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DRUG ADDICTION DEFINED

Drug addiction is a chronic condition that is often progressive in nature if left untreated. Sometimes referred to as substance use disorder (SUD), drug addiction occurs when a person cannot control their use of prescription or illicit drugs. Many drugs, including prescription medications, have strong addictive properties. A person may become physically dependent on these drugs; however, a person is not diagnosed with addiction unless they are also psychologically and behaviorally dependent on the drug in question.

Drug addiction is characterized as a relapsing illness. There is no cure, but addiction can be managed successfully for the long term with abstinence. Drug addiction leads to changes in the chemistry of the brain that leave an individual vulnerable to relapse. With treatment, however, people can develop strategies to keep their recovery journey on track.

Unfortunately, nearly 90% of the 22-plus million people living with a substance addiction today do not get help. Unless drug addiction is managed effectively, it will take a serious physical and psychological toll on people’s health as well as on other important elements of their lives such as their career and relationships. Symptoms associated with drug abuse and addiction vary in nature depending on the drug. These symptoms may be mild or severe.

Given certain circumstances, anyone may become addicted to a drug. However, some people are at greater risk for developing a substance addiction because of factors that include:

  • Early use (abusing drugs before age 18)
  • Growing up with a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol
  • Genetics
  • Socializing with a peer group that uses drugs recreationally
  • Method of use (injecting a drug comes with a heightened risk for addiction development)
  • Suffering from a mental health condition (especially one that is untreated)
  • Experiencing trauma or a series of traumas, especially when growing up

Of course, not everyone who uses drugs will develop substance use disorder. The longer a person abuses the substance, however, the greater the risk for addiction to set in. Once addicted, an individual feels powerful compulsions to use the drug in spite of the negative consequences that use has on their physical and mental health and other aspects of their life.

Addiction Treatment that
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Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

SIGNS OF DRUG ABUSE

There are many signs and symptoms that point to a drug abuse problem or addiction. These signs and symptoms can sabotage a person’s health and well-being. Understanding the signs may help someone recognize them early and impel them to seek help. Here is a brief overview of the major physical, mental, and social signs / symptoms of drug abuse. Keep in mind that some drug effects are unique. For instance, methamphetamine addiction may be characterized by dental problems, whereas other drugs are not associated with this type of issue.

Physical Signs of Drug Abuse

The signs of drug abuse may include:

  • Need to use more of the drug in order to achieve the same quality high as previously
  • Spending excessive time thinking about drug use or in the act of procuring drugs
  • Spending increasing amounts of time suffering from the effects of drug use
  • Experiencing reduced coordination or ability to communicate while high
  • Experiencing injuries related to drug use
  • Engaging in high risk behaviors like needle sharing or unprotected sex
  • Lack of care for one’s personal needs (i.e. poor hygiene)
  • Experiencing changes in weight and diet

Psychological Signs of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse can lead to irreversible changes in the brain’s chemistry. Even after a short period of time, a person may exhibit some common psychological signs of drug abuse, including:

  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • No longer enjoying activities once enjoyed
  • Increased anger or irritability
  • Failing to meet responsibilities (attend work, care for family, pay bills)
  • Development of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or paranoia

An individual who is addicted to drugs may have an unlying mental health condition that occurred prior to the addiction or developed after the addiction. Both of these conditions can impact one another, but they are separate and each requires attention during treatment for best recovery results.

Social Signs of Drug Abuse

Drug addiction can cause a person’s mental and physical health to deteriorate, but that’s not all. Drug abuse and addiction can also erode the social aspects of an individual’s life. The most common social signs of drug abuse are:

  • Isolating oneself and avoiding family or friends who don’t use drugs
  • Spending time with people who abuse drugs
  • Lying about one’s drug use or lying to obtain drugs
  • Engaging in illegal behaviors like stealing
  • Failing to follow through with plans or responsibilities
  • Experiencing conflicts with family and friends
  • Job loss
  • Decreased performance at work or school

People addicted to illicit or prescription drugs often behave in an erratic fashion. They may appear cheerful in the morning but withdrawn or angry by the afternoon. Drug addiction can cause a person to be unpredictable and unlike how they used to be.

 

LONG TERM EFFECTS OF DRUG ADDICTION

Drug addiction has many short-term effects such as the high they produce. One session of abuse can lead to overdose and death. The risk for overdose is always present and can occur with someone using drugs for the first time or the 100th time. Chronic drug abuse will lead to a deterioration of physical and mental health as well cause long-term health effects that may include:

  • Development of a mental health disorder (i.e. depression, anxiety, psychosis)
  • Respiratory system damage
  • Kidney damage / kidney failure
  • Liver damage / development of liver disease
  • Damage to the gastrointestinal tract
  • Heart damage
  • Changes in memory

Many of the long-term effects of drug addiction are lasting and pose a significant threat to a person’s health and quality of life. Some conditions are treatable while others may lead to premature loss of life. The longer a person abuses drugs, the greater the risk for developing related health problems. The sooner an individual stops abusing illicit or prescription drugs, the greater the opportunity for their mind and body to heal.

It’s also important to note that people who abuse drugs often engage in high-risk behaviors that can also negatively impact their health. For example, needle sharing associated with crack or heroin has a high risk for contracting HIV and hepatitis. Many people also become injured while abusing drugs because of slip and fall accidents or auto collisions.

Addiction Treatment that
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Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

DRUG ADDICTION STATISTICS

In the U.S., drug abuse, particularly prescription drug abuse, has reached epidemic proportions. More than 20 million people in the U.S. have an addiction to illicit or prescription drugs. The cost of substance addiction as paid by society in terms of healthcare, crime, and workplace productivity exceeds $740 billion per year. Of course, this dollar amount does not reflect the heavy toll addiction takes on individual’s lives and their families.

Each year the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports on a wide range of statistics related to America’s drug problem. Statistics may include the number of overdose fatalities in a given year, the percentage of people who use drugs as teens, and other criteria that paint a picture of drug use across the country. Some recent statistics regarding drug abuse and addiction include:

  • Nearly 9% of Americans have a dual diagnosis
  • Since 1990, deaths from drug overdoses have tripled
  • People between the ages of 18 and 25 are most at risk for abusing drugs
  • Each day about 130 Americans will die because of opioid abuse
  • About 2.1 million Americans are addicted to opioids
  • More than 490,000 Americans over age 12 use heroin regularly
  • In 2017, one out of every five overdose deaths involved cocaine
  • More than 960,000 Americans are addicted to methamphetamine
  • In a recent year, nearly 9% of 12th graders reported using an inhalant at least once

DRUG WITHDRAWAL EXPLAINED

Drug addiction can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Once a person becomes addicted to an illicit or prescription drug, they can find it almost impossible to stop using. If a person does attempt to stop using or cannot obtain the drug they’re addicted to, withdrawal symptoms will set in. These symptoms may begin mild and progress to become quite severe.

Nevertheless, enduring withdrawal symptoms in a safe setting like medical detox is a crucial first step in the recovery process. Detox targets the person’s physical dependence on the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can begin quickly–roughly eight hours from the person’s last use and maybe even sooner depending on their addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms tend to vary in association with each type of addictive substance. Generally speaking, withdrawal symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Itching
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Body aches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite

Some withdrawal symptoms may be so severe that they trigger a health emergency. Symptoms like hallucinations, heart irregularities, suicidal thoughts, or seizures may prove life threatening. That’s why it’s essential to undergo detox at an addiction rehab center or hospital. Staff can provide treatments to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms that may prevent health complications.

Withdrawal symptoms often peak between 24 and 48 hours from the person’s last drug use. This, of course, varies depending on how long the person was addicted, the type of substance in question, and the person’s chemistry. Although withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant, they are an inevitable part of the healing process. Most will diminish after a few days or a week. In some cases, symptoms such as cravings can last for weeks or even months.

TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR DRUG ADDICTION

Fortunately, people addicted to drugs have many treatment options available to them. The key to successful recovery is to seek out an accredited addiction treatment center for a professional evaluation. This allows addiction specialists to recommend an ideal course of treatment for each individual’s unique needs.

A person who feels unstable and is just beginning their recovery journey may benefit from inpatient or residential treatment plans. These programs include 24-hour supervision and support. Clients can immerse themselves in therapy with the temptations and distractions of the outside world.

Some clients prefer the outpatient treatment model. These plans work best for individuals who are stable and highly motivated to attend therapy and maintain their relapse prevention strategies. Depending on the individual plan, a person may spend upwards of six hours at their rehab daily or attend for a single session each day or week. Outpatient plans are ideal for people who want to continue working or caring for their family.

Addiction Treatment that
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Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

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