Drug addiction impacts the lives of millions of men and women each year.
According to Medline Plus, abuse of drugs and alcohol causes about 40 million illnesses and injuries in the United States. But there is still a great deal of misinformation about specific drugs and their effects on the individual. The information contained here is designed to cut through the myths surrounding drug addiction and provide you with nothing but the facts needed to find treatment help.
Are you or someone you love suffering from an addiction to any illicit substance? If you would like to know more about a particular drug addiction – and the best form of treatment for that condition – the information found here can help. In the Addiction Center, we break down all the major addictions that are currently be treated in rehab centers across the United States, including:
Understand How Addiction Works
How drug addiction works in the body and how each individual drugs affects the brain and behavior have been subjects of scientific research for centuries. The more we know about how addiction and drug abuse work, the better able we are to provide effective treatment to fight the problem.
For example, where we once viewed addiction as an issue of willpower or a sign of a lack of moral fiber, extensive epidemiological and medical studies have produced information that defines the issue as a brain disease that is both a physiological and psychological disorder, according to “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior – The Science of Addiction.” This determination showed that the treatment for the problem was not moral retraining but medical and psychotherapeutic care that addresses the changes in the brain caused by drug abuse. Every day, we learn more about the causes of drug addiction and the effects of different treatments and combinations of treatments, including medication and therapeutic options. With this knowledge, more treatment modalities are developed and more and more patients have the opportunity to find successful recovery in drug rehab.
Alters Brain Function
Drugs are toxins and any use can cause short-term changes to brain function. However, continued and chronic abuse of any illicit substance can mean permanent alterations to perception, reflexes, memory, and cognitive processes. According to the National Institutes of Health, drugs interfere with how the brain processes information. Depending upon the drug, this can mean that certain neurotransmitters are mimicked and neurons are activated but with results that are abnormal – or it can mean that large amounts of brain chemicals are released and not recycled normally.
One commonality among substances is the triggered release of dopamine in the brain’s pleasure or reward system caused by their use. Dopamine makes the patient feel euphoric and content, and the brain is triggered to crave this feeling, wanting to take more drugs in order to create the same effect. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 85:5274-5278, some drugs release between two and 10 times the amount of dopamine normally released by natural stimuli. Over time, the brain adjusts to this level of dopamine being triggered by the drug of choice and responds by producing less dopamine or cutting back on the number of receptors available to accept the signals. This means that it can be difficult for the patient to experience pleasure naturally, and this is a change that can remain in place to some degree permanently even after the addiction is treated.
The Effects on Health
Patients living with addiction often suffer from a number of negative health effects such as lung and cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and other issues.
The National Institutes of Health say that the following organs and body systems are harmed by chronic drug abuse and addiction:
- Neurological effects. Seizures, strokes and brain damage can affect users of prescription drugs, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, Ecstasy and other drugs.
- Mental health effects. About half of those who seek treatment for drug addiction also require treatment for mental health disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. Some develop mental health issues as a result of chronic abuse of drugs like LSD, PCP, crystal meth, cocaine, inhalants and prescription drugs.
- Cardiovascular effects. Abnormal heart rates, cardiac arrest, heart disease – a number of chronic and acute heart problems have been connected to abuse of cocaine, crystal meth, heroin, PCP, steroids, inhalants, ketamine and more.
- Respiratory effects. Marijuana smoke and the smoke of other drugs ingested with a pipe can lead to lung cancer, emphysema, bronchitis and asthma-like symptoms.
- Musculoskeletal effects. Muscle cramping, muscle aches and muscle weakness can all be the result of abuse of different drugs of addiction including inhalants, Ecstasy, steroids and PCP.
- Kidney and liver damage. Kidney and liver damage, malfunction and failure can occur due to chronic abuse of drugs like heroin, alcohol, PCP, Ecstasy and others.
- Prenatal effects. Miscarriage, birth defects, low birth weight, pre-term labor, behavioral issues, cognitive problems – the different effects on the unborn fetus when the mother abuses heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs, marijuana, MDMA, PCP and other drugs are untold.
Treatment, medical care that includes blood tests, x-rays and ultrasound can identify health problems related to drug abuse and addiction. Other tests can identify mental health issues and help medical professionals determine the best protocol for treatment. In some cases, the discovery of a chronic ailment or the building of health problems can help patients recognize the need for treatment and begin the process of recovery that will help them to slow the progression of their issues and/or reverse them.
The Development of Addiction in Some People
One of the biggest questions of addiction is why experimental use turns into a lifelong struggle with addiction for some but not for everyone. Why is that some can have a “normal” relationship with alcohol or experiment occasionally with other drugs without developing an addiction and others cannot?
According to NIDA, there is not just one but a number of risk factors that can contribute to the development of addiction. The presence of these factors do not necessarily mean that addiction will develop, but in some cases, just one of these issues is enough to trigger a domino effect that results in addiction.
Some of the most prominently studied risk factors for the development of addiction include:
- Genetics. Patients who have an immediate family member – especially a mother or father – who struggle with a drug or alcohol addiction will have an increased chance of developing an addiction themselves.
- Co-occurring mental health issues. Those who are diagnosed with anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders, depression, panic disorder and social issues are more likely to develop a dependence upon drugs and alcohol.
- Environment. Those who are raised in an environment where alcohol and drug abuse are common are more likely to begin drinking and experimenting with drugs and ultimately develop an addiction.
- Early age of first use. Those who begin drinking and/or experimenting with drugs in their pre-teen years or early teens are more likely to develop a habit that turns into an addiction.
The Effects on Others
Addiction does not just affect the patient living with the disorder. The negative consequences are far reaching, and many who come in contact with someone living with addiction – and a number of people who don’t – are forced to deal with the negative effects of someone else’s addiction.
- Harm to unborn children. When pregnant women abuse drugs and alcohol, their actions harm their unborn child as well as themselves. Being born addicted to the mother’s drug of choice, lifelong disabilities, cognitive development issues and behavioral problems may all be linked to the mother’s abuse of drugs.
- Neglect of children. Children living with a parent who has an active addiction to drugs and alcohol will likely be neglected if not abused as a result. Children of addicts and alcoholics also have an increased chance of accident and injury due to neglect and of developing an addiction themselves later in life.
- Spread of infectious disease</em>. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), injection of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine accounts for 32 percent of current AIDS cases and 25 percent of new cases. Injection drug use can also spread communicable diseases like Hepatitis C, a liver disease.
- Burden to taxpayers. Addiction costs taxpayers a huge amount of money each year. The cost of paying to maintain the court system, the cost of police assistance, healthcare for overdoses, emergency response for accidents under the influence, damage to public property, and other costs associated with addiction are all paid for with taxes.
Drugs of Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the following drugs have a number of negative consequences for users. Here are the details:
- Alcohol. Because alcohol is legal for those over the age of 21, many mistakenly believe that alcohol is safer than other drugs of addiction. The opposite is true; brain damage, kidney failure, liver failure, gastrointestinal issues and heart disease are all common among those who drink too much and too often.
- Marijuana. Of all illegal drugs, abuse of marijuana is the most common. Those who use it can expect short-term memory loss, decreased ability to focus, less control over coordination and slower reflexes. Smoking the drug can mean respiratory issues, and use in any form can increase heart rate and the risk of psychosis in some.
- Inhalants. Oven cleaners, air fresheners, spray paints and any chemicals stored in aerosol cans are often abused as inhalants, causing brain damage, kidney and liver failure, respiratory ailments, and damage to the heart. A single episode of use can be deadly.
- Cocaine. Snorting cocaine can mean serious heart problems including stroke and cardiac arrest, but the respiratory system, nervous system and digestive system can all be damaged by cocaine addiction as well.
- Amphetamines. Methamphetamines and amphetamines are strong stimulant drugs that can cause psychosis, hallucinations, heart failure, seizures and more.
- Ecstasy. Ecstasy, or MDMA, increases body temperature, causes dehydration, raises heart rate and blood pressure, and puts an undue amount of stress on the walls of the heart. Brain damage, seizure, coma and death are all possible with abuse and addiction to the drug.
- LSD. A strong hallucinogen, LSD can cause brain damage, seizures, powerful hallucinations and psychosis.
- Heroin. Most often smoked or ingested through injection, heroin is deadly after a single use or after years of addiction. Because it slows down the respiratory system, coma and cardiac arrest can occur at any time. Infectious diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C are also related to the use of heroin.
- Prescription drugs. Stimulants, sedatives and opiate painkillers are all commonly abused and highly addictive. Depending upon the class of the prescription drug used, kidney and liver failure, seizure, respiratory ailments, coma and heart attack are all possible outcomes of abuse and addiction.
- Steroids. Abuse of steroids can cause a number of serious problems including all the risks of using needles to ingest the drugs as well as heart disease, liver and kidney problems, strokes, serious mental health issues and even suicidal tendencies.
Combining any of the drugs listed above can more than double the chances of overdose and other negative health effects. In fact, in some instances, combining two substances can mean the creation of an entirely new substance in the body – one that is far more deadly. For example, when alcohol and cocaine are combined, a new substance called cocaethylene is created, and this substance has a synergistic effect, meaning that its effects are far stronger than the effects of both drugs added together. In fact, cocaethylene has been shown to be damaging to the heart and liver years after the patient stops abusing the drugs.
Find a Treatment Center Today
If you would like to find an addiction treatment program that can provide you with the help you need to break free from addiction to alcohol or another substance of abuse, we can help. There are programs that can tailor-make a treatment plan for your needs, including options like detox, psychotherapeutic treatment, 12-step treatment, aftercare and more.
Contact us at the number listed above and allow us to provide you with the assistance you need.
We can discuss your issues with addiction and help you determine which style of treatment is most appropriate for your needs and the needs of your family. Don’t lose another day of your life to addiction. Call now.