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Understanding Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is an ongoing concern that affects 7 million Americans.

What are the signs of drug abuse?

What is the first step in seeking treatment?

This article highlights the things you need to know if you or your loved one is affected by drug addiction.

What are the different typesof drugs and how are they treated?

Heroin Abuse

Heroin is a drug that quickly turns in morphine and binds into the opioid reception centers in the brain. Those who use this drug may associate the sensations as a pleasurable “rush”,  accompanied by warm flushes, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the arms and legs.  A few minutes of taking heroin, the person’s mental judgment is clouded, heart rate and breathing slows down.

 When a person overdoses on heroin, the vital organs stop functioning due to the sedative effects of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms of heroin include flu-like condition, insomnia, irritability and lack of focus.

 Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine is a fast-acting drug that shows its effects quickly after use. Consequently, the “rush” it brings only lasts for a few minutes up to an hour. Those who use cocaine report to have euphoric feelings, high energy, mentally focused, and increased depth of sensory faculties.

 Long-term effects of continued cocaine use may include irritability, aggressive behavior, and violence.  When overdosed, cocaine can lead to heart attacks, stroke, coma and seizures. People who initially stop taking cocaine may experience headaches, loss of focus, lack of energy, decreased libido, and increased appetite.

Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine, otherwise known as meth is a powerful stimulant. It activates receptors in the brain for alertness and heightened senses. Some of the effects of meth include an increased heart rate, decreased appetite, heightened blood pressure and temperature. When overdosed, meth can cause convulsions, heart attack, or even death.

 People who try to get off a meth addiction may experience a decline in brain function and energy. They report to have intense cravings for the drug, which are followed by delusions, hallucinations and an overall lack of focus.

Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana is an herbal-based drug that is often smoked. When a person inhales these substances, THC enters the bloodstream, which immediately brings pleasurable feelings. Marijuana is associated with heightened senses, delusions, increased laughter, feeling that time passes slowly, and increased appetite.

 Some long-term effects of marijuana can be attributed to mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric conditions. During withdrawal, a person may experience anxiety, depression, irritability, nausea, and severe mood swings.

Ecstacy Abuse

Ecstasy, otherwise known as MDMA or “Molly”, combines the effects of stimulants and hallucinogens. This drug is often used to heightened feelings of pleasure during social situations such as parties or other people-related events. Ecstasy can decreased anxiety and increased energy levels.

 Overdosing with ecstasy may result to muscle cramping, nausea, chills, and increased heart rate. At most, this drug may cause a heart attack or stroke when taken in high doses. Those who withdraw from ecstasy might experience confusion, increased anxiety, paranoia, and fatigue.

Opioids Abuse

Prescription opioids enter the brain through the bloodstream by attaching on the opioid receptors. It affects the body’s limbic system and bring feelings of pleasure, contentment, and peace of mind. Opioids are also known to slow down breathing, decrease pain, and relax the muscles.

 When overdosed, opioids can bring organ failure. Similar to heroin, it can slow down bodily functions, which may lead a person’s heart to stop beating, or death due to lack of oxygen when breathing is slow. During withdrawal, a person may experience restlessness, anxiety, runny nose, muscle pains and vomiting.

Adderall Abuse

Sitmulants help activate the brain’s neurotransmitters. When a person takes stimulants, he or she may experience feelings of pleasure, increased alertness, and heightened concentration. Often, stimulants are prescribed to patients with ADD or ADHD.

 However, there are also long-term effects such as brain damage, drug dependency, and lack of motivation to do tasks. People who withdraw from stimulants may experience anxiety, loss of focus, nausea, weight gain, and even depression.

Xanax Abuse

Benzodiazephine (Benzo) is also a commonly prescribed drug in the form of diazepam or alprazolam. They are given to those suffering from anxiety or depression to decrease its physically debilitating symptoms. Once a person takes in benzodiazepine, they may immediately experience feelings of ease, pleasure, and improved focus.

 The immediate pleasurable feelings is what causes some people to be addicted long after their prescription expires. Those who try to stay away from benzodiazepine may experience insomnia, increased anxiety, depression, tremors and panic attacks.

Having an addiction is more common than many would expect. In the United States, there are 20.1 million Americans suffering from addiction, and 7 million of them are diagnosed with a drug use problem. The statistics are gradually increasing, which alarmed the government in spreading awareness about the dangers of drug abuse:

  •  The largest demographic of people taking illicit drugs are those ages 18-25.
  • There are a total of 5 million emergency hospital visits that are drug-related annually.
  • 2.6 million people have multiple addictions, commonly alcohol and drugs.
  • 6.8 million people who are suffering from mental illnesses are also addicted to drugs, also known as dual diagnosis.
  • 9 out of 10 people who are diagnosed with a drug abuse problem took their first dosage before 18 years old.

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Why do people Abuse Drugs?

There are many reasons why people end up abusing drugs. Whether it’s a response to an internal need or an external influence, it may be helpful to understand which of these reasons you or your loved one experienced drug addiction.

Seeking feelings of pleasure.

When people first take in drugs, the association of its intake to pleasure gradually increases. Everybody wants to feel good, and this what drugs bring–an increased sense of euphoria, peace of mind, as well as a means to escape life’s worries. Although some people can resist another hit of heroin, meth, or cocaine, others feel like they need to repeat the cycle over and over to experience the same pleasure.

Stressors, difficult life events, health problems, and other negative circumstances may bring a person to desire feelings of pleasure.

Desiring to perform better.

A common case for those with stimulant addictions, people may also abuse drugs to perform better in tasks. Those who may be overworked would take stimulants to help them stay awake and improve their performance. Performance-enhancing drugs can improve one’s mental function, physical strength, and coordination–which in turn sends signals to the brain’s reward system to repeatedly use these substances.

Wanting to fit in.

In other instances, drugs are abused because of curiosity or peer pressure. This is often seen in the younger population of those experiencing drug abuse. Teenagers can be more curious than adults, as they desire to fit in with a particular crowd.

The social pressure can bring an individual to continually use drugs during events, which can result to drug abuse later in life.

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Reasons to Quit Drugs

The decision to quit drug abuse comes from having sufficient knowledge about its devastating effects. Increased dependency can bring in negative physical, mental, and social effects:

Physical Effects

  • Prolonged drug abuse is related to decreased mental function, with brain scans of users comparable to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Overdosing in most types of drugs is potentially fatal, usually attributed to heart attacks, strokes, or organ failure.
  • Most drugs result to decreased appetite, which causes malnutrition and poor bodily functions.

Social Effects

  • Drug abuse are related to higher risks of mental health problems such as depression, which causes people to isolate themselves more.
  • Continued illicit drug use is also associated with violent behavior and altered mental states which are disruptive to healthy relationships.
  • Those who suffer from drug abuse experience feelings of guilt, shame, and a general lack of desire to be with others.

Importance of Detox

When trying to recover from drug abuse, it is more helpful to have medically-assisted detoxification programs. This is done so that there will be higher chances of recovery, lesser instances of relapse cycles, and improve the body’s function without the drugs.

 Physicians and other medical experts would be assessing the level of drugs that is in a patient’s bloodstream. The detoxification process begins by intravenously supplying the body of substances that can help eliminate the presence of the drug. For example, those with heroin addiction will be given methadone. The detoxification process is done so that the withdrawal symptoms may not be severe or cause life threatening consequences.

 After the detoxification process, the person can proceed to treatment as prescribed by a team of health experts. These include forming health habits and recreational activities to reduce the individual’s dependency on drugs.

Seeking Help from your Drug Addiction

If you are suffering from drug addiction, you may be feeling lost about where to start. You may be hesitant, and you are scared to be judged by others when you decide to quit. Don’t worry. These feelings are normal, and there are many resources and experts who are more than willing to help you out.

 There are many ways to ask for help. Firstly, you can be open to a trusted loved one about your drug addiction. If you are a teen or a young adult, talking to your parents about your drug problem may be the first step.

 If you prefer to talk to someone in a confidential manner, you can discuss your problems with a doctor. A doctor can decide if you should seek treatment, and the process will start from there. Medical experts are trained to be confidential about their patients, so you should feel secure that this information is only between you and your doctor.

 Alternatively, there are also rehabilitation centers that offer counseling to those who are seeking treatment. They have hotlines available to call when you have decided to ask for help. It takes courage to make that decision to quit, and though it is difficult, it is definitely a closer step towards recovery.

Intervention for a loved one

The most important part of getting help for a loved one is their consent. You cannot force someone to quit drugs against their will. Be encouraging, yet realistic about the possible risks of continued drug abuse by your loved one. When they are uncooperative, the most you can do is to encourage them to go to the doctor for a medical checkup about their condition.

 Once he or she opens up and asks for help, you can continue on with the next step, such as going to a specialist, calling a rehabilitation counsellor, or government hotlines. These people are willing to guide you and your loved one through the process of recovery.  It is important to emphasize to them that they have done a bold move to seek help. Be positive with your words and always find ways to uplift them during the treatment.

Recovery for a loved one

Recovery isn’t a smooth process for many people. Those who will seek treatment are expected to have many ups and downs, including withdrawal symptoms, relapse cycles, and even the risk of quitting recovery altogether. Understand that this is just part of the journey, but with continued persistence, it is possible to fully recover from drug abuse. The benefits of being drug-free outweighs the risks of continued drug abuse:

  • Those who are drug-free report having better physical states: they feel better and look better.
  • There are lesser mental problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
  • Drug-free individuals also have better sexual performance, as those who continually used drugs have increased risk of erectile dysfunction.
  • Those who stopped taking drugs have improved immune system, therefore making them less susceptible to diseases.

As you ponder on these benefits of being drug-free, it is also important to have a community who can support you during the recovery process. Having support groups also helps in accountability, unloading of life problems, as well as emotional encouragement to people who are seeking help. The journey is not meant to be travelled alone. With medical assistance, resources, and community support, it is possible to break free from drug addiction.

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