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What Is Addiction?

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Addiction is a complex issue that has many different faces. It can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to talk about. But it’s important that we do both because addiction touches so many people in so many ways. Learn about the different types of addiction, how it develops, and how it is treated.

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The Different Types of Addiction

Addiction is characterized by a compulsive need to engage in certain behaviors, despite the potential negative consequences. Drug and alcohol addiction—as well as behavioral addictions—are types of addictions that can have devastating physical, psychological, and social effects. Drug and alcohol addictions are characterized by chronic substance abuse to achieve an altered state of consciousness or perception. This type of addiction often involves intense cravings for drugs or alcohol, even when there are clear negative effects. Behavioral addictions involve the same compulsive behavior patterns. But instead of being related to drugs or alcohol, they involve activities such as:
  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Food
  • Sex
People with behavioral addictions feel strongly compelled to engage in the activity regardless of bad consequences. Types of addictions include:

Heroin Addiction

Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug. It is a processed form of opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Heroin is usually a white or brown powder. It can also be a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.” It is typically:
  • Injected
  • Sniffed
  • Smoked
People who use heroin often develop a tolerance to the drug quickly. This means they need to use more of it to get the same effect. This can fuel drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. People with opioid addictions often have great difficulty quitting on their own. Many require time in a residential treatment center to recover from heroin abuse.

Prescription Painkiller Addiction

Prescription painkillers are a type of medication for moderate to severe pain relief. They work by binding to certain receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This reduces your perception of pain. Prescription painkillers can be effective at treating pain, but they also carry a risk of addiction and overdose. When taken as prescribed, painkillers are relatively safe. When they are misused or taken in large doses, they can be highly addictive. Symptoms of an addiction to painkillers may include:
  • Taking the medication more often or in higher doses than prescribed
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
  • Neglecting other obligations because of drug misuse
  • Taking the medication with other drugs or alcohol to enhance its effects

Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s typically prescribed for severe pain, such as that associated with cancer. But fentanyl is also used illegally. Its high potency makes it especially dangerous. When misused, fentanyl can lead to opioid addiction and overdose. Fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. This reduces pain and can produce a sense of euphoria. However, repeated use of fentanyl can cause the brain to become tolerant to the drug. You require higher doses to achieve the same effects. This can quickly lead to addiction. People who are addicted to fentanyl may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking the drug. These fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can include:
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
Treatment for fentanyl addiction typically includes medication and behavioral therapy.

Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. The drug is commonly known as:
  • Meth
  • Speed
  • Crystal meth
  • Crank
Meth is typically sold as a white or translucent powder that can be snorted, smoked, or injected. The effects of meth include:
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Decreased appetite / weight loss
  • Euphoric rush
Meth users often become addicted after just one use. This is because the drug creates a strong sense of pleasure and well-being. However, the short-term effects of meth are quickly replaced by negative consequences such as:
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
Long-term meth use can lead to serious health conditions such as:
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
Treatment for meth addiction typically involves a combination of drug detox, counseling, and medication.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is an illegal drug and powerful stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant. It is usually sold as a white powder that can be:
  • Snorted
  • Smoked
  • Injected
Cocaine produces a short-lived, intense feeling of euphoria followed by feelings of restlessness, paranoia, and anxiety. Over time, cocaine abuse can lead to:
  • Addiction
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
Cocaine addiction usually requires treatment from addiction and medical professionals.

MDMA Addiction

MDMA is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant and hallucinogen. It is also known as:
  • Ecstasy
  • Molly
  • Beans
  • X
  • Love Drug
MDMA increases the activity of three neurotransmitters in the brain:
  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
This produces feelings of euphoria, increased energy, and empathy. It can also lead to anxiety, paranoia, and sleep problems. When people stop using MDMA, they may experience depression, anxiety, and memory problems. Some people also develop tolerance to the drug, which means they need to take higher doses to achieve the desired effect. Alcohol Addiction Alcohol addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by intense cravings for alcohol. This is accompanied by compulsive behaviors and an inability to control your drinking. Over time, alcohol addiction can lead to physical and psychological dependence, as well as damage to the:
  • Liver
  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Pancreas
Alcohol addiction typically develops over time, starting with occasional binge drinking or heavy drinking. In some people alcohol addiction may be genetic. In others it may be the result of underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.

Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addictions are addictions to activities, not substances. You can become addicted to anything that you do repeatedly that gives you a sense of pleasure or satisfaction. The most common behavioral addictions are:
  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Eating
  • Sex
  • Internet or phone use
Like substance use disorders, behavioral addiction is characterized by compulsive behaviors, despite negative consequences. People with behavioral addictions often feel out of control and unable to stop on their own. Treatment for behavioral addiction typically includes therapy, support groups, and sometimes medication.

How Do You Become Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?

People can become addicted to drugs or alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some people are more at risk than others for developing an addiction.

Factors that increase the risk for alcohol and drug addictions include:

  • Underlying mental health issues like anxiety or depression – Drugs and alcohol are used to self-medicate symptoms.
  • Trauma or severe stress
  • A genetic predisposition to addiction – People with close relatives with alcohol or drug abuse problems are more likely to struggle with addiction themselves.
  • Curiosity about trying drugs or alcohol, which leads to continued use
  • Exposure to drugs or alcohol at an early age

No matter the reason, addiction is a serious disease that can have devastating consequences. Addiction begins to take over people’s lives. It often leads to job loss, financial instability, and relationship problems. Substance use disorders can also lead to physical and mental health problems.

What Is the Difference Between Physical and Mental Addiction?

Anyone who has ever struggled with addiction knows that it’s multifaceted. There is a physical addiction, which is characterized by cravings and withdrawal symptoms. There is also a mental addiction, which is marked by compulsive thoughts and behaviors. While both types of addiction can be incredibly powerful, they are also very different.

Physical Addiction

Physical addiction is primarily driven by changes in your brain. When you repeatedly use an addictive substance, your brain adjusts to the presence of the drug. This can lead to tolerance, which means you need to use more of the substance to get the same effect. It can also lead to dependence, which is when you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit taking drugs or alcohol.

Mental Addiction

Mental addiction is more complex. It often begins with emotional dependency. This is when you use a substance to cope with difficult feelings or situations. Over time, this can turn into a full-blown addiction. You become obsessed with using the substance and feel unable to control your impulses.

While both physical and mental addiction can be extremely debilitating, it is important to remember that recovery is possible. With treatment and support, anyone can overcome these challenges and build a life of sobriety.

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Signs of Addiction

The definition of “what is addiction” from the National Institute on Drug Abuse is: a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.

Signs and symptoms of addiction include:

  • Tolerance: Increasing need for larger amounts of the substance or activity to achieve the desired effect; experiencing reduced effects from using the same amount of the substance or engaging in the same activity
  • Loss of control: An inability to limit time spent engaging in the behavior or using the substance despite trying to do so
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Physical or psychological reactions that occur when you stop using a substance or engaging in a behavior, such as:
    •  Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Headaches
    • Fatigue
    • Depression
    • Restlessness
  • Compulsion: An inability to resist cravings for more of the substance or activity; feeling driven to use it even if it has damaging consequences for you and your loved ones
  • Neglecting other activities: Reduction in time spent on activities previously enjoyed due to excessive use of a substance or engagement in a behavior
  • Relationship problems: Strained relationships with friends and family members due to excessive use of substances or participation in certain behaviors. Examples include lying to and manipulating others to get access to substances or money for them.
  • Financial difficulties: Using large amounts of money to get more substances or participating in certain activities at the expense of paying bills
  • Risky behaviors: Participating in reckless acts while under the influence. These may include:
    • Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
    • Unprotected sex
    • Criminal activity
  • Drug-seeking behavior: Searching out multiple doctors or suppliers to obtain drugs despite adverse consequences like:
    • Loss of employment
    • Social isolation
    • Legal difficulties
  • Craving: Intense urge for more drugs that can lead to physical risks and social harms caused by addiction
  • Denial: Refusing to admit to addictive behavior despite obvious indicators that suggest otherwise. This may include lying about drug or alcohol misuse or hiding drug paraphernalia.
  • Social isolation: Avoiding friends, family, colleagues, and activities because all focus is on abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Inability to perform normal day-to-day tasks: Missing commitments at work, home, or school; difficulty managing responsibilities
  • Disregard for safety: Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of drugs and alcohol; putting yourself and others in danger
  • Poor performance at school /work: Showing little care towards fulfilling duties leading toward:
    • Low productivity
    • Lack of motivation
    • Lethargy
    • Poor concentration
    • Memory issues
  • Psychological changes: Feeling agitated without constant access to drugs or alcohol. Psychological changes may also include:
    • Difficulty making decisions
    • Mood swings
    • Drastic changes in personality when high vs. sober
    • Paranoia
    • Aggression
    • Delusions

Self-Assessment: Am I Addicted?

What Is Alcohol and Drug Detox Like?

Alcohol and drug detox is the process of clearing your body of toxins associated with alcohol and drugs. The first step in detox is to stop using alcohol and drugs. This can be difficult on your own. Depending on the type of drug and severity of your addiction, it can also be dangerous or deadly. Physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms vary by substance and individual but may include:
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Seizures
These symptoms usually peak within the first few days of withdrawal. Medications may be used to help manage these symptoms and make detox more comfortable. In a medical detox setting doctors and nurses monitor you around the clock. They are there to attend to medical emergencies and ease discomfort. Drug and alcohol detox is just the first step in recovery, but it’s an important one. After successfully completing detox, you’ll be better prepared to begin the next phase of treatment.

How Do You Treat Addiction?

Alcohol and drug rehab centers treat addiction with a variety of modalities. Some of these include:

  • Individual therapy – One-on-one sessions between you and a licensed therapist. These sessions help you identify triggers to misuse drugs and alcohol. You develop healthier ways to cope with stress, emotional distress, and other situations that can lead to substance use.
  • Group therapy – This involves multiple patients meeting together with a therapist to discuss common issues related to addiction. Group therapy is important in breaking the isolation of addiction and helping you feel supported and accountable in recovery.
  • Family therapy  You and your loved ones learn how to better communicate with each other to create a more supportive environment.
  • Holistic therapies – These are approaches such as yoga, meditation, massage therapy, art therapy, and music therapy. They are sometimes offered at drug and alcohol rehab centers to provide alternative forms of support. They also help you learn strategies for managing triggers without using substances.

There are different levels of care in addiction treatment. A doctor or addiction professional can help you determine what is appropriate for your individual situation.

Addiction treatment levels of care include:

  • Residential treatment  Provides 24/7 care and distance from stress and triggers. You live at the treatment center and attend programming during the day.
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)  Provides day treatment that is similar to residential treatment, but you live at home or in a sober living residence.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs)  Usually a step-down treatment level from residential rehab or a PHP, you attend treatment on three to five days a week for a few hours each day.
  • Outpatient programs (OPs)  The last step in structured addiction treatment. You are fully immersed back into work, school, and home life and attend treatment one to three hours a week.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Detox and Addiction Treatment Timeline

The length of detox and addiction treatment at a drug rehab facility varies depending upon the treatment approach and how severe your addiction is. Generally speaking, a complete program of detox and addiction treatment can take anywhere from 30 to 90 days. That said, many individuals have found successful results with shorter or longer periods of treatment.

At a drug rehab like Footprints to Recovery, the first phase of treatment is typically detoxification. This involves medically supervised withdrawal from the substance(s) you’re abusing. Alcohol and drug detox usually lasts five to seven days as your body rids itself of toxins and begins stabilizing without substances. Various medications can help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Once detox is complete, recovery work begins. Addiction treatment typically involves:

  • Learning how to recognize triggers and situations that lead back to substance abuse
  • Developing coping mechanisms
  • Identifying underlying causes of addiction like trauma and mental health disorders
  • Setting goals
  • Learning new coping skills
  • Discovering your strengths and vulnerabilities
  • Establishing positive relationships with other people who are struggling with similar issues

This process requires time for healing through counseling sessions, as well as group therapy, where you gain insight into your own struggles against addiction along with support from peers in recovery.

Following successful completion of the rehab program, you’ll transition into aftercare services such as sober living arrangements or outpatient treatment if needed. Aftercare is considered essential for relapse prevention since it helps reinforce healthy habits while also providing ongoing support after returning home from drug rehab. Aftercare supports like individual therapy and 12-step meetings are activities that many people continue indefinitely as recovery is something you’ll always need to nurture and protect.

Addiction Recovery Is Possible

Addiction is a disease that can cause immense suffering for both the person struggling with addiction and their loved ones. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, it is important to seek professional help.

At Footprints to Recovery we offer a comprehensive range of services. Our medical detox program can ease symptoms of withdrawal, while our inpatient rehab program provides the structure and support that is essential for recovery. After completing residential treatment our patients can transition into our outpatient programs, which include partial hospitalizationintensive outpatient, and outpatient rehab. These programs provide the flexibility that is often needed on the journey of recovery. No matter what stage you or your loved one is at in their addiction, we are here to help. Contact us for a free, confidential consultation.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

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