Prescription medications are often provided for a variety of ailments. Even when prescribed, medications can lead to addiction without obvious signs or warnings. In addition, taking illegal drugs or abusing alcohol can also put you at risk. To learn more about why addiction doesn’t care what drug is used, you might want to understand a clear definition of addiction, get more information about symptoms of addiction and learn about viable treatment options.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) post, “Definition of Addition” provides an understanding of addiction. They define addiction as a primary, chronic disease of the brain that results in biological, psychological, social and spiritual behaviors representative of addiction. They further explain that similar to other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission and that without treatment or other recovery activities, addiction is progressive.
The post further explains that genetic factors represent about half of the likelihood that a person will develop an addiction. Environmental factors, cultural factors and a person’s upbringing accounts for the remainder. While genetic factors are not within our control, you want to gain as many knowledge as possible to build up your resilience to environmental and cultural factors.
In addition to learning about addiction, you may want to learn more about the common symptoms of addiction as described by the Mayo Clinic article, “Drug Addiction: Symptoms.”
There are some general behavioral signs of addiction including the following:
- Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly
- Having intense urges for the drug
- Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect
- Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
- Spending money on the drug, even though you can’t afford it
- Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use
- Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing
- Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug
- Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug
In addition, different categories of drugs will present with different physical signs. For marijuana the signs may include the following:
- A sense of euphoria
- A heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Red eyes, dry mouth
- Decreased coordination
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Increased appetite
- Slowed reaction time
- Paranoid thinking
Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are prescription central nervous system depressants and may present with symptoms including the following:
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Problems concentrating or thinking
- Memory problems
- Involuntary eye movements
- Lack of inhibition
- Slowed breathing and reduced blood pressure
The other primary class of prescribed medications that are often abused are stimulants, which have symptoms including the following:
- Feeling of exhilaration and excess confidence
- Increased alertness, energy and restlessness
- Behavior changes or aggression
- Rapid or rambling speech
- Dilated pupils
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Irritability or changes in mood
- Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
- Nausea or vomiting with weight loss
- Impaired judgment
- Damage to the mucous membrane of the nose
With a clear understanding of addiction and some of the symptoms that are associated with commonly-abused drugs, if you think you are at risk for addiction, it is very important for you to consider addiction treatment.
If you are abusing drugs or alcohol, you need to explore treatment options to get the help you need. The post, “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction” prepared by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes the principles of effective therapy including the following:
- Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
- No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
- Treatment needs to be readily available.
- Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.
- Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical.
- Counseling – individual or group – and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment.
- Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.
- An individual’s treatment and services plan must be assessed continually and modified as necessary to ensure that it meets his or her changing needs.
- Many drug addicted individuals also have other mental disorders.
- Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse.
- Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.
- Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur.
- Treatment programs should assess patients for the presence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases as well as provide targeted risk–reduction counseling to help patients modify or change behaviors that place them at risk of contracting or spreading infectious diseases.
The post also describes effective treatment options, which include medically-monitored medications, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment or a combination of the three.
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