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UNDERSTANDING AN ADDICTION

While similar, there is a difference between addiction and substance abuse. You can abuse a substance without being clinically addicted to it. In order for substance abuse to occur, doctors say that certain criteria must be met. This can include:

  • Failing to meet responsibilities in order to use a substance, or because of substance use
  • Continuing to use the substance with full knowledge of any problems, health-related or otherwise, it causes
  • Legal problems arising due to substance use
  • Behaving recklessly when under the influence of the substance, or while trying to obtain the substance

Some drugs are more addictive than others. Thanks to scientific brain imaging, it has been discovered the addictive drugs and other substances become addictive because they change the neurons in the brain, as well as the way they behave. Most commonly, drugs impact the areas of the brain that recognize pleasure.

How does drug abuse affect the brain?

Drug abuse affects the brain by altering a person’s memory, judgment, decision-making skills, and perception of pleasure. Drug abuse changes the way neurons function in the brain. Once this happens, a person begins to perceive the drug as a prime source of pleasure, which causes the person to engage in risky behaviors in order to obtain the drug.
As the drug takes its hold, things that once seemed enjoyable no longer create the same pleasurable feelings, while the brain begins to perceive the drug itself as a source of pleasure. Drug may also affect the areas of the brain responsible for judgment, decision-making, and memory. This is one reason why drug abusers may behave recklessly, and why they begin engaging in riskier and riskier behavior in order to obtain the drug.

The abuse of addictive substances activates of the brain reward system. Frequently activating this system with drugs can lead to addiction.

The brain reward system is naturally activated when we take part in actions that are good for us. It is part of our natural ability to adapt and survive. Whenever something activates this system, the brain assumes something necessary to survival is happening. The brain then rewards that behavior by creating feelings of pleasure.

Drinking water when we are thirsty, for example, activates the reward system, so we repeat this behavior. Addictive substances hijack this system, causing feelings of pleasure for actions that are actually harmful. Unfortunately, addictive substances have a far stronger effect on the brain reward system.

FACTS

NATIONAL ADDICTION STATISTICS

0
ADDICTED TO DRUGS
0
ADDICTED TO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
0
TEENS ADDICTED TO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

DEBUNKING THE LIES ABOUT TREATMENTS

Despite the fact that rehab is often glamorized or obsessively dissected in popular culture, a surprising number of people know very little about what actually goes on during addiction treatment. Let’s take a look at some common rumors:

Based on what you’ve seen on TV, you might think that rehab belongs exclusively to former child actors or privileged reality stars. Movies like 28 Days show a Hollywood-tinged version of the rehab experience, while celebrity gossip shows use rehab as the punchline to jokes about stars battling their addictions.
It’s enough negative attention to make anyone squeamish. Thankfully, treatment is just as accessible for the everyman, but without the public scrutiny of the rich and famous.

On the other end of the spectrum, the other group of people who are commonly known for getting treatment are the ones who are really bad off. Homeless, desperately in debt, disowned by family—people who’ve drifted so far that treatment is their only option.
While there are certainly those who have “hit rock bottom” that go to rehab, even people who are “high-functioning” addicts have found great success through treatment. You don’t have to wait until you lose everything in order to make positive moves toward a better future.

The practitioners and nurses who work in treatment centers are trained to help you overcome your addiction in the most comfortable and efficient way possible. In cases of heavy abuse, a supervised drug detox can help wean people off drugs with minimal side effects. Prescription drugs such as these are often used to ease withdrawal:

  • Buprenorphine—A mild opioid with limited abuse potential, which reduces withdrawal pains from opioid addiction.
  • Methadone—Similar to buprenorphine in effects, but used for more serious opioid and heroin addictions.
  • Naltrexone—Eases cravings and reduces effects of both alcohol and opioids.
  • Antidepressants—Antidepressants are often prescribed for withdrawal-related depression.

Regardless of how the detoxification process works at a given treatment facility, it is always better to go through it under the guidance of a trained professional than trying to quit on your own.

Some treatment centers, especially inpatient centers, can be pricey. However, there are many options available to people who need help paying for treatment. Many insurance plans cover some or all of the costs of treatment, and some programs allow for payment plans or reduced costs based on financial needs. Don’t let money be the only thing that stands in your way.

Although the desire to quit will be crucial in successfully making it through treatment, that on its own isn’t enough. Treatment provides the expert advice of people who can help you through it, as well as accountability, structure and support to help you avoid falling back into bad habits once you’re done.

Ready to get started on your recovery journey?

SIGNS OF ADDICTION

A symptom is something the patient senses and describes, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor notice.

  • Changes in behavior
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Red, glassy, or watery eyes
  • Mood swings or depression
  • Secretive behavior, withdrawal, or locking doors
  • Loss of interest in activities once loved
  • Poor grades or poor performance at work
  • Anger or aggressiveness, even if unprovoked
  • Spending money rapidly or asking to borrow money frequently
  • Loss of social life or ignoring friends and family
  • Lack of coordination of unexplained injuries
  • Sleeping more than usual or lack of a need for sleep

SYMPTOMS OF ADDICTION

All of these symptoms are also common with those who have drug addictions, but these are not addictions in and of themselves. In order for doctors or mental health professionals to consider a patient addicted, three or more of the following must occur:

These can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, changes in mood, and many other physical symptoms that occur when the substance hasn’t been used

Tolerance occurs when more of a drug is needed to elicit the same physical effects, or when the effects are diminished when taking the usual amount.

such as work, school, family time, social engagements, or hobbies

obtain the drug, taking the drug, or recovering from using the drug

This could mean using more of the drug than the person intended, or an inability to stop taking the drug, even when attempts have been made.

These could be related to loss of work, negatively affected familial relationships, or health risks associated with drug use.