You fill the shot glass with liquor, and you hold it up to your lips for the 20th time today. You feel sick without that drink, and even though you don’t really want it, you know you must drink it. Is your addiction physical or psychological? Experts would say it’s both.
An addiction (whether it’s to alcohol or something else altogether) stems from brain cell alteration. Each drug dose you take alters portions of your mind responsible for memory, reward, and decision-making. All of those tiny changes add up, and when they do, it grows harder and harder to make good choices about drug use.
At the same time, you build up habits that support drug use. You find new friends, you start using drug lingo, and you buy paraphernalia to support your use. Those changes make quitting harder too.The more you know about how addictions work and how they are treated, the more effective your healing plan will be. In this guide, we’ll cover:
Think of addiction as a process. A predictable set of steps leads to brain cell changes and compulsive use. One of those steps involves physical dependence.
Drugs cause a massive release of brain chemicals, and that flood can burn out receptors and lower receptivity. The result: You need to take more of the drug to feel the same high. Keep going, and you’ll need the drug to stave off withdrawal and sickness.
This is physical dependence, and as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points out, it’s not the same as addiction. Someone can be dependent on a prescription medication taken on a doctor’s orders without ever feeling compulsively drawn to take it.But dependence often goes hand in hand with addiction. When we’re talking about drugs with a high addiction risk, we’re typically mentioning substances that spark dependence. They include:
Some substances aren’t closely linked to dependence. Hallucinogens, including psilocybin mushrooms, and some designer drugs like bath salts haven’t been conclusively linked to this issue.
Even so, some people can become enchanted by these substances, and they can take them repeatedly. Some also claim that they can’t stop taking them, even though they want to.
More on Addiction
Every person who develops an addiction has a unique story to tell. The majority begin with the decision to use substances just one time.
We use addictive substances to feel good, to ease awkward situations, or as a way to bow to peer pressure. Sometimes, we use substances due to curiosity. We wonder if they’re as strong and powerful as everyone mentions.
So we take one hit. Then, we take another. In time, those use episodes come closer and closer together. Soon, we can’t stop using when we want to.
The speed of this process varies dramatically from person to person, but it might surprise you to learn how long some people abuse substances before they do finally quit.
In a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers found that people took drugs for an average of 27 years before they stopped for good.
Other studies have examined the speed at which addictions developed. They found close ties between quick transitions and:
Examine this list closely. You’ll see some elements related to genetics and other factors we can’t control. You’ll see some that stem from the environment and the way we’re raised. And still others were personal choices.Clearly, nature and nurture intertwine in the development of an addiction.
Genes can dictate how our bodies respond to drugs, but the way we’re raised can prime us to start abuse, and our lifestyle could be a barrier to sobriety.
There are no lab tests to detect addiction. But families know one another well, and they are often the first to identify an issue. Families that are alert and aware of what to watch for can be on the frontlines of fighting back.
Symptoms may vary, depending on the drug the person uses. But in general, addiction can cause:
People with addictions may hope to hide the issue from the people they love. They may use slang terms to talk about their substances, so they won’t cause undue worry.
Below are terms associated with certain drugs of abuse.
There are hundreds more slang terms for drugs, as this 125-page report from the Drug Enforcement Administration makes clear, and new terms come into the lexicon all the time. In general, garbled speech like this should be cause for concern. If family members can’t talk openly, someone is hiding something.
It’s hard to overstate just how dangerous drugs can be. From the moment you start until after you’ve stopped, you could feel the consequences of almost every hit you put inside your body.
Experts say the consequences of drug use can be sheared into three categories:
Immediate – Some drugs can overwhelm the body’s critical systems. When that happens, you can lose your life to drug use. According to NIDA, more than 70,000 people died due to drug overdoses in 2017 alone
Short -Term – Ongoing drug use can cause you to lose your job, and it can strain your relationships too. Some types of drugs can spark skin, nasal, or digestive tract infections. And others are associated with risk-taking that could lead to pregnancy or STDs.
Long-Term – Sometimes, drugs leave scars that just won’t heal. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who use needles with drugs can develop hepatitis C quite easily. The virus can stick to syringes, cooktops, fingers, and surfaces. Some forms of hep C can’t be cured. Drug use can also cause the collapse of nasal tissues, scarring of the heart muscle, and much more.
Some drugs can overwhelm the body’s critical systems. When that happens, you can lose your life to drug use. According to NIDA, more than 70,000 people died due to drug overdoses in 2017 alone.
If your family is touched by addiction, you’re certainly not alone. Researchers have gathered up data about people who use drugs, including numbers relating to how many get help. That research proves that addictions and recovery are common.
Here’s a snapshot of what we know about:
Reading about addiction is scary. Citing statistics isn’t easy either. But there is hope. If someone you love has an addiction, there is a lot you can do to be a source of inspiration and hope.
The goal of your conversation is to encourage the person to enter a treatment program. But you must also remember to take care of yourself.
Even if the person never chooses to change, you can choose to care for yourself. You can choose to eat right, get enough sleep, and see your friends. The kinder you are to yourself, the more you will have to give to others.
Don’t let addictions rule your life. Reach out and help the person you love, and you just might end up helping yourself.Drug Categories