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What is addiction?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines addiction as a “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by … well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.”
There are physical addictions to nicotine, drugs, alcohol and caffeine, and then there are also relational addictions, involving one person or group of people who have a powerful hold on someone else’s life. Sometimes the two types of addiction are interconnected. A nationwide household survey conducted in 2003 found that 6 million American children lived with at least one parent who abused or had an addiction to alcohol or drugs during the previous year, according to a July 2006 USA Today article. According to the article, experts say those children will have a substantially greater risk than their peers of developing an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Others may launch into the cycle of addiction by peer pressure. It’s merely a social thing – but then the all-consuming cravings return long after the drinking buddies or smoking buddies have gone home.
For some, an addiction is a method of numbing pain. Some people, literally, become powerfully addicted to painkiller pills, often following surgeries or some other medical procedure during which the painkillers were legally prescribed. Others use the intoxicated feeling they have after drug or alcohol use to forget about the pains and stresses of life, whether past or present. Users may blame themselves for a series of life events, so they open the bottle or roll a joint. They start to feel worse about themselves as a result of their current actions, so they do it again to forget about it. Eventually the cycle of addiction has progressed to the point where all they think about is the next drink or the next drug. Nothing else matters … not family, home, work, life, self-respect, self-sufficiency or safety – nothing. So addiction is degenerative, addiction is cyclical and addiction is generational. One thing addiction is not is insurmountable, but recovery is a choice, it is a lifelong process and it is the toughest – and most rewarding – path an addict could choose.
We have gathered information and articles on addiction recovery to help the addict, friends, family, and loved ones understand and support the addict through the recovery process.
Who is Affected by Drug Addiction?
Drug abuse is a major public health problem that impacts society on multiple levels. Whether it is directly or indirectly, every community, family and individual is affected by drug abuse and addiction. Drugs take a tremendous toll on our society at many levels.
Many of America’s medical and social problems can be linked directly to drug abuse and drug addiction. For example, it is estimated that approximately 1/3 of all AIDS cases reported in 2000 (11,635) and most cases of hepatitis C in the United States are associated with injection drug use.
Social problems that can be directly linked to drug addiction include drugged driving, violence, stress and child abuse/neglect. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drugs are used by approximately 10 to 22 percent of drivers involved in crashes, often in combination with alcohol. At least half of the individuals arrested for major crimes including homicide, theft and assault were under the influence of illicit drugs around the time of their arrest. Exposure to any type of stress can also be directly linked to substance abuse in vulnerable individuals and of relapse in former addicts. At least 2/3 of patients in drug abuse treatment centers say they were physically or sexually abused as children.
Drug addiction impacts the individual, the family and the community. Adolescence is a period of high vulnerability to drug abuse and other risk taking factors. Peer pressure is especially difficult to deal with and teenagers often cave under the pressure in order to “fit in” or be well liked. Many parents do not recognize the signs and symptoms of drug abuse and addiction or may excuse the odd behavior as “just a phase.”
People who have a mental illness are at a particularly high risk for problems related to substance abuse. Individuals who have a mental illness coupled with a substance abuse problem have a condition called dual diagnosis. In many instances, substance abuse issues may be ignored or left untreated with the primary focus being the mental illness. However, as more light is shed on this important topic, more and more practitioners are now focusing on the importance of treating both the mental illness and the drug addiction simultaneously.
Consequences of drug addiction can include serious illness, injury and even death. Each year, approximately 40 million debilitating illnesses or injuries occur among Americans as a result of substance abuse. In 2000, approximately 460,000 deaths were deemed to be directly linked to elicit drug abuse.
Other social issues that can be linked to drug addiction include homelessness, crime, education and the workplace.
- 31% of America’s homeless suffer from drug abuse or alcoholism.
- 60% of adults currently housed in federal prisons are there for drug-related crimes.
- Children who have a prenatal exposure to cocaine are more likely to need special education services in school.
- In 1997, drug users were more likely than others to have missed 2 or more days of work in the past month
- Drug users are also more likely to have worked for three or more employers in one year.
Addictions come in many different shapes and forms.There are different drugs, which in turn have different effects and there are different types of addictions, depending on the way these drugs affect the body and mind of the user. It is important to know these differences when approaching addiction treatment rehab centers and programs, not only for the abuser and his family and friends, but also from the point of view of the professionals within these facilities, in order for them to make an accurate diagnosis and successfully treat the addiction.
Drugs and Alcohol Addiction
Amongst the many addictions there are today, that of drugs and alcohol are the most common. Alcohol is probably the most common out of these, with an estimated 18 million Americans having an alcohol abuse problem. Drug abuse is a major problem due to the diversity of drugs being abused and the availability of certain drugs. Substances such as Cocaine, Ecstasy and Heroin are the most frequently abused drugs with addictions to LSD, Speed, PCP, Steroids and Inhalants also commonly found. Prescription drug abuse is on the rise with addictions to such medicines as Vicodin, Ritalin and Valium being especially common amongst school age groups, alongside household chemical abuse. ‘Softer’ drugs, such as Cannabis, continue to cause addiction problems amongst a large group of individuals.
Physical and Psychological Addictions
When talking about drug and alcohol addictions, it is important to realise that different drugs have different effects on the body of the abuser. There are two main effects an abused substance can have: physical and psychological. A physical addiction may be seen amongst individuals of social groups where it is the norm to abuse certain drugs in a particular situation, eg. night clubs. The physical addiction involves a response from the body when the drugs are taken, for example, a release of adrenalin. These responses cause the addiction and it is these physical responses that must be brought under control by addiction treatment rehab programs for a successful recovery. Psychological addictions are simply those where a response from the brain is invoked by taking drugs. Such psychologically stimulating drugs are PCP, LSD and Ketamine. Psychological addictions are a little more complicated to treat as targeting the specific area of the brain that is responsible for the effects of using the drug can often be difficult. Addiction treatment rehab under the correct guidance and medicinal recommendations can successfully treat these addictions. The factors determining drug abuse are as varied as the drugs themselves, making diagnoses as individual as the person and a major part of any addiction treatment rehab program. The type of addiction is a decisive factor that must be considered when trying to determine the most suitable treatment program for the individual in question.
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