What Is Drug Addiction?
Addictions can occur in a number of different contexts. Whether the addictive issue is use of an illicit substance or a compulsive behavior, it is often characterized by:
- Negative consequences in the person’s life – consequences that affect physical health, career, home and mental health
- The inability to stop using the substance of choice or indulging in the behavior despite these consequences
- High treatability – addiction can be effectively addressed through professional medical and psychotherapeutic treatment
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines drug addiction as a chronic use of an illicit substance. It differs from drug abuse in that individuals are unable to stop using their drug of choice even when it is clear that the problem is negatively impacting their lives. Psychological cravings and an “obsession” with the drug of choice is just half of addiction; a medical diagnosis for the disorder requires that a physical dependence be in evidence as well, often characterized by a tolerance for the drug of choice and/or withdrawal symptoms when the individual attempts to stop using the substance.
A substance abuse issue is defined by choice while addiction is defined by both a physical dependence and a psychological dependence. Characteristics of substance abuse include:
- Regular overuse or binge use of a substance
- Use of any prescription drug not prescribed to the user
- Use of any illegal substance
- Negative social and emotional impact of chronic substance use
- The ability to stop or moderate substance use without medical or psychotherapeutic intervention
Substance abuse can be just as deadly as addiction. It, too, can result in chronic health problems, overdose and accident, which is why many seek professional assistance when they recognize the need to get the problem under control for the long term.
Behavioral addictions encompass a wide range of compulsive behaviors that become problematic in an individual’s life when they are unable to manage the negative consequences that result. Some behaviors that can be addictive include:
Often, severe changes in personality are an indication that use of alcohol or a drug has become an issue of addiction for your loved one. Other signs that may indicate a problem that requires intervention and treatment include:
- Taking more and more of the substance in order to get the same “high” or effect
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when without the drug of choice for any period of time
- Extreme changes in appetite
- Extreme changes in sleep patterns
- Regularly complaining of being ill or tired
- Extreme mood swings
- Increased health problems
- Changes in social circle or social activities and involvement
- Secretive nature about anything that pertains to drug or alcohol use
- Taking risks to get more of their drug of choice
- Legal problems due to illicit substances
- Constant financial problems
- Difficulty maintaining employment or progress at school
- Relationship problems due to drugs or alcohol
Though research on new vaccines, medications and therapies are done all the time, there is currently no “cure” for addiction. There are, however, a number of effective medical and psychological treatments that have been proven effective in helping individuals to break free from drug and alcohol dependence and live a life of sobriety for the long term.