Drug Addiction & Abuse

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug Addiction is defined as regular or chronic drug use that significantly interferes with daily life. Drug addiction is a disease in which there are compulsive behaviours involved with using drugs, including taking drugs even if the user knows it’s hurting them, not fulfilling their needs, or causing other problems in their lives. The vast majority of people who become addicted to drugs started out abusing substances to get relief from various psychological damages like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

There are many misconceptions around drug addiction,  and individuals struggling with substance use disorder are often labelled as lazy, selfish and unwilling to show control, this is completely false. Drug addiction is an illness that needs treating like any other problem.

Drug Addiction Vs Abuse

There is a big difference between drug abuse and addiction. A person may abuse drugs or alcohol without becoming addicted to them. Abuse of psychoactive substances involves the continued use of drugs even if it causes harmful consequences. When drug abuse turns into drug addiction, there is a significant shift in behaviour towards compulsive drug use with little regard for the negative effects of drugs.

Effects & Causes

When drugs enter the body, they produce brief and intense feelings of pleasure and well-being. Consequently, drug abuse can quickly lead to addiction. Brain receptors underlie these feelings of pleasure and changes in the brain due to drug abuse offer one explanation for why it is difficult for addicts to quit.

How does someone become addicted to drugs?

There are many reasons a person might become addicted to drugs. Drug addiction can develop from a variety of causes, although addictive personality traits and a vulnerability to drug cravings are more common. There are a number of risk factors that predict who will become addicted. These include:

Inherited Biological Factors: Some people have a genetic predisposition that makes them more likely to become addicted to drugs. While it remains unclear as to whether addiction is a nature vs nurture argument, it appears that both generic and environmental factors play a part in substance dependence.

Environmental and Psychosocial Factors: Various aspects of a person’s environment can make them vulnerable to drug addiction, such as stressful living situations, childhood traumas and parental influences. A child growing up in an environment of addiction is more likely to develop addictive personality traits.

Drug abuse: When a person takes drugs on a regular basis, tolerance can develop. This means that more and more of the drug is needed to produce the ‘high’. As a person develops drug tolerance, they are more likely to become dependent on the drug and therefore abusive of the drug.

Is there a Cure?

Drug addiction cannot be cured but it can be treated and managed. Brain-imaging studies show that the brains of recovered addicts no longer respond to drug cues in the same way as before and, as a result, they are able to resist relapsing.

The most effective course of action is prevention – stopping people from becoming addicted in the first place – and this can be done by raising awareness of substance abuse and by providing drug awareness workshops in schools and the workplace.

Who is more likely to become addicted to drugs?

Drug addiction can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what sex you are or what race you belong to. However, there is a higher risk of drug addiction in certain groups of people:

Because addiction is a psychological illness that is rooted in trauma and abuse, those who have mental health issues, or a history of childhood trauma are more likely to develop an addiction.

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The Dangers

There are many physical dangers associated with drug use, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and many more. However, there are also psychological risks to be aware of.

High levels of stress can cause feelings of anxiety and depression in some users. As well as the risk of heart disease and stroke, drug usage can lead to brain damage in the long run. There is also a serious risk of overdose when abusing certain drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

How drug addiction changes the brain

Every drug has a particular way in which it changes the brain to cause addiction. For example, cocaine causes a specific change in the neurons which release dopamine. When the brain produces too much dopamine, the receptors become insensitive and need more and more cocaine to produce the same high. This causes tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped. In any event, repeat exposure to any substance will cause changes in the brain’s reward system.

The impact of drug use on mental health

Drug use can lead to a deterioration of mental health, particularly in vulnerable people. If a person suffers from a psychiatric illness together with a drug addiction, it can cause serious problems. This is why it is very important to seek professional help if you are suffering from mental illness and suffering from drug addiction at the same time.

In addition, drug abuse also leads to difficulties which people normally face during the development of their personality. These problems include loss of interpersonal relationships, low self-esteem, low motivation and feelings of inferiority.

The impact of drug use on children

If a parent abuses drugs it can lead to serious problems for their children. For example, if they are neglected it can lead to permanent emotional problems for the child.

Another danger is that parents who abuse drugs may get involved in criminal activities which can also risk the life of their children, such as drug driving.

The impact of drugs on pregnant women

Pregnancy and drugs do not go together. If a pregnant woman abuses drugs, there can be serious consequences for the unborn baby. For example, if she uses Heroin she may suffer from miscarriage, premature birth and even death of the baby. Drugs like heroin pass the blood barriers between the mother and foetus, resulting in babies being born dependent on heroin.

The impact of drug use on relationships

Drug abuse can lead to changes in relationships between husband and wife, brother and sister, parents and their children. The addict of drugs may spend all their time on the streets engaging in criminal activities to get money for drugs. In this way, they neglect their family. As a result of this neglect, they may lose support from family and friends. Their relationships with children can be particularly damaged as the child may feel neglected by them and may feel inadequate as a result of this situation.

Overcoming Drug Addiction

The decision to quit drugs is very difficult for many people, but if you are serious about overcoming addiction, residential treatment offers the best solution to substance use disorder.

In the UK there are two ways to seek help for drug addiction, either as an outpatient (including NHS services) or as an inpatient (or residential rehab).

Here at the Providence Projects, we offer residential treatment for substance dependence. This option is ideal because it takes you or a loved one away from any triggers at home, allowing you to focus on recovery in a safe and secure environment.

During treatment, individuals will follow a rehab programme and receive individual counselling and treatment from our team of professionals. You will learn how to deal with triggers in their lives. For example, triggers for cravings may be identified, and replaced by new coping mechanisms or ways of thinking.

We provide an holistic treatment package for drug addiction, including a medical detox programme (if required), therapy, alternative therapies and fun activities to help you on the road to recovery.

We’ve been treating people for over 25 years. The success of our detox and rehab programme is down to our highly trained and experienced addiction counsellors who will work with you and your loved ones during the healing process.

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About the Author




This content has been verified by Paul Spanjar, a leading addiction expert and CEO of the Providence Projects

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