What is Drug Addiction?

What is Drug Addiction? How Can You Tell if Someone Might Be Addicted?

Drug addiction is something that’s regularly misunderstood by people all over the world. When you hear someone has a drug addiction, you tend to blame them right away. Many assume it’s the addict’s fault because they chose to take drugs, they lack the willpower to kick the habit, so maybe they get what they deserve.

The simple fact is that drug addiction is far more complex than willpower, and it can have devastating consequences whether the intentions are positive or negative to begin with. Being addicted to drugs can ruin personal relationships, damage careers, ruin financial standings, and leave you in a terrible place in your life.

There’s a lot that you probably don’t know about drug addiction and the changes it can make to your body and mind. Here, in this blog post we’ll explain everything you need to know about drug addiction.

What is Drug Addiction?

In basic terms, drug addiction is when a person feels the compulsive need to take a particular drug all the time. To make matters worse, the more you take it, the more you feel the need to carry on taking it.

While choosing to take a drug for the first time can be a choice, addiction itself is often not a direct choice. It all boils down to a change in your brain. When you take drugs, they interfere with your brain chemistry and alter the way it works. Drugs can have a huge impact on the way you think. We won’t get too detailed and scientific for now, but it can essentially cause chemical changes in your body that make your brain send out different signals to different parts of your body.

In more simple terms, your brain is tricked into thinking that your body needs this drug to survive. This is why you get urges to take it over and over again. You don’t logically know any better because your brain is telling you that you need this drug or else you’re going to suffer and feel really bad. Then, when you take the drug, your body feels so much better (temporarily). Your brain feels it is rewarded so for a short time, you might feel like you’re on top of the world.

drug addiction

Therefore, you start a cycle. Your brain seeks out this “reward”, so you get those urges and everything carries on in one continuous loop. It’s tough to break the cycle because you’re mostly fighting against the most powerful tool you own; your brain.

Addiction is not an excuse to continue destructive behaviors. Nor is it an end-all in any person’s life situation. Although it does change your brain activity and affect every part of your life, it’s not the end of you. Even if addiction has a hold on your– or someone you care about– the cycle can definitely be broken.

To make things worse, there are so many different types of drugs people can become addicted to. Different drugs come with different complications that change the overall self.

The most commonly abused drugs include recreational substances, such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Opioid pills (painkillers)
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine

There are countless substances out there that have incredibly addictive qualities. They interact with your brain on a very high level. Generally speaking, the better a drug makes you feel, the more addictive it is.

However, to make matters worse, there are prescription drugs that are addictive as well. A lot of pain medications can have addictive qualities as you take them to feel relief. Your brain loves the feeling of this relief, which gives you the urge to keep taking more. As such, some people develop drug addiction because of a prescription after a severe injury or illness because a tolerance develops.

What Are the Signs of Drug Addiction?

signs of drug addiction

One of the key signs that you have a drug addiction is if you feel dependent on drugs. There are different ways you can have a drug dependence, with one being that you take it to improve the way you feel. Many people with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are likely to suffer drug addiction because they turn to drugs as a way to alleviate their symptoms.

However, you can also take drugs because you have a physical dependence on them. This means that your body has built up a tolerance to the effects of drugs, so it starts to go into a state of shock when drugs aren’t present in the system. Therefore, you need to take them in order to stop these bad feelings and make you feel physically better.

In essence, what that last paragraph described were withdrawal symptoms. If you experience any of the following after not taking drugs for a few hours then you most likely have an addiction:

  • Cold shakes
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hot flashes
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations

Drug Paraphernalia

Obviously, finding drug-related material around the person’s living space is the most blatant sign of drug use. A lot of addicts become skilled at hiding their drug use as time goes on, but there are still clues as to how they go about using drugs. Examples of such paraphernalia include:

  • Small baggies
  • Pipes, bongs, rolling papers for smoking
  • Lighters
  • Needles or syringes  
  • Small spoons
  • Razor blades
  • White powder residue
  • Compact mirrors, old CD cases, or other small flat surfaces to snort crushed drugs from
  • Shortened straws, rolled up papers or dollar bills
  • Flasks
  • Unusual small bottles, boxes, or old pill containers (a stash jar)
  • E-cigarettes or vapes

Obsessive Cravings

In an instance where, for example, you and your friends/family members occasionally or rarely experiment with recreational drugs together, you might notice one person starting to talk about or seek out a particular type of substance more often. They may become obsessed with the experience of that particular drug, take interest in trying to obtain it more frequently, and talk about it more than is necessary. This is an instant warning sign that an addiction is developing. Obsession with drugs or alcohol takes over at one of the advanced stages of addiction. The user will constantly think about when they will indulge next, where to get the next fix and make excuses about why they “need” or want their substance of choice.

Isolation

For some people, drugs bring out an apparent social side to them, making them feel more interested in others in their social circles or at parties. However, as drug addiction develops, many people go through a period of isolation as a means to continue their addiction in secrecy. Sadly, isolation is a common theme among people struggling with the signs of drug addiction. You might notice him or her staying inside, losing interest in their peers, ignoring phone calls/texts, and avoiding going out in public.

Dependency & Tolerance

As a person continues to use drugs or alcohol more regularly, their tolerance increases, leading to a physical or maybe psychological dependency. What does this mean? Basically, when a substance is introduced into the body for the first time, the user of that substance experiences the most intense effects from it with just the lowest dose. From there, if he or she keeps using the substance, the brain will adjust accordingly, trying to sustain proper functioning throughout the system. If frequent substance use continues, the user will stop feeling as much of the effects as they did before. Therefore, he or she will increase the dose each time to still feel the desired effects.

A common theme of drug users is the “tolerance break”– a short, temporary break where they go several days without using the drug, in order to attempt getting back at the beginner dose with the same effects as before. This might seem like a good action to take, but it doesn’t break the cycle at all. Addiction is still addiction. Especially when it comes to hard drugs, taking a break often provokes painful withdrawal symptoms, leading the person to continue their habit.

what are the signs of drug addiction?

 

Suspicious Behavior

Sketchy behavior is encouraged as something to look out for in teenagers according to many anti-drug campaigns. But what about adults, people we trust, elders, and close beloved relatives? We don’t often think to question their actions or to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior. However, when it comes to signs of drug addiction, don’t let any questionable behavior pass you by.

When forming a drug habit, many people partake in secretive actions. Hanging out with poor influences, staying out late, neglecting personal obligations, lying, cheating, stealing, and withholding information include some of the main examples.

Personal Changes

Along with suspicious or risky behavior, drug addiction can bring a whole range of personal changes in all facets of someone’s action and lifestyle.

Physical

Drugs alter the normal way in which our bodies function. For someone with chronic drug use, this can include major changes in their physical appearance. Of course, as mentioned before, different drugs have specific effects. But some common examples of someone with a drug addiction might include:

  • Major weight changes (often becoming underweight)
  • Dark circles; eyes that look sunken, bloodshot, glassy, or lifeless
  • Dilated or pinpoint pupils
  • Needle marks on arms, legs, hands, or insides of fingers/toes (known as “track marks”)
  • Lack of care for personal hygiene
  • Breakouts and acne scars on the face, neck, back, or other parts of the body
  • Chipped teeth, rotting teeth, “meth mouth”
  • Clenched jaw, grinding of the mouth
  • Disrupt in sleep patterns: oversleeping or hardly sleeping at all

Mental

Mental and emotional warning signs of drug addiction vary from discreetly subtle to extremely alarming. Again, it all depends on the type of drug and the person’s individual makeup. Some drugs disconnect the person from reality to the point of delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations (example: meth, LSD, PCP, ketamine, or a batch of poorly made street drugs). Other drugs, like opiates or painkiller pills, more affect the central nervous system causing drowsiness, slowness, and an overall “out of it” feeling.

Regardless, it’s wise to note the noticeable mental and emotional signs of drug addiction, such as:

  • Fluctuation in awareness/alertness
  • Increase in anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders
  • Manic outbreaks
  • Seeming disconnected from reality
  • Paranoia, delusions, delirium
  • Severe mood swings
  • Drastic changes in personality or demeanor
  • Apathy
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Violence
  • Self-destructive habits (such as self-injury)
  • Memory issues
  • A decrease in cognitive functions
  • The person not seeming like their usual self

behavior of drug addiction

Behavioral

Dramatic shifts in one’s personal social circle is another huge sign of drug addiction. They might start neglecting daily tasks, like going to work or school, engaging in hobbies, cleaning, or caring about the things they used to love. One might also turn to criminal activity as a means to feel a rush of excitement, to illegally obtain what they cannot otherwise, or to get involved in selling and trading drugs. This isn’t always the case, although in the depths of addiction it’s always a possibility.

Social

It’s often said you become like the top five people you hang out with the most. Therefore, an effective influence of drug addiction can involve the immediate social circle: friends and romantic partners especially. Peer pressure comes into play at the beginning of drug addiction. Even though it might seem like some innocent fun at first, certain drugs can spark addiction upon the first use, like cocaine, heroin, meth, and other hard drugs.

Withdrawal

The last and most brutal sign of drug addiction is the withdrawal phase upon an individual attempting to quit their usual drug use. Withdrawal can be a painful, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous period.

For heroin or alcohol addiction, it’s advised to go through detox under the care of a medical professional, and the withdrawal symptoms can lead to stroke or heart issues. Other drugs, like cocaine or marijuana, have mildly uncomfortable withdrawal which can usually result in more of a psychological withdrawal than a dangerous physical one.

Withdrawal symptoms, ranging from least to most intense, include:

  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep issues / insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of focus and mental activity
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Tingling sensations in limbs
  • Racing heart rate; heart palpitations
  • Vomiting, diarrhea
  • Panic attacks
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Stomach pain, abdominal cramps
  • Hallucinations
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Delerium Tremens (DTs)
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

get help for drug addiction

 

There are loads of withdrawal symptoms associated with drug addiction, and they vary depending on the specific drugs.

In general, noticing these symptoms is an easy way to see if you have a drug addiction or not.

It’s not just withdrawal symptoms that signify drug addiction.

There are other behavioral changes to watch out for as well:

  • You no longer have any hobbies
  • You spend less time talking to friends or family
  • You’re taking more time off work
  • You’re always late for things
  • People are commenting on your appearance
  • You’re gaining or losing a lot of body weight
  • Your appetite is extremely low or high
  • You’re frequently out of control
  • You really wish you could stop using, but simply can’t no matter how hard you try.

If you feel like these things are happening in your life, then it could indicate drug addiction. Another telltale sign is if people you know are confronting you and encouraging you to get help. When most of the people around you think you have a problem, then the chances are you do have one.

What Are the Dangers of Addiction?

You don’t need us to tell you that drug addiction is dangerous. It impacts your physical health, mental wellbeing, relationships, and the rest of your life as well. Not only that, but it can lead to accidental overdoses.

An overdose is when you take too much of a substance, and it is too much for your body to handle. This can lead to cardiac arrest, you can stop breathing, and you can die. Overdose is a serious issue, and it is the number one cause of death for Americans that are under the age of 50.

However, drug overdose isn’t the only danger of drug addiction. It can cause the following health problems:

  • Depression & anxiety
  • Malnutrition
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Respiratory issues
  • Stomach pains
  • Organ damage (particularly to kidneys and liver)
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage
  • Insomnia
  • Early onset Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease

drug addiction

The list goes on. This doesn’t even take into account how drug addiction affects the rest of your life as well. It can lead to the following issues:

  • A breakdown in relationships with friends, family and loved ones
  • Getting fired from your job for turning up late or turning up high
  • Losing all your money because you spend it all on drugs
  • Arrests for disorderly behavior while on drugs
  • Potential for dangerous situations like robbery, rape, violence, or serious injury

Overall, you could end up with no friends, no money, no job, and a whole host of

After detox, you can begin with counseling, therapy, and a range of other treatments to tackle drug addiction. The aim is to get you in the frame of mind where your brain no longer craves drugs so you can function without them.

How Can I Tell if Someone is Using Drugs?

There can be quite a confusing difference between drug use symptoms and side effects. Red flags vary depending on the type of drugs being used, the unique individual, and their present situation. However, there are some clear tell-tale signs of drug addiction that can be viewed from any angle which exclaim the potential of drug addiction. There are a larger amount of resources available through our website if you need help identifying or getting help for addiction.

Note: The following list is not intended to diagnose someone or an addiction. A proper diagnosis must be done by a medical professional. These are simply tools to help you become aware of any possible indications people face when the time comes to take active steps in seeking treatment.

What Should I Do if I See the Signs of Drug Addiction?

If you notice any signs of drug addiction in your life or in someone you care about, the most important thing to do first is to seek help. Try not to overreact to the situation as that can lead to aggressive feelings, drama, and unwanted pain. However, with that said it’s still crucial that you talk to someone, find support, and look into treatment options.

There are professional interventionists who can step in and help you along the way of finding a treatment center, counselor, psychiatrist, or sponsor for the person needing to overcome drug addiction. Overcoming addiction is not an easy task. In fact, it is most often a lifelong journey. But it’s a journey that’s worth it.

If you have any questions or need help finding placement for someone in need of recovery, reach out to us today.

Can You Treat Drug Addiction?

The good news is that drug addiction can be treated. It can’t be “cured”, per se, purely because there’s always the chance that it can come back. However, you can undergo rehabilitation treatment for drug addiction to ensure you’re on the path to recovery.

Rehab is the best course of action as you can move into a rehabilitation facility and get all the treatment you need. Typically, the road to recovery begins with detox. Drug detox means you cut the substance out of your system and re-acclimate your body into functioning without it. This will generate some nasty withdrawal symptoms, but you can get medication assisted treatment (MAT) to help cope with discomfort.

After detox, you can begin with counseling, therapy, and a range of other treatments to tackle drug addiction. The aim is to get you in the frame of mind where your brain no longer craves drugs so you can function without them.

Sources:

SAMHSA: Mental and Substance Use Disorders (2017)
NCBI Drug Withdrawal Syndromes

 

If you or a loved one needs help, call us at 949-625-4019.

Summary: Addiction is A Serious Disease, But It CAN Be Treated

Hopefully, this has shown that drug addiction isn’t merely a case of someone liking drugs and taking them all the time. It’s a serious disease that needs to be addressed, or else you’ll end up on a slippery slope towards life risks nobody should have to live through. There are drug addiction treatments out there, and it’s always best to seek out professional help if you want the best results.

If you or a loved one needs help, call us at 949-625-4019.

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