What is drug abuse?
Due to the widespread availability of drugs these days, people from all walks of life can experience problems with drugs once they get hooked on it. Regardless of peer pressure, or the supposedly “easy way” to deal with mental health issues, drug abuse, and addiction has been an increasing trend. However, it is not just banned drugs like cocaine or heroin that individuals get addicted to; prescription medications like painkillers and sleeping pills may also prove to have an additive effect when people overdose on them. Based on statistics, prescription painkillers are one of the highest-ranked abused drugs, with a fatality rate higher than that of traffic accidents and gun deaths combined.
Though highly possible, drug abuse— whether illegal or prescribed— does not necessarily lead to the development of substance use disorder where individuals get addicted. While some may grow heavily reliant on them, others may not experience any negative side effects at all. Similarly, there is no exact point at which casual, recreational drug use becomes problematic. However, if individuals are not aware of how dangerous a xanax addiction and its side effects are, for example, it can be extremely dangerous. But with that said, drug addiction problems aren’t about the amount or frequency that you take drugs, but rather the adverse impacts that it has on your life. When you find yourself suffering at work, school, home or in your relationships, it is likely that you have an addiction problem.
Factors affecting the potential of becoming addicted
There are different factors that affect the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. Some of these include a family history of drug addiction, past traumatic experiences, mental disorders like depression and anxiety, early use of drugs; certain methods of drug intake like smoking or injecting can even increase the risk.
How drug addiction develops
Because of the fine line drawn between regular drug use and drug addiction, many fail to realize when they have crossed the line. While the frequency and dosage of drugs consumed do not signify a drug addiction, they are often indicators of it.
When drug use becomes a need. You may find yourself relying on drug use to boost your confidence or raise your energy levels. Some may also turn to drugs to subside pain, deal with panic attacks or increase concentration levels at work or school. When drugs become an essential part of your life that you cannot live without, you may be at risk of a substance use disorder or may have already unknowingly developed it.
Drugs as a way of socializing. Using drugs as a way of fitting into social groups is one of the leading causes of youngsters getting hooked on drugs. This becomes problematic as they will feel the need to do drugs every time they socialize with the same group of people, thereby increasing the chances of developing a drug addiction problem.
Developing other problems. As you start increasing the frequency and amount of drugs that you take, you may start to develop other problems in other aspects of your life. Gradually, drugs will be tied to your life and you may start neglecting other areas like school, work, family and relationships as a result of it; giving rise to a whole new set of challenges.
Drugs become your whole life. Before you know it, drug usage may start to consume your whole life as you stop socializing and put a halt to your intellectual stimulation at school or work. This hence forces you into isolation as you spend the whole day at home relishing the ‘high’ and doing nothing else other than administering the drug into your body.
How drug addiction affects the brain
While different types of drugs entail different physical effects, all abused substances can adversely affect the brain with prolonged use, regardless of whether they are prescribed or banned drugs.
- Drug intake produces the hormone dopamine into your brain, making you feel waves of happiness and is responsible for the ‘high’ that you feel. Your brain remembers these positive feelings and craves for more.
- Once addiction occurs, the substance becomes a necessity in your life, such as eating and drinking.
- The alteration of brain activity prohibits you from thinking clearly, having accurate judgment, controlling your behavior and going on with life without drugs.
- Regardless of the drug you take, the cravings will soon overwhelm you, making you lose focus on your priorities in life.
- The pressing need to take the drug makes you lose the ability to discern for yourself the amount that you’re consuming, the extent to which it is affecting your life and the degree of control you have over your drug problem.
While there are various treatments available for you to deal with your drug addiction, the first steps to countering these effects are acknowledging that you have a substance use problem, and being receptive to accepting treatment.
Common signs of drug abuse
- Abandoning responsibilities like failing classes, skipping work and neglecting your children
- Taking drugs in dangerous situations like driving or taking risks while on drugs like engaging in unprotected sex or using unsterilized needles for drug administration
- Getting into legal trouble like being detained for inappropriate conduct, driving on drugs, or committing theft for the sake of supporting a drug habit
- Rocky relationships with a romantic partner or family members due to increased irritability
Common signs of drug addiction
- Taking more drugs to achieve the same high due to a higher tolerance level
- Experiencing withdrawal effects like nausea, vomiting, insomnia, depression, anxiety, trembling and sweating
- Lacking the control to resist drug usage and doing it more than you plan to
- Having your life revolve around drugs where you spend all your time thinking about drugs and using them
- Losing interest in hobbies that you used to engage in
- Continuously taking drugs even though it is taking a toll on your life
What to do when your loved one has a drug addiction issue
When you suspect or confirm that a loved one is going through a drug addiction problem, be sure to speak up instead of avoiding the problem. Talking to them about the issue and offering moral support will help him or her open up and be more receptive to receiving treatment. The earlier that the addiction is treated, the higher the chances of them recovering faster.
In the process of getting them to open up, always remember to put your safety first. Never place yourself in a situation where it could be dangerous for you or your loved one. Drug addicts may develop erratic behavior and their actions may be unpredictable. Regardless of how much you want to help them, always take care of yourself and make sure that you are not at risk of being harmed.
In addition, avoid blaming yourself for their drug addiction. The most you can do is lend a listening ear and offer support and help. It is up to them whether or not they want to get treated, and you cannot change them by your own means. Allowing your loved one to take responsibility for their own actions is a crucial step in recovering.
Drug addiction is a serious problem that affects the addict as well as the people around him. As a loved one or as an addict yourself, recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug abuse is the first step to reverting your loved one’s or your own addiction. By overcoming the first daunting step of admittance, you will be able to get the treatment that you need and be on your way towards long-term recovery.