Drug addiction, also known as a substance use disorder, is typically defined by the presence of both physical and psychological dependence. This happens after a period of abusing a particular intoxicating substance.
Examples of these substances include but are not limited to prescription drugs, synthetic drugs, heroin, crystal meth, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, benzodiazepines, club drugs, and many others. All of these substances can cause addiction.
Drug addiction is an illness marked by the physical and psychological inability to stop taking a substance, drug, or chemical. As such, it is defined by ongoing drug taking even after you have realized that it has been causing issues in your life as well as leading to physical and psychological harm.
If you have been using drugs and you reach a stage where it is no longer possible for you to naturally stop taking them, it means that you have developed a drug addiction problem. At this stage, you would already be dependent on the substance.
As a chronic disease, this problem can also arise after taking medications. Overusing or misusing medications like prescription opioid pain relief drugs and benzodiazepines can lead to addiction. These substances are so dangerous that they cause a minimum of 115 deaths on a daily basis in the United States alone.
If you are addicted, it will be impossible for you to control your use of the substances that you have developed dependence to. You will also have to take these drugs to be able to cope with your day to day life.
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Even so, just because you have been misusing a substance does not necessarily mean that you are addicted to it. This is because there is a distinct difference between substance misuse and addiction.
Misuse, to this end, refers to the non-therapeutic, excessive, or incorrect use of any mind and body altering substances. This effectively means that you may misuse a substance without being addicted to it.
Addiction, on the other hand, will develop when you have been misusing a drug for such a long time that it is no longer possible for you to moderate your use or stop taking it altogether.
For instance, you may have been drinking alcohol heavily from time to time. This may cause you to experience both harmful and pleasurably euphoric effects from the substance. However, it does not necessarily mean that you are addicted to alcohol.
In the course of your drinking, you may reach a level where you start feeling that you have to consume alcohol in certain amounts or at a given regularity. At this stage, you may drink alone or at certain points during the day when it is not normal to do so - such as when you first wake up in the morning.
If you are not yet addicted to any drug, you may consider stopping your use of anything that you may be taking. This is due to the fact that substance abuse or misuse can cause harmful consequences and negative side effects.
In case you abuse alcohol, for instance, you may wake up with a serious hangover. Alternatively, you may vomit during or after your drinking sessions. These negative effects could deter you from drinking in the near future.
With addiction, it will not be possible for you to stop taking your favorite substance of abuse. Instead, you will continue abusing it even though you have been experiencing harmful consequences as a result.
There are certain factors that could increase your risk of substance abuse. These same factors might cause you to end up struggling with drug addiction - both in the short and in the long term. They include but are not limited to:
The nature of the drugs that you take will have a bearing on how quickly - if at all - you develop a substance use disorder. There are some drugs like heroin, crack, and cocaine that contain certain compounds. They could also set off the receptors in the brain that could trigger responses linked to addiction. For this reason, you may become addicted the first time you try some drugs.
The ways in which you take drugs can also have an impact on the development of a substance use disorder or addiction. Injecting and smoking drugs means that your brain will register their effects a couple of seconds after. However, these forms of substance abuse will also cause your brain to lose the euphoric and pleasurable effects produced by the drugs you took rather quickly.
Since these changes in sensations are quick, you may be driven to repeat your drug taking. This is because you will be trying to recapture the pleasurable euphoria that you experience when you first used the substance in question. Over time, this could lead to the development of a substance use disorder
The age at which you first took a given substance will also impact the development of an addiction to it. Essentially, the younger you were when you first experimented with drugs, the higher the likelihood that you will end up struggling with a substance use disorder.
In case you are struggling with high levels of stress, this could increase the probability that you will turn to mind altering substances - including but not limited to marijuana and alcohol. As you try to eliminate or at least reduce your stress levels, you may end up finding that you are already addicted to the drugs you were abusing as a coping mechanism.
This factor mostly applies to people who are still in school or just out of an institution of learning. Throughout your teen years, the influence of your peers and friends will increase exponentially. It could also have a major impact on your experimentation - or lack thereof - with intoxicating and mind altering substances.
If you do not have any other risk factors for drug abuse and addiction, you may try drugs for your first time just because you are looking to connect with friends or with a particular peer group.
In the same way, teens and children who have been struggling at home, school, or at work might also have a higher risk of experimenting with drugs. This is especially true if they are also feeling socially excluded. This experimentation arising from peer pressure, however, will just lead to the development of a substance use disorder later on.
The process by which your body absorbs and processes certain compounds might also determine the various effects that drugs will have on you and on your body as well as the sensations that these substances are going to cause.
Variations in metabolism, to this end, could cause the duration of effects for a particular drug to last for shorter or longer time periods. This could lead to the development of tolerance, which means that you will have to take the drug in higher doses or more frequently than you were supposed to. Only by so doing will you be able to achieve the pleasurable effects that you so desire. However, this will only increase the risk that you will develop addiction.
If you come from a healthy home environment and you enjoy it during your childhood, this could reduce your risk of developing addiction much later in your life. On the other hand, if you are around family members and other authority figures who abuse drugs and drink alcohol excessively, there is a high probability that you will develop similar issues down the road.
In the same way, your genetic makeup will play a crucial role in determining your risk of developing a substance use disorder. It accounts for about 40 to 60 percent of your risk of drug addiction.
If you have been struggling with a substance use disorder, it is highly likely that you will start experiencing a number of negative side effects and consequences. These will be classified as the hallmarks of the development of addiction. They include the following signs and symptoms of an ongoing addiction:
One of the hallmarks of drug addiction is the development of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms, alongside intense drug cravings, will occur if you are already addicted to a particular substance.
In case you are addicted to a drug and you suddenly stop taking it or significantly reduce the amount of it that you normally take, there is a high probability that your body and mind will react to the absence of the drug in sufficient volumes within your bloodstream. This will lead to the development of negative side effects, which are known as withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include but are not limited to:
In case you are struggling with certain types of substance use disorders and you significantly reduce your abuse of the drugs or completely stop taking them altogether, there is a high risk that you may experience fatal withdrawal symptoms. Examples of these substances include benzodiazepines and alcohol.
Progress in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse and addiction has led to the development of a number of recovery and rehabilitation options. The most effective way to manage drug addiction is by going through a professional rehabilitation program that might involve the following treatment modalities and services:
The important thing to keep in mind about drug addiction treatment is that it needs to be highly individualized and personalized. This is because your journey through substance abuse and addiction will be different from that experienced by someone else.
In the same way, treatment should involve the provision of ongoing support from your family, community, friends, and loved ones. This is because you are going to need these people to continue encouraging and motivating you to work towards long term sobriety - especially after you have checked out of the addiction recovery facility.
That said, treatment for substance abuse and addiction might last much longer than you expected. It could also be accompanied by a number of complications. This is because addiction is a chronic illness that leads to a wide variety of physical and psychological effects. To this end, it is essential that you get appropriate drug addiction treatment to ensure that you are able to achieve health, recovery, sobriety, and wellness.