Drug addiction is a compulsion and not a moral failing or a choice that neither the individuals with addictions nor their loved ones can control. This happens when the brain’s risk and reward center has been impaired due to chronic use of psychoactive substances. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug addiction early on is the first step to saving your life or that of a loved one and getting the right help. This makes it critical to closely observe some of the physical, behavioral and psychological changes associated with individuals struggling with substance use disorders (SUD).
Understanding Drug Addiction
The American Psychiatric Association defines drug addiction as a complex neurological disease that is manifested by compulsive use of substances – illicit drugs, prescription drugs, marijuana, nicotine – despite being aware of the harmful effects or consequences. It’s a relapsing and chronic condition and often begins with experimental first-time use of drugs in social settings, and it doesn’t take long for things to go south from there. As an individual begins to consume drugs repeatedly, they start developing tolerance, which results in the need to use more of the same drugs to achieve the similar “high” or effect that was felt the first time around. Treatment of drug addiction often requires a comprehensive and integrated approach that heals the mind, body and spirit.
Impact of Addiction on the Brain
Drug addiction impairs brain functioning. The National Institute of Drug Abuse’s article on Drugs, Brains, and Behavior explains how drugs work in the brain, interfering with how neurons transmit and receive signals through the neurotransmitters. Consumption of drugs releases large amounts of dopamine, also called “chemical messenger,” a type of neurotransmitter that triggers the brain’s reward system, motivation, attention and memory. It also regulates our body movements and how we feel pleasure.
Different drugs affect the brain differently. The chemical structures of heroin and marijuana imitate natural transmitters and can activate neurons in a different way, leading to transmission of irregular messages to the brain. Cocaine and amphetamine can either cause neurons to release unusually large amounts of natural neurotransmitters or interfere with transporters to prevent normal reprocessing of brain chemicals, amplifying or disrupting normal neurotransmissions.
Causes of Addiction
There are numerous reasons being cited why some individuals get addicted. Some research point to genetics, saying it accounts for 40-60% of a person’s inclination to develop addictive behavior. Mental health disorders are also recognized as reason why some individuals develop substance abuse disorders. There are individuals who resort to drugs as a way to relieve stress. Then, there are those who are forced into it by peer pressure, while others are driven by pressure sheer curiosity. The environment also plays a role in developing substance abuse disorder. This increases the risk for children, who grow up in environments where alcohol or drug use is prevalent, to develop SUD sooner or later in life.
Factors Affecting Vulnerability to Drug Addiction
Vulnerability to addiction varies from person to person. This explains why some people who try drugs for the first time and become addicted to it and there are those who don’t. As described in the causes of addiction, there are several factors that impact a person’s vulnerability to addiction.
- Family influences or history of drug addiction
- Traumatic childhood, neglect and abuse experiences
- Mental health conditions
- Early exposure to drug-use fueled environment
- Method of drug administration where injecting or smoking an illegal substance is more addictive
Commonly Abused Drugs
Abused drugs have different classification and they are not just the ones bought on the streets. Other than marijuana, over-the-counter and prescription medicines are the most commonly abused drugs in America. They can heal, but they can also be addictive and dangerous when taken the wrong way. Below are some of the commonly abused illegal and legal drugs that may come in many forms (pills, tables, powder, inhalants).
- Cocaine or Crack Cocaine
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
Over-the-Counter & Prescription Drugs
- Barbiturates (phenobarbital, Nembutal, Seconal)
- Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium)
- Cold & Cough Medicines (Dextromethorphan, Pseudoephedrine)
- Inhalants (aerosols, gasoline, spray paints, oven cleaners)
- Painkillers (Codeine, Morphine, Oxyxodone, OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
- Sedatives, Sleep Medicines & Tranquilizers (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata)
- Stimulants (Amphetamines, Adderall, Concerta, Daytrana, Dextroemphetamine, Metadate, Methylin, Methylphenidate, Mydasis, Ritalin)
General Long-Term Effect of Drug Addiction
Serious drug addiction has long-term consequences on mental, behavioral and physical health. Some of the potential long-term effects include:
- Decline in physical and mental health
- Acquiring an infectious disease by using shared needles
- Poor performance at school or work, resulting in loss of job or expulsion from school
- Damaged relationships with family, friends and colleagues
- Tarnished reputation
- Resorting to crime to obtain drug money, resulting in arrests or jail time
- Eviction from the home or failed mortgage payments
- Loss of parental rights
Specific Signs & Symptoms of Drug Addiction
Dusty Roper, Admissions Coordinator at Stonegate Center, a private faith-based rehab center in Azle, Texas, often comes across family members who share how they failed to recognize early warning signs of addiction in their loved one due to lack of understanding.
“Understanding addiction and detecting its signs and symptoms can help our addicted loved ones get the right help for intervention and addiction treatment, ultimately saving their lives,” said Roper, who manages intake process for Stonegate Center’s residential addiction treatment programs.
We have gathered below some of the most common manifestations of drug addiction in adult:
- Bloodshot eye and dilated pupils
- Sudden weight loss
- Interrupted sleep pattern or insomnia
- Unhealthy complexion or skin conditions (scabs, bruises, tack marks, acne, paleness, jaundice)
- Poor personal hygiene and grooming, resulting in foul body odor and bad breath
- Sniffing and bleeding nose, an indication of snorting cocaine or meth
- Secretive or anti-social behavior – withdrawn and constantly looks for a private place to use drugs
- Fails to fulfill responsibilities – avoids responsibilities at home, work or school
- Financial distress (drugs addiction is an expensive habit, forcing them to borrow money, steal or sell belongings to sustain addiction)
- Conflict with family and friends
- Sudden change of preference in music, clothing, movies and company
- Excessive use of cologne, perfume or air freshener to mask stench of drugs or smoke
- Regular use of eye drops to hide eye redness or dilation of pupil
- Incoherent or slurred speech
- Lack of coordination, unstable movement and episodes of tremors
- Change in appetite and sudden weight gain or loss
- Anxiety and agitation
- Withdrawn and depressed
- Low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence
- Poor motivation
- Irritable, impatient, short-tempered or sullen
- Inability to focus and concentrate
- Paranoid for no apparent reason
- Sudden mood changes from happy to angry
Drug Addiction Treatment
Most say that addiction is a sign of having a weak personality or mere character flaw and that overcoming it is just a matter of willpower. It must be stressed that addiction is a brain disease and it takes a lot more than willpower for someone to overcome powerful cravings and strong compulsion to use drugs. With natural tendency to relapse, it would seem impossible to achieve sobriety. But people can and do recover from drug addiction. It’s never impossible, regardless of the number of times one has tried to quit drug use and failed. With strong family support, proper intervention, the right addiction treatment and a team of caring and certified therapists and healthcare staff, long-term recovery is a possibility.
Drug Addiction Treatment Options
After recognizing your or a loved one has addiction problem and once commitment to sobriety has been made, the next step is to explore the options for addiction treatment and recovery. While options can vary according to individual needs, severity of addiction and type of drug addiction, most successful programs include different approaches.
- Detoxification – Involves purging the body of the toxic drugs and managing withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening.
- Behavioral Counseling – Individual, group, and/or family therapy can help identify the root causes of substance abuse, repair your relationships, and learn healthier coping skills.
- Medical-Assisted Treatment – May be used to manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, or treat any co-occurring mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.
- Outpatient Addiction Treatment (Short-Term) – Includes a wide variety of programs for patients who visit a behavioral health counselor on a regular schedule.
- Inpatient or Residential Addiction Treatment (Long-Term) – Ideal for those with severe addiction, licensed and certified rehab facilities, prevents relapse and maintains lasting sobriety, often includes individual and group therapies, family counseling, equine therapy, coping skills lessons, recreational activities, nutrition planning and more.
Relapse During Recovery
While it’s not necessarily a part of recovery and may sometimes seems like a sign of failure, relapse is an unfortunate common occurrence in the lifelong journey to sobriety. In fact, an article in Psychology Today estimates that between 70- 90% of recovering addicts will suffer a mild to moderate relapse before achieving lasting recovery. Similar to patients with other chronic diseases, such as cancer, who experience recurrence, individuals with SUD can also relapse. There are some who go through multiple relapses before they completely heal and overcome addiction. At Stonegate Center, we see individuals who have fought substance abuse for several years before they finally break free from the chains of addiction. As long as there is life, there is hope and potential for recovery.
Helping A Loved One Overcome Drug Addiction
Helping yourself or a loved one recover from drug addiction is a long journey fraught with challenges and the path is always different for every individual due to many factors, such as gender, age, type of abused substance, years of abuse, social factors, and more.
- Proper Intervention – Whether it’s a surprise or invitation intervention, it is a great way to show love and support, while addressing the need get healthy and sober. Most individuals with SUD are in denial about their addiction and refusing to accept to accept help, thus the need to be confronted through a carefully-planned intervention before any change can result. This usually involves gathering those who truly care for and whose opinions matter to the individual with addiction and stage a carefully-planned intervention. The two types of intervention, surprise and invitational, have the same goal: to convince the individual with addiction to recognize the problem and motivate them to seek help.
- Set Boundaries & Seek Help – Don’t feel compelled to care for your addicted loved one all by yourself to avoid being resentful and feeling overwhelmed. Seek help or support and strictly set limits on disruptive behaviors. Don’t let the addiction problem take over your life as this will prove unhealthy for you and your addicted loved one.
- Educate Yourself & Explore Addiction Treatment Options – To prompt a loved one to seek help, it’s best to do some prior research to gather relevant information about substance abuse and options for addiction treatment so you can share and have a thorough discussion. Contact a few rehab centers that may be able to help and meet you or your loved one’s unique needs and allow for quick decision right after intervention.
Private Addiction Treatment in Azle, Texas
When you observe any of the physical, behavioral and psychological changes in yourself or your loved one, don’t delay and get professional help immediately. Stonegate Center, a private rehab center in Azle, Texas, has saved countless of lives with its evidence-based drug addiction treatment programs. You may visit our contact page and send us a message or call our 24/7 helpline at (817) 993-9733 for a confidential consultation or verification of your insurance coverage.
Date Published: March 1, 2020 Last Updated: March 1, 2023
Stonegate Center is a faith-based alcohol and drug abuse treatment center based in Azle, Texas. Our separate treatment facilities for men and women provide safe and healing environment where our residents can receive guidance and achieve physical freedom from addiction. Stonegate Center stresses community, accountability, and fellowship. Serving the communities of Azle, Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas, and beyond.