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Drug Abuse

Few can use drugs recreationally but for most of us, there can be an addiction that soon follows the use of drugs or alcohol. Drug addiction can cause negative consequences in work, school, relationships, and home. This can leave a person feeling helpless or ashamed of their addiction. If you,  a family member, or a friend is concerned about drug use and addiction, it is important to understand that there is help available to you. Understanding the addiction process and learning how it can progress from recreational use to full-blown addiction, will give you a better understanding of the risks associated with addiction and how to deal with it.

Addiction No More can help you locate treatment for drug and alcohol abuse today. give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 


addiction cycle graph

Understanding the Root Causes of the Addiction Cycle

Most addicted people start out purely with intentions of just experimenting with different drugs for many different reasons. Not very many people start to do drugs with the intention of becoming addicted. Many people try drugs out of curiosity, or their friends are doing it, to improve athletic abilities, or even for educational purposes. Some people start to use drugs to relieve symptoms of depression, and anxiety, or even for weight control. Whatever the reason for starting to use drugs is, there is one sure way to tell if drugs are becoming a problem in your life. If your drug use is starting to cause problems in your life with work, family, home life, school, or even your relationships, you should look at getting help before the drug abuse problem or addiction starts to take hold of your life. It is not so much the amount of drugs you use or even the frequency of use that determines that there is an addiction problem but more to do with the negative repercussions that the addiction has manifested in your life.

Drug abuse development and the addiction process

Why do some people become addicted to drugs while others do not? There is no single event or factor that can predict if a person will become addicted to a drug or alcohol. There is a risk of developing an addiction for everyone who tries to use drugs recreationally. The risks for addiction can be influenced by a myriad of factors including the biology of the individual, environmental issues, age, and or the stage of development a child is in during the social intake of drugs or alcohol. The more risk factors the individual has, the more likely it is that social drug or alcohol use could lead to addiction. 

Biological Risks

  • Everyone has different genes that they are born with and different environmental struggles they go through in life. These in combination can lead to about half of a person’s addiction vulnerability. Furthermore, gender, mental stability, and ethnicity can greater the risks of developing an addiction.
  • Not only does our environment relate to the place we live but also our friends, family, economic stature, or quality of life in general. All of these factors can greatly increase the risks of addiction and influence drug abuse. there are many other factors that can have a hand in the addiction process such as sexual assault, stress, and the quality of parenting, trauma, or a mental disorder.
  • The addiction process can begin at any stage in a person’s life but the earlier that people start to use and abuse drugs, the more likely that a person will become addicted. Addiction vulnerability is directly affected by environmental factors and genetic disposition coupled with critical developmental stages in life, in turn accelerating the addiction process.

Teenage Drug Abuse

Adolescents going through developmental stages in life can pose a whole other set of challenges when an addiction develops. When an adolescent starts to become a teen, there are areas of the brain that are still developing. These areas govern our self-control, decision-making, and judgment. Adolescents are prone to riskier behaviors including drug abuse. For more information about adolescent and teenage addiction, Free My Addiction is a great resource for teenage addiction and treatment options.

Drug addiction and abuse can have not only individual consequences but also consequences that are passed onto society. NIDA estimates the totals for the costs that are associated with substance abuse to top 600 billion in annual expenditures and continue to rise if we don’t get a handle on the problem. This 600 billion includes 193 billion for tobacco 193 billion for illicit drugs and a staggering 235 billion for alcohol. These numbers only reflect the financial impact of drug and alcohol addiction. The path of destruction also flows into our neighborhoods, impacts our health, and puts our safety at risk. healthy brain verses drug addicted brain

How do drugs affect the brain?

Drugs release chemicals that flow up to the brain and access its communication systems. Drugs disrupt how the nerve cells send, receive, and process the information and will access two key areas of the brain: 1 disruption in the flow of the brain’s natural chemical messengers over-stimulation of the brain’s reward center releasing large quantities of dopamine into the brain’s receptors. 

Cocaine and methamphetamine cause the nerve cells to activate the reward system releasing large quantities of dopamine-producing euphoric effects that can lead to needing more of the drug to produce the same effect. As dopamine is awash in the brain, this can have effects on movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. After a long time of drug abuse, the feeling of pleasure is only felt after the intake of the drug. This can lead to elevated use patterns and addiction. 

Heroin and marijuana have a structure that looks similar to the brain’s neurotransmitters. This can trick the brain’s receptors into activating the nerve cells to send abnormal messages to release the chemicals giving a euphoric feeling of sedation.

Long-term effects on the brain 

With long-term use of drugs, the brain’s chemical reward system starts to become altered. As the brain starts to adapt to the large surges in dopamine production and distribution, it can start to reduce the number of receptors or slow down the production of dopamine. This change will result in less production or lessen the ability to process the chemical in the reward system. The reduction of dopamine will have an effect, not only on the drug’s pleasurable effects but also reduce the ability to enjoy life’s pleasurable events. The decrease makes the addict feel the need to use more of the drug in order to feel any sort of pleasure, compounding the problem even greater, due to what we call tolerance ( needing more of a drug to achieve the same effect). 

Most common misconceptions people make about addiction and drug abuse

  • MYTH Addiction is a disease and there is nothing you can do about it: Treatments have been proven to work and cure addiction in many people. Addiction is a brain disease, but we do not have to feel helpless. All of the changes that addiction has caused to the brain, can be reversed through medications, therapy, diet, exercise, and other treatments, usually associated with holistic type therapy programs.
  • MYTH The only way to get an addict’s help is when they hit rock bottom: Waiting until the person affected by addiction finds their rock bottom is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Who is to say where that bottom is? For some, it can be death. The earlier you get someone’s help for their addiction, the better the result. The deeper the addiction takes its hold on a person, the more difficult the treatment will be. Don’t wait for them to come to you for help. Show them love and compassion and find them the help they need. 
  • MYTH There is no need for the treatment you just have to have the willpower to quit: As the addiction progresses, it actually alters the brain’s chemistry, resulting in a powerful need for the drug and an urge to use. There are drugs that also have a physical dependency component to the withdrawal process, keeping people needing the drug just to be able to function. 
  • MYTH Treatment doesn’t work: Although it can take several tries and different therapy models to get someone help with their addiction, treatment DOES work. For some people, relapse is a part of their recovery. It doesn’t mean that treatment failed. It just is a ripple in the process of recovery. For some, it can take a different approach other than the previous treatment, to handle their addiction.  

Support can make all the difference in recovery 

When a person makes the decision to stop using drugs or enter into a treatment program, having positive reinforcement can help them in their times of need. It can be all too easy for a person to say “just one more time” or “one more hit”, and then rationalize and become completely discouraged and fall off the recovery wagon. It doesn’t matter if you enter a treatment center or try to stop on your own. Having positive role models and support can help them stay on the course of sobriety and recovery. Sometimes all it takes is a warm hug or even getting a cup of coffee to help someone stay on their path to sobriety.

The best thing you can do is talk to them and express your concerns while offering them help, without being judgmental. The sooner you can get them the help they need, the easier the correction can be. Do not wait for them to hit a bottom. When confronting someone, you need to be prepared as they will most likely have a lot of excuses and quite possibly deny that there is even a problem. Do not blame yourself for someone else’s actions or problems. While there are reasons that a person becomes addicted, it is usually a combination of life experiences, pre-disposition to addiction, brain chemistry, and a myriad of bad choices that lead a person to seek out a way to stop the pain of life. It is important for the addict that you are trying to help, to come to the realization that they need help. This is the first step in recovery and is the one that sets the tone for treatment. Take care of yourself and do not put yourself in a dangerous situation to help a friend or family member. The world of drugs can be cruel, heartless, and downright dangerous. The person that you are trying to help is in that world and quite possibly involved in illegal behavior and actions, so make sure that you meet them in a neutral place to ensure your safety as well as make them feel that they can leave at any time. 

Support can come from many places 

  • Family
  • Close friends
  • Recovering addicts 
  • AA, NA, or any other addiction support group
  • Church members or pastor
  • Therapists, counselors

If you are concerned about a family member or close friend who might need help with their drug problem, there are a few things you can do to be proactive about their situation. 

Things NOT to do to someone who is suspected of using drugs

  • Do not cover up for their actions, or bail them out from the negative consequences addiction has to offer.
  • Do not attempt to bribe them to get treatment for their addiction.
  • Do not hide their drugs or throw them out. Some types of withdrawal can cause death.
  • Do not attempt to get someone help when they are high
  • Do not feel guilty for their actions or behaviors
  • Do not argue with them when they are high
  • Do not try to take the blame for their actions
  • Do not take over their responsibilities.
  • Enabling does not help anyone. 
Confronting someone about their addiction can be a risky undertaking and sometimes it is better to have professional help, to ensure not only your safety but also ensure that the addict feels that they are not being blamed or backed into a corner. Often one intervention can be the only chance you have to save an addict’s life. We urge you to get someone who is trained and certified to help you plan and hold the intervention. Call us today and we can help you find an interventionist in your area. For further information about the intervention process, refer to our intervention process.

Addiction is not something to be taken lightly. Too often, we lose family and loved ones to drug or alcohol dependency. Getting someone the help they need can be a life-saving event. People can change for the better. Addiction does not have to be forever. Start the recovery process today. 
Drug Abuse
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Drug Abuse
Nationwide treatment for addiction to drugs
Understanding the addiction process and learning how it can progress from recreational use to full blown addiction, will give you a better understanding of the risks associated with addiction and how to deal with it. Addiction No More can help you locate treatment for drug and alcohol abuse today. give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 1-800-513-5423