Drug Abuse and Addiction
It’s a common misconception that individuals dealing with drug abuse and addiction are going through the same ordeal. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are marked periods of drug addiction that range in severity. Users don’t simply become addicts after their first time using drugs. It takes a significant history and extended period to reach severe stages of drug abuse.
It’s important to understand the differences between drug use, abuse, and addiction. In the following article, we’ll outline the specifics of each stage and get to the bottom of addiction.
Drug Use vs. Abuse vs. Addiction
There is a significant difference between the three elements mentioned above. However, they do go hand-in-hand, as one tends to lead to the other. Let’s examine each different stage and how they segue into the next.
Drug use is highlighted as recreational use or intermittent experimentation with a users’ substance of choice. This may begin as a weekend or monthly session with friends. In the beginning, there is no desire to engage in drug abuse or become an addict.
Initial drug use starts with small amounts of the preferred substance. Again, this usually starts with experimentation. Eventually, single periods of ingestion may increase in size as the desired effect isn’t achieved with minimal amounts.
Drug use often segues into drug abuse. The overuse of a specific substance highlights drug abuse. This will include noticeable intoxication from overuse of certain drugs and acting out of character because of the drug’s effects.
Eventually, users may begin to experience the feeling that they can’t have a good time without drugs. Substances are consumed during social gatherings or other significant occasions. Eventually, drug abuse will give way to full-blown addiction.
The period between drug use and drug abuse is often blurred. However, there’s normally some type of awareness of when an individual crosses the boundaries into drug addiction.
Drug addiction occurs when an individual can no longer function normally without the presence of drugs in their system. This may include the physical dependence of heroin or the need for additional energy from stimulants.
Regardless of the substance of choice, once a substance leads to full addiction, the users’ life changes completely. It’s almost as if the drug has hijacked the user’s brain.
Most decisions and motivations have drugs behind them as the driving force. Anything the individual does will be dictated by whether drugs are available or present. Normally, an addict won’t go anywhere without a supply of their drug of choice.
Despite all of these facts surrounding drug addiction, there are also some common misconceptions regarding drug use. The following section is the most common examples of these misconceptions.
Common Misconceptions About Drug Dependence
The following topics are commonly misconstrued in terms of drug dependence.
1. How Common is Drug Addiction
Drug addiction is probably more common than most people think. One of the demograhpics with the highest risk for drug abuse is teenagers.
Many people assume that drug addiction or abuse isn’t a common problem in the United States. It’s not uncommon for individuals to have an “it can’t happen to me” attitude.
The fact is, 265 million Americans over the age of 12 have experimented with drugs or alcohol. This number is staggering and only continues to climb as the years go on.
2. Opioid Overdose Isn’t Common
Opioid overdoses are incredibly common and have been steadily rising since the 1990s. The prescription pill epidemic was the beginning of this problem.
This gave way to the heroin epidemic and the current fentanyl epidemic that we’re currently in. Between the years of 1994 and 2015, cases of drug overdoses were multiplied by four.
3. There’s a Difference Between Misuse and Abuse
Many people assume there’s a difference between misuse and abuse. However, these two terms are similar in terms of addiction.
The misuse or abuse period is heavily considered to fall between the drug use and addiction phase. This is the bridge between experimentation and daily dependence.
4. Do Interventions Work?
There are forms of interventions that work. However, confrontational interventions are rarely effective in combatting addiction.
These forms of interventions gained popularity because of television shows. However, this isn’t the most effective way to approach addiction.
Studies have shown that a combination of empathy and relation to the user is the best way to make a connection. Giving real-life examples and connections with former users can often be suitable ways to get someone into treatment.
5. Medical Treatments and Substitute Addiction
There are several medical treatments assigned to individuals with substance abuse disorder, especially when it comes to opiates. These options include methadone-assisted maintenance and buprenorphine.
Many individuals assume that medically-assisted treatment is a substitute addiction. However, this information is false. Medically-assisted treatments allow individuals to get back to a normal life without the need to constantly chase drugs. These maintenance programs allow a return to healthy levels of mental health without facing the challenges of withdrawal.
How Does a Substance Use Disorder Develop?
A substance use disorder normally develops without the individual being aware of what’s happening. Slowly but surely, drugs begin to rewire the brain because of the receptors and chemicals in the brain.
Drugs cause feel-good chemicals to be excreted, which gives feelings of euphoria. Eventually, an individual correlates good times and feelings with drug use. Once this happens, users get the feeling that drugs may be the solution to all of their problems.
However, this is usually a mental issue masquerading underneath drug abuse. The reality is individuals are using their substance of choice to cover negative feelings associated with mental health challenges.
Root Causes of Drug Abuse and Addiction
Although it’s rarely understood at the time, most users dive into drug addiction as a means to remedy certain mental health challenges. At first, it starts with the thought that drugs may lead to a better time.
However, what’s happening is drugs are erasing certain social and behavioral challenges, leading users to experience new heights of enjoyment. These heights weren’t achieved before because of underlying mental health challenges that weren’t addressed.
What started as a doorway to a better time ends up becoming a way to bury negativity associated with these mental conditions. There are common mental ailments associated with substance abuse disorder. These ailments include:
- Anxiety and panic disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Social anxiety
Because of these elements, there are several demographics that are at high risk for drug addiction. These demographics include:
- Teenagers that are dealing with changes in thought and emotions
- Individuals that live in poverty or have other economic challenges
- Individuals that are dealing with issues with family and loved ones
Understanding the previously mentioned dynamics makes it much easier to identify the common signs of substance abuse and addiction. If someone close to you is having issues with substance abuse, it’s important to understand how to identify a loved one’s drug use.
Identifying Signs of Substance Abuse and Addiction
There are common signs and indicators that raise red flags in terms of addiction and substance abuse. It’s important to be aware of the following indicators:
- Normal signs of intoxication
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Commonly having issues with money
- Neglecting physical and mental health
- Hanging out with different crowds of people
- Problems focusing
- Marked changes in personality
- Aggression and irritability
Many forms of research and studies suggest that addiction is a disease and should be treated as such. By definition, addiction fits all the criteria to fall under the category of disease.
A disease is identified as a chronic and left untreated condition that will become progressively worse and possibly lead to death. This seems to define addiction perfectly.
Recently, there has been new attention placed on treatment for drug addiction. There are now various methods that exist for treating various types of substance abuse disorders. The most appropriate course of action is allowing an individual to undergo an assessment based on their substance of choice. Following the assessment, the most appropriate course of action can be taken to address the issue.
The following section will highlight some of the most common treatment methods for drug abuse and addiction.
Treatment Methods for Drug Abuse and Addiction
There are several treatment methods for drug abuse and addiction. The following list outlines the most appropriate courses of action for these treatments.
- Inpatient rehab exists as an option for addiction treatment. This involves individuals staying at a facility for a period of 30, 60, and 90 days. Individuals have the opportunity to engage with mental health professionals as well as peers to engage in recovery for substance abuse.
- Outpatient rehab includes the same access to forms of treatment. However, clients will not reside at a rehab facility. Instead, they will travel daily to participate in treatment sessions.
There are specific types of mental approaches that take place during these treatment programs. These approaches include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Talk therapy with psychologists
- Group therapy
- Reward-based treatment
- Dual-diagnosis treatment
Another important element when it comes to substance abuse treatment is having a sober support system. A sober support system is highlighted by several characteristics.
Sober Support Systems for Long-term Recovery
Sober support systems for long-term recovery include several elements coming together to promote successful sobriety. A strong sober support system should include the following elements:
- The participation of family and loved ones in counseling sessions
- Encouragement from family and loved ones in relation to recovery
- Holding individuals accountable for remaining abstinent and giving proper attention to recovery
- Ensuring that individuals in recovery don’t associate with groups of people that may trigger a relapse
- Ensuring that individuals frequently attend mental health services and group sessions such as NA or other 12-step recovery programs
Another element of a sober support system may begin with staging an intervention. However, it’s important to go about this the right way that doesn’t cause any negativity between the user and loved ones.
Staging an Intervention
Many individuals assume that a confrontational intervention is the best course of action. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is, you can’t force anyone to be sober who doesn’t want to be. However, you can give the proper nudges that may lead an individual toward treatment and recovery with the right tactics.
It’s important to remain empathetic without babying a user. Addiction is already hard enough. It’s critical that you reassure a user that you’re there for them without condoning their drug use.
One of the most important elements of recovery is understanding that you have support. By maintaining a constant support structure without enabling, an environment that’s conducive to recovery may be promoted over time.
With a little luck, individuals will enter detox, treatment, and eventually experience recovery. This is when relapse prevention tools become vital for long-term recovery.
Relapse Prevention Tools
There are certain tools and tactics that may be used as relapse prevention tools. These tools may include the following:
- The right sober support systems
- Rewards-based encouragement
- Mental health support and education
- Continuing education for addiction and triggers
- Attending group therapy in the form of NA or other peer engagement sessions
All of these elements fall under the category of aftercare plans for abuse and addiction. This can be one of the most important dynamics of recovery.
Aftercare Plans for Abuse and Addiction
Once treatment is complete, it’s important that individuals have an effective aftercare plan. This will allow the continued recovery of individuals with substance abuse disorders.
Substance abuse disorders don’t just disappear. It takes a lifetime of being proactive and constantly fighting these substance abuse disorders to keep them at bay.
However, if individuals remain active in recovery, it’s possible that long-term sobriety is achieved.
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we believe in long-term recovery. We’ve helped countless individuals experience this through holistic healing and other treatment options.
If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse disorder, we’d love to hear from you. Contact our admissions department for more information regarding intake and other benefits of our treatment programs.