Drug addiction can be a devastating and overwhelming experience for an individual and for an addict’s friends and family. It can be difficult to sympathize with an individual struggling with addiction. And, determining a proper approach to finding help can be a complicated process. The good news is that in recent years, we have learned so much more about how drug addiction affects individuals. A multitude of effective treatments have developed that can help overcome addiction.
With a better understanding of how drug addiction affects individuals, you’ll be better equipped to provide effective care for these patients.
Understanding How Drug Addiction Develops
The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction as a “brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.” The disease develops when individuals repeatedly use drugs overtime and the need to become high or intoxicated is overwhelming, uncontrollable and irresistible. There is no one distinct moment in which casual drug use develops into a problematic addiction, but the more frequently an individual uses drugs, the more likely they will develop a serious condition.
A number of factors related to a person’s biology, surrounding environment, or even their childhood can increase the chances that someone will develop an addiction if the person takes drugs. Some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of drug addiction include:
- A family history of drug addiction
- The presence of mental health disorders (especially the presence of depression or anxiety disorders)
- Experimenting with drugs at an early age
- Traumatic experiences or abusive childhood
- Stressful life circumstance (losing a job, divorce, death of a close friend/relative, etc.)
- Proximity to others who use drugs
In the long run, drug addiction can have severe consequences. Extensive drug use can cause permanent changes in brain chemistry and have significant effects on a person’s ability to make decisions, form memories, exercise good judgment, manage stress, or learn new things. To avoid these outcomes, it is vital to be able to recognize the symptoms of addiction early on and know how to approach treatment.
Signs or Symptoms of Drug Abuse
Regardless of an individual’s drug of choice, there are many common symptoms indicating drug abuse or addiction. Symptoms of addiction can manifest themselves as both physical symptoms, as well as through changes in behavior. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- A sudden and inexplicable increase in weight or loss of weight
- Increased anxiety, agitation or aggressive or panicked behavior
- Actions or comments that suggest obsessive behavior
- Actions or comments that suggest a loss of control or decision-making
- Extreme drowsiness or insomnia
- Lack of physical coordination
- Lack of self-care or personal hygiene
- Persistent or regular requests to borrow money
- Getting in trouble with the law
- Sudden mood swings or waves of paranoia
- Lack of motivation or inability to pay attention
- Withdrawn behavior or a preference for isolation
- Physical marks of drug use (track marks on arms, sores, bloodshot eyes, irregular pupils)
It is important to remember that an individual suffering from drug abuse could demonstrate any number or combination of these signs or symptoms. At the same time, an individual struggling with addiction may only show slight traces of one or two of these signs and symptoms. Each case will manifest itself in its own unique way, and additionally, signs and symptoms can vary from one drug to another. However, if you witness someone with these general symptoms, and suspect there may be problematic drug use, it is essential to initiate steps towards getting that individual the help he or she may need right away.
Effective Treatment of Addiction
Treating an individual suffering from drug addiction is a complicated process. There is no “catch-all cure” to addiction that will guarantee recovery. It can also be a long and difficult process that will last for the rest of the individual’s life. Usually, treatment is not only physically demanding but also emotionally draining for the patient. Furthermore, relapse and other setbacks are not uncommon, which can make treatment appear useless and ineffective.
Despite the challenges of drug addiction treatment, we are learning more about addiction every day, and discovering how to better address this sickness. As a result, there have been more and more success stories, and hundreds of thousands of individuals have been able to turn their life around. Researchers have learned that some of the most effective ways of achieving recovery include:
- Unwavering support and encouragement
- Avoiding blame or guilt, or making the individual feel ashamed
- Changing behaviors and environments that enable drug addiction
- Ongoing and regular therapy or counseling
- Providing access and information about support groups, monitoring programs or recovery services available to addicts
- Continued education and sharing of information about addiction
Addiction treatment is a challenging prospect and the road to recovery can be quite daunting. However, by creating a positive and encouraging environment, providing access to treatment solutions, and demonstrating resolute support, recovery can be a success.