Drug addiction is not a choice; it’s a disease based on a cycle of dependence that might initially make you feel better but ultimately restricts you to a limited lifestyle. Not only does it damage your relationships and hinder your ability to reach your full potential, but it also puts your health at risk and clouds your judgment. When you’re in the throes of addiction, it’s easy to tell yourself you don’t have a problem. However hard it is, facing up to the fact that you need help is the first step towards recovery.
Addiction and dependence aren’t the same, although they regularly occur alongside each other. They are both substance use disorders, which is the umbrella term for any condition that involves using substances is an unhealthy way. Dependence is characterized by a need to take drugs because, without them, you’ll suffer from withdrawal symptoms. This happens when your brain and body chemically adapt to the presence of the substance in your system—an event which can occur with surprising speed.
It is possible to be dependent on drugs without developing an addiction. This can happen when you take painkillers or anxiety medication over a long-term period. If you seek treatment promptly, you can overcome dependence.
On the other hand, chronic substance abuse disorder or addiction is when you compulsively use drugs in spite of negative consequences. You’ve probably had several failed attempts and want to stop but aren’t able to.
According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 11 criteria indicate a substance use disorder. The presence of two or three indicates a mild disorder, four or five is considered moderate and if you meet six or more of the criteria, it’s considered a chronic substance use disorder — also known as addiction. The criteria are:
- Taking medication you were prescribed in higher quantities or for longer than directed
- Repeated failed attempts to cut down on or stop using the drug
- Spending excessive amounts of time pursuing, using or recovering from using the drug
- Persistent strong cravings
- Failing in your responsibilities at work, school or home because of drug use
- Using in spite of problems in your personal relationships
- Taking the substance in spite of it putting you at risk of harm
- Continued use of a drug despite knowing it exacerbates a physical or psychological condition
- Building tolerance or needing more of the substance to achieve the same effects
- The development of withdrawal symptoms that can only be stopped by the use of the drug
Substance abuse affects everyone differently, and you can’t quantify someone’s addiction based on the substance they take. Some people who use a drug that isn’t considered to be the most addictive will go on to become severely addicted. The strength and severity of addiction largely depend on the individual. That said, certain drugs cause problems with more people and have a higher addiction risk associated with them. In no particular order, these are:
- Crack cocaine
- Opiate prescription drugs
- Crystal meth
There is no single cause or gene that dictates you’re going to develop this disease. It occurs as a result of multiple factors interacting and playing out in your environment. Certain personality traits that you inherit, including impulsivity and a propensity for sensation-seeking behavior, contribute to developing an addiction. If your close family members abuse substances, this can also be a major genetic and environmental influence.
Other environmental causes include peer pressure, traumatic life events, parental neglect or abuse, repeated exposure, ease of access to drugs and starting to use addictive substances at a young age.
Why Is Addiction a Disease?
Addiction is not something you choose or have control over. It’s a progressive illness that gets worse if you don’t seek medical care. Your body adapts as it becomes accustomed to having a substance in its system. After a while, your reward system and brain are tricked into thinking the substance is something you need to function. As you lose interest in things you used to enjoy, you become more focused on obtaining the drugs and avoiding comedown or withdrawal.
Does the US Have a Problem With Substance Abuse?
There does appear to be a growing problem with substance abuse in America. The number of people dying from drug overdoses has more than tripled since 1990. From 1999 to 2007, over 700,000 people died from drug overdoses in the US alone. Recent estimates put the number of Americans who have an active addiction at near 21 million, with only 10% of them getting the drug rehab treatment needed to recover long term.
What Is the Opioid Crisis?
If you’ve been struggling through the turmoil of addiction to opioids, you’re not alone. With the number of opioids prescribed since 1999 increasing 300%, the amount of people who develop addiction has skyrocketed too. Around 2.1 million people in the US have an opioid use disorder, and approximately 130 Americans die each day from an overdose. If you’re worried about the way you or a loved one has been using these drugs, it’s never too late to seek help.
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Is There a Link Between Mental Health and Drug Abuse?
It’s still unclear whether mental health issues are caused by drugs or people who have mental health issues are more likely to use drugs, but there is a strong correlation between the two. Some estimates put the number of people with severe mental health disorders who are addicted to substances at 50%. On the flip side, around 29% of people who are diagnosed as mentally ill abuse drugs or alcohol.
Substance abuse is becoming so common that you can underestimate how serious a condition it is. The use of some drugs is becoming normalized, which puts a lot of people at risk of developing mental and physical health conditions as a result. If any of these issues are currently affecting you, call Serene Beginnings at 866-300-6955 if you have questions or follow the link to learn more about our drug treatment program in Delray Beach, Florida.
The therapists at Serene Beginnings provide effective rehab options for the following substances.