So… What’s What & Who’s Who?
For those who don’t have any experience with addictions or those who are afflicted by addictions, below we have listed the main terms that we will use throughout this article and also within most of our other articles too.
For ease of explanation, we will use the term “drug” as an umbrella term for legal drugs or medicines, illegal substances and alcohol.
A drug is defined as: A medicine or other substance which has a physiological and mental effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.
An addict is defined as: A person who is either physically or psychologically dependent addicted to a particular substance, this includes including alcohol, illegal substances or prescribed medications.
An dependency is defined as: The state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else. In this case, a substance.
Recovery is defined as: A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. And the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. In our case, the freedom to no longer be dependent upon a drug.
An addiction is defined as: An addiction is when there’s an uncontrollable urge to consume a particular substance(s) because of a physical or mental dependence to that particular drug. Usually, this is because the substance has a pleasurable or satisfying effect, relieves withdrawal symptoms or helps to stop bad feelings, thoughts or emotions (in the short term).
Withdrawal is defined as: The action of withdrawing something or the action of ceasing to participate in an activity. In this case, ceasing to use a substance or substances that addicts are physically and/or psychologically dependent upon.
What’s Classed As A Drug?
A drug is any kind of medicine or chemical that changes how your body or brain functions. There are:
- Alcohol (alcohol is a drug too!)
- Illegally sought marijuana
- Prescribed medications from your Doctor for you
- Prescribed medications from a doctor that is meant for someone else, however you are now using them
- Medicines that you can buy over the counter from a pharmacy or from a shelf in a supermarket
- Illegal substances such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine ect
- Medication assisted treatment (MAT) medications such as methadone, buprenorphine or acamprosate
- Prescribed marijuana in US states where marijuana can be prescribed and dispensed
- Medicines from a supplementary prescriber such as nurses or dentists
An addiction is when there’s an uncontrollable urge to consume a substance because of a physical or mental dependence to that particular drug. Usually, this is because the substance has a pleasurable or satisfying effect, or helps to stop bad feelings (in the short term).
Are All Drugs Addictive?
Some drugs are more addictive than others. While not all drugs are physically addictive (causing physical withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them), they can still be psychologically (mentally) addictive, meaning you’re mentally dependent on them.
When Does Drug Use Become An Addiction?
Unlike other things in life, there isn’t an actual specific moment where somebody can use drugs recreationally without negative consequences one minute, and then suddenly become addicted to them the next.
The easiest way to think about it is that an addiction has begun when:
- The individual continues to use a substance, even though doing so causes negative consequences in their life or those around them and yet, still continue to use it/them.
- Addictions have begun when not using a particular substance or substances cause the individual to experience withdrawal symptoms until more of that particular substance or substances are consumed to relieve the withdrawal symptoms.
Did you know: It recorded a death rate of 6 people per 100,000, with 450 people dying from drug overdoses in the United States and United Kingdom every single day.LuxuryRehabs.com
It’s Not If, But When…
With continued drug use, the risks of developing an addiction constantly increase every time you use recreationally, and it is this sustained use that increases your risk of developing a physical and psychological dependency to that particular substance(s) and addiction.
Substance use prevention efforts typically focus on minors, children and teens especially 15-35 years of age. Substances typically targeted by preventive efforts include:
- Alcohol (including binge drinking, drunkenness and driving under the influence)
- Inhalants (volatile solvents including among other things glue, gasoline, aerosols, ether, fumes from correction fluid and marking pens)
- Club drugs (such as MDMA)
Community advocacy against substance use is imperative due to the significant increase in opioid overdoses in the United States, United Kingdom among others. It has been estimated that about one hundred and thirty individuals continue to lose their lives daily due to opioid overdoses alone.
It is said that approximately 1% of the world population has a substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder.Our World In Data
Protective & Risk Factors
Environmental and internal are two main factors that contribute to the likelihood of substance use and possible subsequent addiction. Environmental factors in the individual’s adolescence include: child abuse, exposure to drugs, lack of supervision, media influence, and peer pressure.
Drug activity in an individual’s community may normalise the usage of drugs. Similarly, if an individual is placed through treatment and then placed back into the same environment that they left, there is a great chance that person will relapse to their previous behaviour.
Internal factors that are within the child or personality-based are self-esteem, poor social skills, stress, attitudes about drugs, mental disorder and many others. A few more factors that contribute to teen drug abuse are lack of or poor parent to child communication, unsupervised accessibility of alcohol at home, having too much freedom and being left alone for long periods of time.
Additionally, there is evidence that gender moderates the effect of family, school and peer factors on adolescent substance use. For example, some studies report that not living with both biological parents or having poor parent-adolescent communication is associated with substance use, especially in female adolescents.
Main risk periods for drug abuse occur during major transitions in a child’s life. Some of these transitional periods that could increase the possibility of youth using drugs are puberty, moving, divorce, leaving the security of the home and entering school. School transitions such as those from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school can be times that children and teenagers make new friends and are more susceptible to fall into environments where there are drugs available.
One recent study examined that by the time are seniors in high school, “almost 70% will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nearly 40% will have smoked a cigarette and more than 20% will have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose”.
Binge drinking has also, been shown to increase once an individual leaves the home to attend college or live on their own.
Most youths do not progress towards using other drugs after experimentation. Research has shown, when drug use begins at an early age, there is a greater possibility for addiction to occur.
Three exacerbating factors that can influence drug use to become drug use are social approval, lack of perceived risks and availability of drugs in the community.
Youths from certain demographics are also at higher risk for abuse and addiction. These groups include those suffering from a mental illness and come from a family history of addiction. Yet, some teens living with dual diagnosis prove that there is not always a causal relationship between mental illness and a substance abuse problem.
Moreover, when addiction occurs, youth are more likely to require teen rehab as a form of treatment. Most young adults have a false perception that they may be invincible. These individuals believe changes won’t be made until an extreme event happens i.e. a friend overdoses, a car accident or even death. Even then it is not likely that they will see the correlation between use and trauma.
At least 15.3 million people worldwide have drug use disorders.World Health Organisation
Risks Of Developing An Addiction
Did you know: upto as much as 50% of those who develop addictions do so because of a genetic factor that they inherited from their parents. This however, doesn’t mean that they will become addicts. Many people who had parents who were addicts continue to lead happy, successful, drug free lives.
There are certain things that can add extra risks toward developing an addiction. These include the following.
What Are The Signs Of Drug Addiction?
There are many types of drugs that people can become addicted to, so there are many different signs to be aware of as different substances cause different effects.
If you’re concerned that you might be developing an addiction, here are some general signs to look out for.
Social And Behavioural Signs
People with a drug addiction may:
- Avoid people who don’t take drugs
- Avoid places where it’s not possible to take drugs
- Feel distressed and lonely if they don’t take the drug regularly
- Rely on drugs to cope with emotional problems, stress or grief
- Be dishonest with friends and family to hide their drug use
- Have financial problems and debts
- Sell or steal things to pay for drugs
- Take dangerous risks, such as driving under the influence of drugs
- Self-blame and have low self-esteem, especially after trying unsuccessfully to quit
- Get into legal trouble, including prison
- Commit sex acts for money
- Have worsening physical or mental health problems as a result of their sustained drug use
- Often become unwell if they cannot gain access to their particular substance
Physical & Mental Health Signs
Drugs and alcohol can cause a range of problems for physical and mental health, even after the acute effects of taking the drug have worn off. These include:
- Having unusual ideas (e.g. paranoia, delusions)
- Attention problems
- Memory loss
- Weight loss or gain
- Sexual dysfunction (e.g. impotence)
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
Our Addiction Screening Tool
The first step to beating any addiction is recognising there is a problem in the first place – hence the well-known introduction given at addiction support meetings: “My name is [name] and I’m an alcoholic/user/gambler.”
But it can take months or even years for some people to even acknowledge that their behaviour may be harmful to them or others. By that time, it may already be badly affecting their health, work, relationships and other negative consequences.
It can be difficult to recognise what constitutes normal and what’s addiction, with categories like habitual, abuse and overuse all falling somewhere in between.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see whether it might be time to seek help.
- Do you find yourself unable to stop or control your behaviour even though you realise it’s having a detrimental effect on your health, social life or bank balance or causing other negative consequences?
- Do you ever drink, or take drugs alone?
- Do you ever drink or use first thing in the morning?
- Do you find yourself constantly thinking about your next drink or use?
- Have you ever been in trouble with the law due to excessive drinking or drug taking or been in prison as a result of your drug use?
- Would you buy drink or drugs ahead of financial responsibilities like paying your bills or buying food?
- Have you ever decided you’re going to cut down your habit but been unable to?
- Do you find yourself avoiding the company of people who disapprove of your habit or people who don’t drink alcohol or use drugs for example?
- Has your drinking or drug use ever affected your performance at work or in education?
- Do you lie to others about how much you drink or use, or even try to deceive yourself?
- Does your alcohol or drug use ever interfere with sleeping or eating?
- Have you ever lied to your doctor to get prescription drugs?
- Do you take risks when drunk or high or under the influence of drugs or alcohol? This might be sexual behaviours or driving after you’ve been drinking or using?
- Do you often neglect your personal responsibilities and commitments so that they don’t conflict with your drug or alcohol use?
- Has your drug or alcohol use caused damage or harm to your body (physically) or mind (psychologically) as a direct result of sustained substance use?
- Have you or do you commit crimes or been arrested as a result of attempting to acquire money to fund your habit?
- Have you ever performed sex acts for money or for substances as payment?
- Do you ever try to justify your substance use when you know deep down that it is unjustifiable?
- Do you neglect your personal hygiene such as cleaning your teeth, washing/showering or other basic daily tasks such as changing your clothes?
- Do you live/stay with other addicts who use or drink substances? or is your partner using/drinking too?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it may point to you having a problem.
You may want to consider whether it is time to make some changes to your behaviour and daily lifestyle. Your own GP or local community based drug and alcohol service could be a good starting point, but there are lots of other resources you can get support from. These include the following ideas for help and support.
What Can I Do About My Drug Use?
If you take drugs and alcohol regularly and you have some of the signs mentioned previously in this article, it’s important that you talk to a doctor/GP, mental health professional or local community based drug and alcohol service as soon as you can.
Continuing to take drugs or alcohol might seem like the only way to feel better, but it can lead to some pretty serious consequences, including ongoing mental and physical health issues or even death.
Recognising The problem
This is the first step in getting help for your addiction. No one can force another person to undergo treatment for a problem they don’t believe they have, so accepting that you have a problem, can’t manage on your own and need some external professional help is a massive first step in the right direction.
Talk To A Doctor/GP Or A Healthcare Professional
You can find contact information for a wide variety of groups, charities and organisations who can help you overcome your addiction. Their contact information can be found on our help and support page here.
Don’t Go “Cold Turkey”
Cold turkey means stopping substance use or drinking completely and immediately.
It might seem easier to just stop taking drugs or drinking and to manage the withdrawal symptoms on your own, but this is actually the most difficult way to go about it and the least effective way to achieve successful, long lasting recovery.
If however, you decide to go cold turkey or are at a professional detox program and want tips and strategies to use for speeding up the time it takes to get over the withdrawal process and ease its intensity whilst you’re going through it, then you can read our previous article, looking at 20 tips tips and strategies that are proven to help by clicking here.
It can also be physically dangerous, depending on the drug and level of addiction. For example, stopping drinking alcohol suddenly can cause seizures (fits) and can also be fatal. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a health professional, start with a trusted friend, family member or Samaritan.
Family members and friends can find out how to best help an addict awithout enabling them by reading our comprehensive guide. You can read the article here.
Remember that if you do have a drug problem, the first step in overcoming it is to acknowledge it. You’ll find plenty of support services that can help you here.
You could also consider medication assisted treatment (MAT) programs. These programs provide a safer alternative to illicit drug use or the damaging effects of alcohol. You can learn more about MAT programs and the science behind it by clicking here.
The video below gives you 5 people’s opinions about their experiences of MAT medications and programs.
What Can I do Now?
- Talk to a doctor/GP or a health professional about your drug use.
- Try talking to family and friends if they will help and support you throughout your recovery process. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them, you can also write it in the form of a letter.
- Consider attending fellowship meetings online or at physical groups at Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Cocaine Anonymous (CA) meetings.
- Knowledge is power to read articles, blog posts, research findings, videos, podcasts or any others that will boost your knowledge and awareness about addiction and recovery.
- Look into therapies such as counselling, hypnotherapy, Auricular Acupuncture and others. Drink ‘n’ Drugs offer specialist addiction therapies, you can find more information about it here.
- You can also find others who may be in the same position as you, or have been previously by speaking to others on social media such as Facebook pages, groups, Twitter and Instagram.
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