What is a Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction or substance use disorder (SUD), is a chronic disease that impacts an estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. and their families. Generally, it focuses on two categories of drugs — prescription drugs and illicit drugs. Illicit drugs refer to street drugs like:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine/Crack
  • Molly
  • Meth

What Are the Signs of a Drug Addiction?

There are certain signs of a drug addiction that you can watch, indicating that you or someone you love might be abusing an illicit drug.

When you take a drug, do you:

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  • Need to use more of it each time – people build up a tolerance to drugs that make them less effective the more often you take them. Someone who has to take just a little more each time may be developing an addiction.
  • Develop cravings for the drug when you do not use it – the brain gets used to the drug’s effect. When you stop drug use, your brain chemistry is out of balance. Urges and cravings work to stimulate you to use it again and thus put things back into “balance.”
  • Experience withdrawal when the drug wears off – symptoms like shakiness, nausea, and vomiting are signs of withdrawal. The imbalance in the brain created by stopping drug use translates into physical withdrawal symptoms.
  • Want to use the drug despite adverse consequences – losing a job, getting arrested, not being able to pay your rent, etc. are all potential consequences of using drugs. People with an addiction disorder may still want the drug even though bad things are happening because of it.
  • Struggle to control your drug use – you might set boundaries for yourself, like only getting the drug once a week or taking half what you usually do, and find you are still unable to control your use.
  • Do things that are out of character for you to continue drug use – like taking money from a family member, lying to family and friends about where you are, and avoiding people concerned about your drug use or stealing at work.
  • Find people around you are concerned – friends, family, and even co-workers may be concerned and begin asking about your drug use. They may try to get you to stop and suggest rehab.
  • Stop taking care of yourself – poor hygiene, sleep, eating habits, and general self-care become less important.

Sometimes friends and family are the first to identify a problem. Often you may see significant changes in your loved one, including:

  • Changes in personality or frequent moodiness
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Bloody nose
  • Changes in routine
  • Poor hygiene
  • Financial problems
  • Personal problems, like issues with relationships
  • Work problems, like getting fired or being put on probation
  • Track marks (signs of injections)
  • Antisocial behavior such as avoiding friends
  • Hanging out with a new crowd
  • Issues with the law

What Are the Consequences of a Drug Addiction?

There are health, psychological, and personal implications for individuals with a substance use disorder. These include:

  • Academic and education problems such as dropping grade point averages and low attendance.
  • Poor performance at work, excessive sick days, and/or event terminations
  • Damaged relationships, including family members who become frustrated and feel helpless. In addition, it may involve romantic relationships, marriages, or even how friends think about you.
  • Substance abuse can lower self-esteem and interfere with your ability to trust others. It can also drastically change your personality.
  • Financial issues are common for people with a substance use disorder. Buying drugs requires money that should go to pay for rent, food, or utilities. You can drain your savings, borrow against assets like your house, car, or even your next paycheck. When desperation sets in, you might start stealing from family and friends to buy drugs.

Drug addiction can also have potential long-term health risks, such as:

  • HIV
  • Hepatitis
  • Heart damage
  • Lung disease
  • Certain cancers

In addition, overdoses are a reality, especially with the use of street drugs. Many street drugs are laced with fentanyl, a powerful and inexpensive opioid. Dealers mix fentanyl with more expensive drugs to make more money, and it is not limited to heroin. Fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills like Xanax, crack/cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine. That is one of the primary reasons for the increased overdoses and rising need for naloxone to counteract them.

What Are Drug Addiction Treatment Options?

There are a variety of drug addiction treatment options available. For most people, it will start with inpatient detox. Inpatient detox allows you to get help during the first few days after you stop using a drug, while withdrawal is taking place. Detox involves comfort care, medical management of symptoms, and counseling while in a safe, protected environment.

The next step for many is inpatient treatment. During treatment, you stay in a drug treatment facility and attend groups, individual therapy, meetings such as AA or NA, and have an opportunity to start your journey to recovery. Following your stay, you will often participate in outpatient care usually involves individual counseling and groups session, which allows you to interact with others in recovery.

There are specialized treatment programs, too, like medication-assisted therapy (MAT). When in a MAT program, you take medication like Vivitrol or suboxone to help sustain your sobriety and curb cravings. At the same time, you undergo behavioral counseling to change habits that trigger drug use. This form of MAT is only useful for those with opioid addiction. For example, those who use heroin or street fentanyl would benefit from MAT.

Am I Addicted to Drugs?

That is a question most people must answer for themselves. If you are asking it, though, then you are worried about drug use and need to consider your treatment options. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) suggests you start by asking yourself some questions:

  • Do you use drugs alone?
  • Do you lie about your drug use to others?
  • Are drugs the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning?
  • Do you have a hard time sleeping because they are the last thing you think about at night?
  • Do you take drugs to feel better physically or emotionally?
  • Do you take drugs because you don’t feel good if you don’t?
  • Do you take one drug because you are overwhelmed by the effects of another? For example, do you take Molly because you feel down after using heroin?
  • Are aspects of your life suffering because of your drug use, such as employment or relationships?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to talk to someone about treatment by callig: (844) 978-1524