intention of becoming physically or psychologically dependent on the substances. Unfortunately, drug dependence, or addiction, is something that just sort of happens as a result of repeat drug use which effects physical changes within the brain that lead to chemical dependence or, what we’ve described here as drug addiction.
Several factors are known to contribute to a person’s decision to use drugs. Some of the reasons for drug use include:
- Performance enhancement
- Trying to fit in with peers
- To feel good
Causes of Drug Addiction
While just using drugs is the initial underlying cause of drug addiction there is more to it than that. Otherwise, everyone that used drugs at any given time would become addicted, and those who never touch drugs would not. Unfortunately, there is not such a clean, cut and dry explanation for drug addiction. The causes of drug addiction stem back to the reasons for which people start using drugs, but underlying risk factors related to biology, environment, and individual opportunity also play into whether or not a person that uses drugs becomes addicted to the substances.
Signs of Drug Addiction
Early recognition of the warning signs of drug addiction may be the key to finding appropriate treatment for addiction and minimizing the potentially devastating side effects of the disease. People with addiction to drugs or alcohol will go through great lengths in order to fuel their habits and, in the case of drugs that are physically addictive, keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.
Some of the most common signs of someone addicted to drugs include:
- Repeat use of drugs regardless of consequence.
- Engaging in destructive behaviors while under the influence of drugs.
- Making frequent requests for medications or refills of specific medications.
- Increased anxiety or depression with little or no known cause.
- Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleep patterns.
- Mood swings, including irritability or defensiveness.
- Lack of interest in routines or previously enjoyed experiences.
- “doctor shopping” or switching pharmacies in order to get several prescriptions at the same time.
If you recognize these signs in yourself or someone you love, and believe addiction is to blame, call St. John’s Recovery Place at 1-833-397-3422 for help. Our drug and alcohol rehab center in Florida specializes in treating a wide range of behavioral disorders and addictions. We’ll help you stop the cycle of addiction and regain control in your life.
Different Types of Drug Addiction
Drug use is a steadily growing problem that impacts 24.6M Americans aged 12 and over. This figure has grown from 8.3 percent of the population in 2002 to 9.4 percent of the population and still rising. Some of the most addictive substances account for many of the nation’s addiction cases. Opioids, benzos, depressants, cannabis, stimulants, and hallucinogens are responsible for millions of addictions annually and these are just a few of the different types of addictive drugs.
While different types of drug addiction can impact the user differently, the overall consensus is that drug addiction ruins lives and often requires treatment in order to quit. At St. John’s Recovery Place, we treat the following types of drug addiction:
Common medications used in the treatment of anxiety and sometimes depression come from the benzodiazepine class of drugs and include Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Ambien as well as Klonopin and Librium. Benzodiazepine addiction is a growing problem among men and women in the United States accounting for an estimated 5.2M cases of misuse annually. Benzos are used to:
- Relax or reduce stress
- Experiment with the drug
- Get high
- Feel happy or help with emotions
- Increase the effects of other drugs
- Decrease the effects of other drugs
Signs of a benzo addiction include:
- Daily use or excessive use beyond what is prescribed.
- Seeking more medication than prescribed to fuel a habit.
- Feeling sick of suffering from benzo withdrawal when benzodiazepine drugs are not used.
Stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and crack are responsible for a wide range of addiction problems and community-wide negative effects such as thefts missed work, and excessive overdoses. Users often turn to cocaine to help them stay awake, feel more alert, and focus, but the energy doesn’t last long and the distinct depression that comes from using cocaine is hard to cope with.
Cocaine addiction signs may include:
- Using cocaine despite negative effects or consequences caused by drug use.
- Paranoia and psychosis caused by excessive use.
- Hostility towards others, even family, whom you love.
- Feeling an urge to use cocaine to avoid cocaine withdrawal.
One of the most widely abused, illicit opioids, heroin accounts for nearly 1M addictions annually and the figure is consistently rising. Heroin is one of few drugs that begins to create physical dependence after just a single-use. Heroin addiction leads to distinct struggles at work, home and in school as well as in relationships with those you love and care about.
Signs of heroin addiction include:
- Using heroin despite the high risk associated with overdose.
- Sharing needles or participating in unhealthy behaviors that increase risk of disease contraction.
- Suffering from significant heroin withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit or cut back.
Although marijuana is legal in many states, the addictive nature of cannabis should not be overlooked. Marijuana has the potential to act as a gateway substance, minimizing concerns when considering the use of other, more harmful drugs. Since recent legalization steps have been taken, marijuana use has grown by nearly 45%. More than half of all illicit drug users report marijuana as the first substance they abused.
Signs of marijuana addiction include:
- Excessive use despite interference with day-to-day routines.
- Suffering from symptoms of withdrawal when marijuana is not used.
- Using marijuana daily, despite the potential risks or consequences of regular use.
Crystal meth, or methamphetamine, is a commonly abused stimulant that can cause psychosis, hallucinations, and erratic changes in behavior. Meth addiction has been a growing problem in the United States for several years. From 2016 to 2017, the total number of methamphetamine use classifications among child and adults 12 and older in the United States rose from 684K to 964K.
Meth addiction symptoms include:
- Using meth despite legal problems or other consequences.
- Continued methamphetamine use regardless of overdose or other complications.
- Feeling sick, tired, lethargic or otherwise suffering from withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut back or quit.
Prescription drugs account for nearly 18M misuse cases in the United States annually. Everything from sleep aids to benzos, opiates such as Oxycontin and Hydrocodone to CNS depressants and stimulants contribute to the country’s prescription drug addiction crisis. Misuse of prescription drugs can occur as a result of:
- Being prescribed a medication and taking more than prescribed.
- Taking medication more frequently than prescribed or in higher doses.
- Taking medication for purposes other than prescribed.
- Taking medications that are not prescribed to you.
- Using medication to self-medicate other problems.
Signs of prescription drug addiction include:
- Using prescriptions for nonmedical use or for nonprescribed use.
- Doctor Shopping to find additional practitioners that will provide medications to increase quantity.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when a medication is discontinued.
Alprazolam or Xanax is a benzodiazepine that is widely prescribed for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. This benzodiazepine is highly addictive and results in a significant number of overdose related deaths annually. The CDC attributes benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, as having the second highest overall death rates of any medication (opiates are first) accounting for a 234% increase in total deaths from 2003 to 2009.
Xanax addiction signs include:
- Using Xanax excessively despite the consequences.
- Taking Xanax with other substances such as alcohol or opiates.
- Suffering from withdrawal when the drug is discontinued.
A powerful synthetic opioid, Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and highly addictive. Illicit Fentanyl addiction is a growing problem that has caused a significant rise in the number of opiate-related overdose deaths in recent years. In 2017, Fentanyl was found in 59% of all opiate-related overdose deaths.
Signs of Fentanyl addiction include:
- Significant increases in opiate use despite the known risks or consequences.
- Distinct changes in appearance, including heavy limbs, pinpoint pupils, and the presence of track or needle marks on the arms or legs.
- Withdrawal symptoms that make quitting or cutting back difficult to achieve.
A stimulant derived from cocaine, crack was a common street drug that took over in the 1980s but has since become less prominent. The immediate, inexpensive high that is produced when smoking crack made it a go-to drug for many. Recent data suggests as many as 6.2M people abusing crack at least once in their lifetime.
Crack addiction symptoms include:
- Cravings and desire to smoke crack despite the known risks and consequences.
- Continued use of crack following illness, injury or legal problems associated with crack cocaine use.
- Depression or anxiety over the idea of quitting.
- Fear of crack withdrawal if you run out or quit using.
A powerful opiate that is prescribed in the treatment of severe and chronic pain, Oxycontin is to blame for much of America’s opioid crisis and public health struggles. Promoted and marketed by Purdue Pharma, Oxycontin use grew in the late 1990s and into the 2000s where it would become part of a $1.1B industry in which high availability of the drug can be directly correlated with increased abuse, diversion and addiction.
Oxycontin addiction signs include:
- Excessive increases in medication dosing, frequently dosing or taking larger doses than prescribed.
- Doctor shopping, hospital shopping or pharmacy shopping in an effort to obtain more of the drug.
- Experiencing significant symptoms of withdrawal when attempting to cut back or eliminate use.
Oxycodone is a powerful, schedule II narcotic analgesic that is prescribed in the treatment of chronic pain. The active ingredient Oxycodone may be referred to by one of various marketed trade names including Oxycontin, Percocet, or Percodan. Each of these medications include the active ingredient, Oxycodone, but are considered brand names of this drug.
Oxycodone addiction signs include:
- Excessive use of painkillers despite the known risks or complications that have come from repeat or excessive use.
- Using painkillers for anything other than a prescribed treatment.
- Struggling to quit as a result of the symptoms of withdrawal that you experience when you cut back.
Opioids are a class of medications commonly prescribed in the treatment of chronic or severe pain as well as acute pain associated with injury or illness. Excessive use of opioids can lead to opioid addiction which generally requires professional treatment to stop. Opioid addiction represents a serious problem in the United States accounting for an estimated 2M and more than 30K deaths annually.
Opioid addiction signs include:
- Repeat opioid use following injury or illness after the prescribed problem has faded or healed.
- Excessively seeking opioids to reduce stress, improve mood or for reasons other than for pain relief.
- Suffering from opioid withdrawal, including excess pain, nausea or vomiting when cutting back or eliminating opioids from daily use.
Sedatives such as sleeping pills, barbiturates and benzodiazepines are another source of drug addiction in the United States. Studies show that the use of prescription sleeping pills increases with both age and education. In the youngest age group, sleep aids are used in about 2% of the population whereas in the oldest group, over 80 years, sleep aids were used by 7% of the population. Repeat use of sleeping pills can lead to dependence.
Sleeping pill addiction signs include:
- Repeat or excessive use of sleeping pills for long-term periods.
- Using sleeping pills to get high, combat stress, or for any reason other than to help promote sleep.
- Mixing sleeping pills with alcohol or other drugs to produce mood altering effects.
Amphetamines are a class of stimulants that are often used in the treatment of ADHD and behavioral disorders. Amphetamines that are prescribed by a healthcare provider and taken for a diagnosed health condition can be highly effective, but taking them without a prescription or to get “high” can be both dangerous and deadly.
Signs of amphetamine addiction include:
- Tolerance or increased need to take more of the medication to produce similar effects.
- Dependence on the drug which leads to symptoms of withdrawal when attempting to quit.
- Continued desire to seek or use amphetamines despite the known consequences of use.
MDMA, or ecstasy, is a synthetic drug that alters that mood and perception of the user’s surroundings. Most Ecstasy is a mix of amphetamine derivatives, mescaline, and possibly various other substances such as fentanyl, heroin, PCP or bath salts. Rarely is the MDMA that is confiscated on the streets actually pure MDMA. As such, Ecstasy use is extremely dangerous and the risk of potential deadly complications from using this drug is higher than ever.
Signs of ecstasy addiction include:
- Taking ecstasy despite the known risk for overdose or the presence of other toxic substances in the drug.
- Feeling depressed following excessive use.
- Repeat use of MDMA following overdose or other complications or consequences from previous use.
Dangers of Drug Addiction
Substance abuse has widespread potential for negative consequences and dangerous side effects. Drug use is dangerous in itself, but addiction results in the potential for any of the following health hazards or risks for the user:
- Overdose (Potentially Deadly)
- Disease Contraction
- Mental Health Problems
- Physical Health Problems
- Accident or Injury
- Problems at Work or School
- Legal Troubles
- Financial Troubles
- Family Problems
- Relationship Problems
The dangers of drug addiction do not simply go away on their own. Quitting can be tough if you’re physically addicted, and the underlying dangers of addiction can set in quickly with little warning. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) or drug addiction, seeking professional help could save your life.
Call St. John’s Recovery Place to speak with an admissions rep about the treatment options that are available to help you or your loved one overcome drug addiction.
Risk Factors for Addiction
Several risk factors for drug addiction play a role in a person’s potential to become addicted to drugs as a result of recreational or even just occasional use.
- Personal History of Addiction – people in recovery from drug use disorders have a higher risk of returning to drug abuse or addiction for several years after they receive treatment or remain abstinent from harmful substances.
- Family History of Addiction – children that grow up in a home where their parents use drugs or alcohol are more likely to become addicts themselves.
- Biological Factors & Genetics – studies have proven that genetics account for about 50% of a person’s total risk for addiction. People born with certain underlying addictive genes are more likely to struggle with addiction than those who are not.
- Underlying Mental Health Disorder – about half of all people who experience mental illness will also suffer from a substance use disorder or addiction, too.
- Peer Pressure (Especially in Young Adults & Teens)
- Early Substance Abuse – drug use in late childhood and early adolescence is often linked to ongoing patterns of addictive behaviors well into adulthood.
- Use of the Most Addictive Drugs – some of the most addictive drugs such as marijuana, opiates, K2-Spice, and prescription medications such as benzodiazepines and CNS depressants are responsible for the most frequent cases of addiction. Using addictive substances understandably heightens the risk of dependence over using less addictive drugs.
- Lack of Family Involvement – studies have proven that a lack of family involvement, often stemming from parental addictions to drugs or alcohol, can deeply impact a child’s risk for later behavioral disorders as well as substance use disorder (SUD).
- Trouble at Home – If home isn’t a happy place, you live in an abusive home, or if a child grows up in an unhappy home the risk for drug addiction is greater. Children that are not properly cared for often turn to drugs in their teens or as young adults.
If you are already struggling with any of these drug addiction risk factors, the potential for casual or recreational substance use to become a drug addiction is powerful.
Prevention of Drug Abuse & Addiction
Preventing drug addiction is best summed up by simply not using drugs. Unfortunately, many users are oblivious to the potential risks or dangers of addiction until long after physical dependence has already set in. Families can work together to help prevent addiction in loved ones that are in recovery by:
- Open Communication – keeping communication lines open and offering a supportive environment where talking about feelings and emotions is accepted.
- Supportive Listening – offering a listening ear without harsh judgment when feelings are discussed.
- Example Setting – avoiding substance abuse in the home, especially around children where influential behaviors are recognized. Setting a good example can minimize the risk of addiction later in life.
- Relationship Strengthening – actively working to improve relationships with those you care about, especially when risk factors for addiction are present.
Substance abuse prevention techniques often begin in educational programs at schools or within the community for children. Drug addiction prevention then carries into the development and execution of risk prevention programs targeted to families, schools, and local communities at large. Studies show that when young people view substance abuse or drug use as harmful they are more likely to avoid or reduce their use of such drugs. Therefore, prevention programs that boost education and focus on the dangers and risks of addiction are key to drug addiction prevention.
When to Get Help for Drug Addiction
Treating substance use disorder is not a cut and dry task that comes easily. Long-term drug use can lead to complicated changes in the chemical structure of the brain resulting in a cycle of repeat substance use and addiction. If you or someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol you should immediately consider potential treatment options that could help you break the cycle of addiction and stop potentially dangerous behavioral patterns from interfering with your life.
Drug addiction treatment often focuses on the early physical symptoms of dependence and helps you to develop strong, life-changing coping mechanisms that will aid in long-term recovery. Although 23M people suffer from drug addiction, fewer than 10% will see treatment. Consider calling for help if:
- Your drug addiction has caused complications in your life.
- Your drug use has caused pain, illness or injury.
- You find yourself using drugs or alcohol more frequently despite your intentions to cut back.
- You have tried to quit on your own, but withdrawal or cravings made your efforts unsuccessful.
- You have co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, or a behavioral disorder.
- You have suffered legal trouble, financial trouble, or other forms of consequences as a result of your drug use.
Every patient has different needs and will travel a distinctly different path to specialized addiction treatment. The important thing to remember is that therapy, counseling and individualized care can and will help you overcome drug addiction.
Want to learn more about drug addiction and the treatment programs that are available to help you or someone you love recover? Call SJRP to speak with an admissions coordinator about your situation and the unique programs available to support you in recovery.