Drug addiction begins as substance use or experimentation that progresses to drug abuse. Addiction can also occur when a person uses prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes and builds up tolerance which leads to dependence (addiction). Addiction to drugs occurs when the person has no control over whether or not he or she uses. Addicts feel they have to have the drug. Addiction may have physical or psychological symptoms, or both. It is inadvisable that someone with drug addiction attempt to withdraw on their own. Because the body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening without proper medical supervision and treatment. If you choose to attend a drug rehab most will have an in-house detox program that will safely and as comfortably as possible get the drugs out of your system.
Some experts in the field of addiction treatment consider drug addiction to be a behavior disorder characterized by drug-seeking behavior and the use of drugs for nonmedical reasons, while others characterize it as a pathological state. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is defined as follows:
“…a primary, chronic, neurobiological disease, with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.” Their definition goes on to say that addiction is characterized by behaviors that include impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving.
The Mayo Clinic defines drug addiction as involving an emotional, psychological and/or physical dependence. Drug addicts, according to the Mayo Clinic, may have intense drug cravings, wanting to use it again and again despite potentially negative physical, social and psychological consequences. Certain drugs are more likely to cause dependence and addiction than others.
Illegal drugs are drugs that are controlled substances under Federal and State laws. They are monitored and enforced by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Illicit or illegal drugs are those that are prohibited and labeled Schedule I Controlled Substances:
Schedule I Controlled Substances: High potential for abuse, and which has no accepted medical use in the United States or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision. Examples include: LSD, heroin, marijuana, MDMA (Ecstasy), mescaline (constituent of Peyote cacti), and methaqualone.
The 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that marijuana has the highest rate of dependence with 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older dependent on or abusing marijuana or hashish. This is followed by 1.7 million dependent on or abusing pain relievers, and 1.4 million dependent on or abusing cocaine (both of which are Schedule II Controlled Substances, for which there is a high potential for abuse but has currently accepted medical use, and abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
During physical addiction, the human body actually becomes dependent on a particular substance. Users may also develop a tolerance to the substance so that they require increasingly larger doses in order to achieve the same effect or “high.” Addicts who abruptly stop using substances may experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, shaking, and others. These may be moderate or severe, and in most cases require medical supervision to safely withdraw. In some cases a drug rehab will use other prescription medications, such as suboxone, to help ameliorate the symptoms of withdrawal. The goal is to wean the patient from the replacement drug as early as possible during the treatment period.
Equally troubling are the effects of addiction on a person’s psychological makeup. In psychological addiction, users experience compulsive and uncontrollable cravings for a particular drug that are both emotional and psychological. Overcome by the relentless desire to have the drug, addicts may lie and steal in order to get it.
Abusers of illicit drugs say they often take drugs to have fun or get high. Addicts, however, can no longer control whether or not they use. Mentally and physically, the addict feels compelled to have the drug and that there no longer any choice in the matter. Prolonged usage of illicit drugs has serious consequences to brain functioning and behavior. For addicts, even after long periods of abstinence, addition is chronic, with the possibility of relapse an ever-present possibility.
Drug addiction treatment can be done in a hospital or drug rehab. It is not generally advisable to detox without medical supervision, at least during the first 5-10 days after the drugs are discontinued.
There is no cure per se for drug addiction – abstinence is considered the best outcome after treatment. While some organizations may claim to cure addiction, their claims are not borne out by scientific research and are rarely backed by rigorous follow-up studies.
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