Those that consume drugs or alcohol regularly may question the effect that these substances are having on their life at some point. Each and every human is slightly different, and this means that it can be difficult for many to understand when the casual use of a substance has evolved into an addiction. Simply asking this question may be a sign that it is time to further explore how the use of a substance evolves into an addiction, how these chemicals affect one’s health, and what can be done about it.
Understanding an Addiction
For many years, an addiction was often seen as a moral issue or that an individual was simply too lazy or unwilling to make changes in their life, but this view has changed dramatically. Addictions are now seen as a medical disease that will affect many different parts of a person’s life. Differentiating between a habit and an addiction can be difficult, but there are a few things to consider. The primary difference is that a habit is a choice that is made and can be changed at any point. An addiction has a physical or psychological component and the individual is unable to control certain aspects of their behavior.
The Stages of an Addiction
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 8 percent of those over the age of 12 have abused a drug within the past 30 days. This could range from simple experimentation and social use to a full blown addiction and physical dependency. For many, an addiction to drugs or alcohol will often come in at least a few stages that can take place after just a handful of uses or be spread across years and years. This begins with the initial experimentation that may take place with friends or be the result of prescription medication given to a patient. From the initial experimentation, an individual could then move onto regular use. Regular use could take place for an individual’s entire life without ever causing a problem. The next stage is risky use and is difficult to differentiate from regular use. An individual may use a substance regularly for years on end with little or no negative side effects or could begin engaging in risky behavior after just a time or two. The final two stages are dependence and a complete addiction to the drugs or alcohol. When one’s life is spent seeking out or using the substance while it continues to harm them, an addiction has formed.
Signs of an Addiction
For those that are wondering if they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is important to remember that this disease can manifest itself in a wide variety of ways. Some people may engage in risky behavior without ever consuming alcohol or taking drugs while others may live a relatively functional life while completely addicted to one of these substances. The key is to search for multiple signs that seem out of the ordinary for that particular person. Some of the signs to look out for include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- A high tolerance for these substances
- Withdrawal symptoms when no longer using
- Promiscuous sex
- The inability to maintain a job
- Deteriorating relationships
- The inability to deal with problems while not under the influence
Other signs of addiction could include secretive behavior, lack of personal hygiene, sudden weight changes, unusual sleep patterns, anxiety, and depression.
The Treatment of an Addiction
Anyone that feels as if they are struggling with an addiction or on the path to an addiction should realize that this disease may be deadly, but it is also treatable. There are now more treatment options than ever for those that would like to turn their lives around. This process should begin by seeking out an addiction or rehab specialist that will be able to present the addict with their treatment options after getting an idea about the severity and causes of the addiction. Depending on the substance that is being abused, detox may be necessary.
Short-Term and Long-Term Treatment
Just as an addiction comes in multiple stages, so will the treatment. For more severe addictions, a detox period is often necessary in order for the body to flush out the toxins and rebalance natural chemicals and hormones. This step should always be overseen by detox professionals in a safe and comfortable environment in order to minimize withdrawal effects such as nausea, violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, vomiting, and hallucinations. After this period, it is time to consider options for long-term changes and growth. Rehab facilities are seen as the ideal solution for recovery as it provides a safe, nurturing, and comfortable environment with support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are a wide variety of options for those that are ready to break free from their addiction, and this all begins with just a single phone call.