Drug addiction is a severe problem that affects many people in the United States. Approximately 23 million people currently have drug and alcohol addiction problems. Ten percent of those people suffer with addictions to opiate painkillers, and about 6 million have problems with cocaine. Drug addiction is something that attacks people of all social and economic classes. It does not discriminate against people of certain races or genders. The dark side of addiction often comes abruptly, and many people are unprepared to battle its ugliness. Therefore, a person must be careful to avoid entering the realm of addiction in the first place.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is a severe dependence on a substance, ritual or person. A wide variety of addictions exists. The term addiction mostly refers to drug use, but a person can have many other addictions. Some examples of other addictions include alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, love addiction and internet addiction. The element that qualifies a person for an addiction is the inability to stop the unhealthy behaviors that occur because of the addiction. Addiction can hurt a person’s relationships, finances and health, but a truly addicted person will be incapable of stopping.
How Addictions Begin
Many drug addictions begin innocently. For example, a doctor may prescribe pain pills to a patient legitimately. Narcotic pain pills are highly addictive substances to which many people develop habits. Some narcotics are so powerful that they can hook a person with the first prescription.
Some drug habits are not so innocent. High school kids may experiment with harmful drugs because of peer pressure or spontaneous interest. Latchkey kids may experiment with their parents’ medications because of boredom. Additionally, some people with mental illnesses may use street drugs to self-medicate because the expense is smaller and drugs act quickly.
The Pleasurable Side of Addiction
Drugs and alcohol affect a person’s brain by reacting with certain receptors and chemicals. Examples of some of the brain chemicals that drugs affect are serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that prevents a person from feeling pain. Serotonin is a chemical that gives a person a happy and content feeling. Drugs such as opiates, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine may affect these chemicals in such a way that a person who takes them experiences euphoria. The person then becomes accustomed to the positive brainwaves, and he or she seeks to obtain the euphoria during future interactions with the drug. The chase for pleasure causes an endless cycle of using drugs to create a positive effect and then crashing when the drugs wear off.
Eventually, people who start using drugs and alcohol develop a tolerance. Their bodies stop reacting to small dosages, and they need larger dosages to feel the effects that they felt during previous uses. Tolerance is the main reason that drug and alcohol addicted persons have trouble with their finances. Some addictions can be extremely costly ventures.
The Dark Side of Addiction
The dark side of addiction is the pain and devastation that it causes. The dark side includes withdrawal symptoms, as well. Withdrawal symptoms are the excruciating mental, physical and emotional problems that addicted persons suffer when they stop using drugs. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms that occur from drugs include:
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular heart beat
Many additional withdrawal symptoms exist, but the aforementioned symptoms are the most common. An addicted person who is trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms may partake in criminal activities to do such. The addicted person may ask friends and family members for large loans as well.
How to Tell Someone Has an Addiction
A myriad of single signs exists that can point to a drug addiction. Anyone who has a friend or family members that exhibit more than two of the symptoms should try to help that person to gain access to professional addiction services. The following are some common addiction signs:
- Job loss or issues
- Ignoring personal relationships
- Decrease in hygiene
- Mood swings
- Rapid weight loss
- Drop in school grades
- Domestic violence
- Financial problems
- Erratic sleep patterns
How to Help a Friend or Family Member
Inpatient drug rehabilitation centers are the best source of help for a person with a drug or alcohol addiction. Such facilities provide a wealth of services for an affected person, and they have the treatment available in a safe environment. Members can receive services such as detoxification and counseling in an environment that is clean and distant from the drug-seeking lifestyle. Such a facility may offer intervention services, as well. An interested party can find the number to a reliable facility by calling a private hotline or conducting an Internet or Yellow Pages search.