Understanding and Solving Drug Addiction
The reality of drug addiction can be very scary and disruptive for both the user and their family and friends, affecting their lives forever. The availability of dangerous and addictive drugs is increasing, and the pressure to take the risk and try them is as well. The effects of each drug may seem fun or helpful at first, but many times, trying the drug simply once is enough to trigger a downward spiral by causing addiction, extreme appearance and behavioral changes, and separation between loved ones. There are many different kinds of addictive drugs, illegal and prescription, all of which vary in short-term and long-term effects, but there are also many different ways to treat addiction to different substances using trusted confidants and professionals at substance abuse facilities, however, the addict can only be helped if he submits himself willingly and puts in the effort to get his life back on track.
There are two categories of addictive substances: illegal and prescription. Illegal drugs are typically more dangerous to acquire, but prescription drugs can be way more dangerous because of how easy they are to get ahold of. Beginning with a legal drug, nicotine seems to be one of the least harmful of addictive drugs. Nicotine is typically inhaled through cigarettes, cigars, vape devices, or pipes, but it can also be consumed by chewing tobacco or nicotine gum (Felman). The effects of using nicotine products can leave the user feeling euphoric, and lightheaded and dizzy; the negative effects present themselves very slowly compared to the immediate euphoria (Felman). Using nicotine products can lead to addiction, mouth cancer, gum disease, lung cancer, stomach cancer, bad odor, throat cancer, and eventually death, which does not seem relevant to the user when they first use nicotine products (Felman).
Another addictive and even more dangerous drug is cocaine. Cocaine is an illegal and recreational substance that is hardly ever used to self-medicate, but more often at parties or with friends for fun. Many cocaine users say there were no specific reasons why they used it other than curiosity or slight peer pressure (Short and Long-Term). Cocaine is a fine, white powder that is usually snorted, but is possible to consume using other methods. The immediate effects of cocaine are extreme sensitivity, intense happiness, increased energy, paranoia, and a decreased appetite (Short and Long-Term).
This high, derived solely from cocaine, lasts only a few hours. After the peak, the high decreases in a way that causes headaches, nausea, and depression, which is called the comedown (Short and Long-Term). These symptoms are so unpleasant that the user will use more and more cocaine until they run out in order to avoid this comedown. Possible long-term damage can result from cocaine usage to the nasal, throat, and lung areas, and it can also cause seizures, strokes, heart attacks, and sexual dysfunction (Short and Long-Term).
Even more harmful than cocaine, are methamphetamines. Methamphetamines can be smoked, swallowed, or snorted in many different forms, and are one of the most harmful drugs. The effects of methamphetamines can be different depending on the person who consumes them. For some, the effects will include increased self-confidence, euphoria, increased energy, and a suppressed appetite; for others, meth can cause delusion, increased aggression, and emotional blunting (Chrystal Meth). Emotional blunting, feeling cut off from one's feelings, is helpful to individuals who have recently gone through a tragedy.
Meth tends to make people care less about their feelings, so this can be helpful to those who are actively trying to temporarily forget about their depression (Chrystal Meth). Hallucinations are another side effect of meth usage. The users experience odd feelings along with their visual deceptions, like bugs crawling around underneath the skin, so they frantically scratch and wound themselves trying to get the imaginary bugs out (Chrystal Meth). This results in meth sores all over the body (Chrystal Meth). Long-term damage may include extreme weight loss or gain, sexual dysfunction, heart problems, sleep deprivation, and very commonly, death (Chrystal Meth).
Moving on, Phencyclidine, or PCP, is an especially dangerous drug. Use of PCP results in complete loss of physical self-control. PCP can be smoked, swallowed, snorted, or injected in basically any form, and it can cause a variety of immediate effects (MacLaren). Whether the effects are pleasant or not also depends on the person. It causes euphoria, relaxation, extreme hallucinations, numbness, detachment from the body, loss of logic, amnesia, confusion, and blurred vision (MacLaren).
While high on PCP, individuals completely apart from reality and their surroundings. They no longer care about what others think of them or what dangers could be around them (MacLaren). A very common incident is someone on PCP is hit by a car because of how unaware they are of their surroundings, and they do not know they are in danger of dying from their injuries, because the numbing effect may be so strong, they do not even know they are injured (MacLaren). Additionally, it is not uncommon for PCP users to take off all their clothes in public because they feel overwhelmingly hot and have no care for their public appearance (MacLaren). Long-term damage of PCP use includes fevers, respiratory problems, seizures, paranoia, comas, strokes, and death (MacLaren).
Heroin is one of the most harmful and most addictive illegal drugs. The most common form of heroin is a fine, white powder, hardly different from cocaine; the most common method of consumption is boiling the powder into liquid and injecting it (Heroin Addiction). The effects of heroin can be very enjoyable to some, but to others the experience may be so revolting that they never try it again after the first time (Heroin Addiction). Heroin is mostly used as a self-medicating drug for pain and depression, way more often than as a party drug or just to have fun (Heroin Addiction). The immediate effects include extreme euphoria, pain relief, calmness, disorientation, stimulated warmth, and feelings of safety (Heroin Addiction).
The stimulated warmth and safety are dangerous because even though an individual may feel like they are safe and warm, they are still prone to hyperthermia and unsafe conditions while on heroin (Heroin Addiction). Withdrawal symptoms occur right after only one time of trying the drug, and they can be so overwhelming that they cannot resist a second time (Heroin Addiction). Withdrawal symptoms include extreme nausea, suppressed breathing, coughing, and headaches, and the long-term effects of heroin use are extreme changes in body weight, changes in complexion, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and death (Heroin Addiction).
Additional, less significant drugs are as follows. Oxycodone, an addictive prescription drug, is used for pain relief and stress (What are the Most). Another, Codeine, treats cold and flu symptoms and can be found in cough syrup (What are the Most). Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid for acute and chronic pain and cancer patients, and it creates euphoria and relaxation (What are the Most). Meperidine, or Demerol, is also a synthetic opioid that creates euphoria and treats moderate to severe pain (What are the Most). In analysis, addictive prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illegal drugs, and take a significant amount of effort to become clean from (What are the Most). Withdrawal symptoms can also be just as severe.
There is a difference between drug use and drug addiction, however, and how fast a person becomes reliant on the drug is different for everyone. Some factors that increase the odds of becoming addicted to a drug are genetics, abuse, neglect, mental disorders, and drug exposure at an early age (Drug Abuse and Addiction). There are also a number of reasons, legitimate or not, for why people try drugs in the first place. One reason is simply curiosity or to ease negative feelings like stress, anxiety, and depression (Drug Abuse and Addiction). Furthermore, drugs are used to escape painful memories or difficult life circumstances (Fogoros). Drugs, especially meth and PCP, which have emotional blunting effects, are wanted by people who have some sort of major cause of stress in their lives, like financial issues, divorce, or abuse (Fogoros).
The feeling of not caring anymore can provide temporary relief for someone burdened by stress and worries (Fogoros). There are a few signs that aid in distinguishing when drug use is beginning to form into an addiction. Developing tolerance, needing to consume more of the drug to achieve the same effects, is a huge sign that addiction is nearby (Drug Abuse and Addiction). Drug addiction is a huge problem when it starts to interfere with family, friends, school, or work (Drug Abuse and Addiction).
Once a person develops an addiction, we begin to see what it looks like from the outside. Appearance-wise, drug addiction can result in bloodshot eyes, bad breath, weight loss or gain, and a different complexion, and some physical symptoms can be drug tolerance, depression, nausea, confusion, fever, and weakness (Signs of Drug Addiction). The users will also need to sleep way more or way less than usual, and eat more or less than usual. However, the behavior resulting from addiction can be way more serious and dangerous. An addict will mostly likely borrow or steal money for drugs when they do not have any of their own money left, because the withdrawal symptoms are too severe to ignore (Signs of Drug Addiction). They will consume more of the drug than originally planned, or consume more as soon as they start feeling the beginning of withdrawal symptoms.
Most of their thoughts are about the drug, how it feels, when they are going to get more next, and how horrible the withdrawal symptoms are (Signs of Drug Addiction). Since they are constantly thinking about the drug and hardly anything else, they begin to lose interest in a lot of their hobbies before the addiction. They will have difficulty taking proper care of themselves, like brushing their teeth or showering, because it does not seem as important as becoming high (Signs of Drug Addiction). They may even start to neglect their spouses or children because their family simply does not matter to them anymore. They will have trouble getting along with and lose many friends and family members who disapprove of their new habits, and instead replace them with a different set of friends who also use drugs or help them acquire more (Signs of Drug Addiction).
In order to understand drug addiction, understanding the psychological science behind addiction must come first. Most drugs immediately place dopamine into the brain's reward circuit, which motivates them to repeat the same behavior, even if the behavior is unhealthy and harming them (Understanding Drug Use). The brain responds to this constant stimulation by reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it, which causes tolerance, the need to consume more over time (Understanding Drug Use). It also causes loss of interest in hobbies because there are not many cells left to be stimulated by the activities that were once enjoyable (Understanding Drug Use).
Teenagers are much more susceptible to drug addiction than adults; early drug use is more likely to result in addiction along with early exposure to drugs.
Availability of drugs is also very high during adolescence (Preventing Drug Misuse). It is very common for the substances to be present at school and social events. Teenagers are also more likely to take risks and try new things, and they are much more vulnerable to peer pressure because the brain's decision/judgement-making parts are not fully developed until around age 25 (Preventing Drug Misuse).
Addiction is a horrifying experience, but the drug user is far from the only person who will suffer the effects of their addiction. Addiction causes families to separate for many reasons. The addict may lose interest in activities usually participated in with family members because the high is more important. Family members and friends may blame themselves for the incident even though drug use is self-inflicted (How Does Addiction). Trust is destroyed as the addict constantly hides their problem by lying, even to close family members. The last thing they want is to come clean in front of family members who have respect for them, not knowing about the addiction problem. However, practicing secrecy when it comes to a drug addiction could cause the problem to spiral.
When the addict is lying about having an addiction, family members and friends unintentionally become enablers by offering them things that remind them of the addiction or talking about drugs in a casual way (How Does Addiction). Even if the addict is not lying about having an addiction, family members could become enablers by calling in sick to work for them and taking over their responsibilities when they are unable to do so for themselves because of drug use, instead of letting facilities get them back on their feet (How Does Addiction). Trust is also broken because the addict may constantly borrow or steal money from family members for drugs because people who are close are probably the easiest to steal from (How Does Addiction).
They could have new, aggressive behavior towards family and friends, or pressure them to join their drug use so they do not feel so cut off from the general population. If they have children, they could be affected by a possible divorce or drug exposure at an early age, which increases their chance of using drugs in the future. Addicts can also carry diseases picked up from needles that can be transmitted to their partners (How Does Addiction)
There are multiple ways to help a peer deal with an addiction if you are one of the people the addict has decided to confide in. It is helpful to know that the peer is right to be concerned if the addiction is seriously affecting their life, such as the ability to hold a job or pay rent for an apartment. Before deciding how to help the addict, the peer should ask other close friends and family members how they see the issue, such as how serious it is and how far action should be taken to help (Helping an Adult).
Another good idea is to contact a substance abuse professional for advice, however, the addict can only submit himself for actual treatment; they cannot be submitted by someone else. The peer should emphasize that they care about the addict's well-being and quality of life way more often than phrased as a lecture about everything they are doing wrong (Helping an Adult). Also, they should ask questions and pay close attention to the addict's answer so it does not feel like a lecture. If the addict has not already tried, the peer should suggest cutting down. If they try to cut down and absolutely cannot, at least they will recognize that their drug addiction is a serious problem (Helping an Adult). The peer must realize the dangers of stopping the drug use completely, and what the withdrawal symptoms could be.
Once the cure to the addiction is beyond what the peer can do to help, the addict must be willing to submit their self to a substance abuse facility for help. Once the addict submits for help, they will have a screening done with a professional, which is a series of questions about the amount and frequency of alcohol or other drug use and the consequences it may be causing (Helping an Adult). The screening may be the most important part of what substance abuse facilities can do because the type of treatment that comes afterwards all depends on the nature of the person receiving it.
What may work for one person is not guaranteed to work for anyone else; it is purely based on personality and what the addict is motivated by (Treatment Approaches). The screening may lead to an intervention, where another professional will give feedback to the addict, depending on the information revealed during the screening. If feedback is not enough to help the addict solve the problem, further treatment will be recommended, which addresses the individual's physical, psychological, emotional, and social conditions (Helping an Adult). Type and amount of treatment depends on the severity, but sustained reduction in drug use and sustained increases in personal health and social function are the primary goals (Helping an Adult).
Usually, it takes about three months to see significant improvement in the ability to resist drugs, and the former addicts will begin to gain back interest in the activities they once enjoyed (Treatment Approaches). After treatment is complete, the individuals may have to remain in rehab for a while after, often for years. Even after rehab is completed, past addicts should come back to the facilities regularly for screenings to be sure they are not still at risk of developing another addiction, which is very possible (Helping an Adult) Another huge part of the healing process is related to cooperation of the patient. The effectiveness is partly based on how willing the patient is to comply to the professionals' advice and the effort put into becoming clean.
It is a fact that drug abuse is a serious problem that can occur anywhere and to anyone. Risk factors involve family history, abuse, financial issues, and exposure at a young age, but no matter what, it is still possible to develop a drug problem regardless of risk factors. Drugs like nicotine may not be as harmful as heroin, but using any drug can certainly lead to a more dangerous one eventually. Teenagers are more susceptible to drug addiction, but it is possible with all ages. Addiction affects more than just the addict; it greatly affects all of their family and friends as well, which can include innocent children.
It may seem like an addiction problem cannot be solved because of the strength of the withdrawal symptoms or how many aspects of the addict's life are destroyed, but it is important to remember that addiction can always be helped. There are many ways that a close confidant can provide help to an addict, and if the problem goes beyond what the confidant can help with, they may submit themselves for treatment at a substance abuse facility. Help is always available for drug addiction as long as the addict can recognize they have a problem.