Throughout life, many people will have tried at least one drug of abuse at some point, but substance abuse in itself is not necessarily equivalent to addiction. So, what constitutes addiction for some drug abusers, while others never become addicted?
What is and is not substance abuse is often determined by particular societies. What may be considered drug abuse in one society, may be perfectly normal and acceptable in another. An individual who uses or misuses drugs of any kind (regardless of his or her dysfunction while under the influence), and does not experience withdrawal symptoms when not using, would constitute a drug abuser. It is important to recognize that addiction is just as dangerous as drug addiction. Adverse consequences of drug abuse can result in serious social and health issues like
- Criminal charges like DUI, possession, and public intoxication
- Damage to critical organs like the liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart
- Inability to keep up with responsibilities like work, school, childcare, finances, and health maintenance.
- Psychological damage like memory loss, cognition issues, aggression, and paranoia.
Drug addiction is distinguished by the dependence of an addict on his or her drug(s) of choice. All drug addicts, no matter what the subject of their addiction, experience some form of withdrawal when the drug(s) are absent from their systems. All drugs of abuse can be the subject of drug addiction, and cause varying types (psychological and physical) and severities of withdrawal symptoms. See the table below to learn about the withdrawal symptoms associated with some of the most common drug addictions.
|Drug of Addiction||Physical Withdrawal Symptoms||Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms|
|Cocaine||None||Paranoia, Depression, Insomnia, Anxiety, Itching, Mood Swings, Intense Cravings|
|Methamphetamine||None||Anxiety, Irritability, Agitation Excessive Sleeping|
|Heroin and Opiates|
(OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Fentanyl, Morphine, Opana, Dilaudid, etc.)
|Nausea, Vomiting, Muscle spasms and soreness, High fever, Cold sweats||Intense cravings, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia|
|Alcohol||Sweating, Nausea, Vomiting, Shaking, Rapid heartbeat, High fever, Possible seizures (without a medically supervised detox)||Anxiety, Agitation, Intense cravings, Insomnia|
(Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, etc.)
|Hand tremors, Weight loss, Sweating, Seizures (without a medically supervised detox), Muscular pain and stiffness, Nausea||Anxiety, Sleep disturbance, High tension, Panic attacks, Paranoia|
Dangers of Drug Addiction
Like substance abuse, drug addiction can cause devastating consequences in every aspect of life. In addition to the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms of addiction, the motivations of an addict are entirely centered around the procurement and usage of drugs. Since addiction is a dependence on drugs, often stronger than the natural dependence on food and water, addicts will go to any length to get their drug(s) of choice for what they perceive to be a life-sustaining function. Furthermore, the consequences of not getting enough drugs to maintain their addiction are withdrawal symptoms, and without a medically supervised detoxification, most addicts continue to find a way to get their drugs, so they won’t have to go through withdrawal. Learning of the lengths to which an addict will go to get drugs can be mortifying for anyone. Some of the things an addict will do for drug money are more severe than others, and there is usually a progression in the riskiness of a user’s actions.
- Pawning or selling cherished possessions or family heirlooms
Before going to outside sources for money to procure more drugs, an addict will look for valuables within his or her home to sell or pawn. In this process, an addict will often start selling items that he or she can do without, but as tolerance grows and resources diminish, the personal and emotional value of the items an addict will sell for drug money become higher. Over time, family heirlooms, and some of the most cherished items can be lost in efforts to maintain the addiction.
- Stealing possessions and cash from friends, employers, and family members
In efforts to get money to buy more drugs, an addict often starts his or search for valuables close to home. If there is nothing left of his or her own money and possessions, family, friends, and employers are often the first targets for theft because they are familiar to the addict, and are less likely to press criminal charges.
- Stealing prescription pads from doctors
Specifically for those addicted to opiates and benzodiazepines, theft of prescription pads from doctors can become a regular habit. In addition to the common practice of exaggerating pain, insomnia, and anxiety problems with doctors, many addicts will resort to stealing prescription pads from doctor’s offices or calling pharmacies for refills, pretending to the be the prescribing physician. These actions carry severe legal penalties, but for an addict who is desperate to maintain his or her drug supply, it’s a calculated risk worth taking.
- Robbery or theft from strangers, stores, and businesses
As addiction progresses, tolerance grows, and resources for drugs lessen, the disparity of an addict increases. Once an addict has exhausted their available resources close to home, his or her difference is likely to fall onto innocent strangers. Crimes like shoplifting are common among drug abusers, as they search for anything to sell for drug money. Contrary to stealing from those close to the addict, strangers and store owners will likely not hesitate to press criminal charges if a user is caught stealing from them.
Among the most devastating for friends and family members to discover, prostitution is an extreme low of addiction. With the risks of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), an addict who is desperate for drugs will take advantage of any opportunity he or she may have to get money. Unfortunately, many people in society are willing to oblige for sexual favors. This creates not only criminal risks but serious risks to an addict’s safety and health.
- Pawning or selling cherished possessions or family heirlooms
As addiction progresses, and the actions of an addict become more desperate and risky, those close to the addict, and society as a whole suffer negative and severe consequences. In addition to the heart-wrenching experience for family members when they learn of a loved one’s addiction, there are financial implications for everyone. Some examples of the financial burdens of addiction are
When anyone is arrested, there is an added burden on taxpayers for his or her incarceration. According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, approximately 65% of all inmates meet the medical criteria for substance abuse addiction. Arrests of addicts who are caught stealing, buying or possessing drugs, or engaging in prostitution add up to an enormous financial burden from the costs of incarceration.
- Robbery and Theft
Any time an item (specifically one of high value) is stolen, there are significant financial consequences for the victim of the crime. In addition to the societal cost of incarceration, if an addict is caught, the financial toll of theft can be devastating for individuals and businesses. When robbery or theft takes place in a home or business, or with a vehicle, insurance companies are called to action for repairs and replacement of damaged and lost valuables. As a result of reporting insurance claims, the premium cost of insuring valuables rises. If people are forced to spend more money on required insurance, they have fewer resources to put into their businesses, which can make the difference between a business staying open and being forced to close its doors. Theft from businesses also leads to higher price tags to recoup financial loss.
Just as dangerous as it is illegal, prostitution creates some financial problems in society. The legal consequences of prostitution and solicitation charges create a growing financial burden for taxpayers. Additionally, the safety and health risks from STD’s and assault often result in emergency room visits from many addicts who do not have health insurance, which adds to the financial burdens of taxpayers. Another overwhelming burden on society is the spread of harmful and life-threatening STDs, which carry a high price, even for those who do have health insurance.
Drug Addiction Can be Overcome
Understanding the dangers of substance abuse for both the addicts and society as a whole can project a dark picture. Indeed, addiction is a dark life, but there is hope. Countless addicts have turned their lives around to become healthy, sober, and productive members of society with the help of effective addiction rehabilitation treatment.
It is not enough to simply get an individual off drugs to make a lasting change in his or her life. The only way to overcome the destruction of addiction is to rehabilitate oneself, which includes the mind, body, and spirit. At A Forever Recovery, we work with the whole person, get to the underlying issues that exacerbate addictive and destructive behaviors, and help to empower each to heal his or herself, growing self-awareness, and avoid the dangers of relapse. Our individualized treatment programs give each person an environment that is comfortable and tailored to his or her preferences and belief systems. This enables us to provide the most personal and effective treatment for sustained sobriety and recovery from addiction.
If you or a loved one is suffering from drug addiction, call us today at our toll-free number to speak with a trained counselor about our program and how we will get you or your loved one on the path to overcoming addiction and staying sober. Not only can we help, but we also do help. Call today!