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.