Recovery for addicts & alcoholics
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Drug Addiction

Signs,   Symptoms,   and   Help   for   Drug   Problems   and   Substance   Abuse.      Some   people   are   able   to   use   recreational   or   prescription   drugs without   ever   experiencing   negative   consequences   or   addiction.   For   many   others,   substance   use   can   cause   problems   at   work,   home, school, and in relationships, leaving you feeling isolated, helpless, or ashamed. If   you’re   worried   about   your   own   or   a   friend   or   family   member’s   drug   use,   it’s   important   to   know   that   help   is   available.   Learning   about   the nature   of   drug   abuse   and   addiction—how   it   develops,   what   it   looks   like,   and   why   it   can   have   such   a   powerful   hold—will   give   you   a   better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it. People experiment with drugs for many different reasons.   Many   first   try   drugs   out   of   curiosity,   to   have   a   good   time,   because   friends   are   doing   it,   or   in   an   effort   to   improve   athletic   performance   or ease   another   problem,   such   as   stress,   anxiety,   or   depression.   Use   doesn’t   automatically   lead   to   abuse,   and   there   is   no   specific   level   at which   drug   use   moves   from   casual   to   problematic.   It   varies   by   individual.   Drug   abuse   and   addiction   is   less   about   the   amount   of substance   consumed   or   the   frequency,   and   more   to   do   with   the   consequences   of   drug   use.   No   matter   how   often   or   how   little   you’re consuming,   if   your   drug   use   is   causing   problems   in   your   life—at   work,   school,   home,   or   in   your   relationships—you   likely   have   a   drug abuse or addiction problem. ​Why   do   some   drug   users   become   addicted,   while   others   don’t?   As   with   many   other   conditions   and   diseases,   vulnerability   to   addiction differs   from   person   to   person.   Your   genes,   mental   health,   family   and   social   environment   all   play   a   role   in   addiction.   Risk   factors   that increase your vulnerability include: Family history of addiction Abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences in childhood Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety Early use of drugs Method of administration—smoking or injecting a drug may increase its addictive potential Drug addiction and the brain Addiction   is   a   complex   disorder   characterized   by   compulsive   drug   use.   While   each   drug   produces   different   physical   effects,   all   abused substances share one thing in common: repeated use can alter the way the brain looks and functions. Taking   a   recreational   drug   causes   a   surge   in   levels   of   dopamine   in   your   brain,   which   trigger   feelings   of   pleasure.   Your   brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated. If you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviors, such as eating and drinking. Changes   in   your   brain   interfere   with   your   ability   to   think   clearly,   exercise   good   judgment,   control   your   behavior,   and   feel   normal without drugs. Whether   you’re   addicted   to   inhalants,   heroin,   Xanax,   speed,   or   Vicodin,   the   uncontrollable   craving   to   use   grows   more   important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness. The    urge    to    use    is    so    strong    that    your    mind    finds    many    ways    to    deny    or    rationalize    the    addiction.    You    may    drastically underestimate   the   quantity   of   drugs   you’re   taking,   how   much   it   impacts   your   life,   and   the   level   of   control   you   have   over   your   drug use. How drug abuse and addiction can develop People   who   experiment   with   drugs   continue   to   use   them   because   the   substance   either   makes   them   feel   good,   or   stops   them   from   feeling bad.   In   many   cases,   however,   there   is   a   fine   line   between   regular   use   and   drug   abuse   and   addiction.   Very   few   addicts   are   able   to recognize   when   they   have   crossed   that   line.   While   frequency   or   the   amount   of   drugs   consumed   don’t   in   themselves   constitute   drug abuse or addiction, they can often be indicators of drug-related problems. Problems   can   sometimes   sneak   up   on   you,   as   your   drug   use   gradually   increases   over   time.   Smoking   a   joint   with   friends   at   the weekend,   or   taking   ecstasy   at   a   rave,   or   cocaine   at   an   occasional   party,   for   example,   can   change   to   using   drugs   a   couple   of   days   a week, then every day. Gradually, getting and using the drug becomes more and more important to you. If   the   drug   fulfills   a   valuable   need,   you   may   find   yourself   increasingly   relying   on   it.   For   example,   you   may   take   drugs   to   calm   you   if you   feel   anxious   or   stressed,   energize   you   if   you   feel   depressed,   or   make   you   more   confident   in   social   situations   if   you   normally feel   shy.   Or   you   may   have   started   using   prescription   drugs   to   cope   with   panic   attacks   or   relieve   chronic   pain,   for   example.   Until   you find alternative, healthier methods for overcoming these problems, your drug use will likely continue. Similarly,   if   you   use   drugs   to   fill   a   void   in   your   life,   you’re   more   at   risk   of   crossing   the   line   from   casual   use   to   drug   abuse   and addiction.   To   maintain   healthy   balance   in   your   life,   you   need   to   have   other   positive   experiences,   to   feel   good   in   your   life   aside   from any drug use. As   drug   abuse   takes   hold,   you   may   miss   or   frequently   be   late   for   work   or   school,   your   job   performance   may   progressively deteriorate,   and   you   start   to   neglect   social   or   family   obligations.   Your   ability   to   stop   using   is   eventually   compromised.   What   began as a voluntary choice has turned into a physical and psychological need. The   good   news   is   that   with   the   right   treatment   and   support,   you   can   counteract   the   disruptive   effects   of   drug   use   and   regain   control   of your   life.   The   first   obstacle   is   to   recognize   and   admit   you   have   a   problem,   or   listen   to   loved   ones   who   are   often   better   able   to   see   the negative effects drug use is having on your life. 5 Myths about Drug Abuse and Addiction MYTH 1:  Overcoming addiction is a simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to. Prolonged   exposure   to   drugs   alters   the   brain   in   ways   that   result   in   powerful   cravings   and   a   compulsion   to   use.   These   brain   changes   make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will. MYTH 2:  Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most   experts   agree   that   addiction   is   a   brain   disease,   but   that   doesn’t   mean   you’re   a   helpless   victim.   The   brain   changes   associated   with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments. MYTH 3:  Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Recovery   can   begin   at   any   point   in   the   addiction   process—and   the   earlier,   the   better.   The   longer   drug   abuse   continues,   the   stronger   the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all. MYTH 4:  You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help. Treatment   doesn’t   have   to   be   voluntary   to   be   successful.   People   who   are   pressured   into   treatment   by   their   family,   employer,   or   the   legal system   are   just   as   likely   to   benefit   as   those   who   choose   to   enter   treatment   on   their   own.   As   they   sober   up   and   their   thinking   clears,   many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change. MYTH 5:  Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again. Recovery   from   drug   addiction   is   a   long   process   that   often   involves   setbacks.   Relapse   doesn’t   mean   that   treatment   has   failed   or   that   you’re a lost cause. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach. Signs   and   symptoms   of   drug   abuse   and   drug   addiction.      Although   different   drugs   have   different   physical   effects,   the   symptoms   of addiction   are   similar.   See   if   you   recognize   yourself   in   the   following   signs   and   symptoms   of   substance   abuse   and   addiction.   If   so,   consider talking to someone about your drug use. Common signs and symptoms of drug abuse You’re   neglecting   your   responsibilities   at   school,   work,   or   home   (e.g.   flunking   classes,   skipping   work,   neglecting   your   children) because of your drug use. You’re   using   drugs   under   dangerous   conditions   or   taking   risks   while   high,   such   as   driving   while   on   drugs,   using   dirty   needles,   or having unprotected sex. Your   drug   use   is   getting   you   into   legal   trouble,   such   as   arrests   for   disorderly   conduct,   driving   under   the   influence,   or   stealing   to support a drug habit. Your   drug   use   is   causing   problems   in   your   relationships,   such   as   fights   with   your   partner   or   family   members,   an   unhappy   boss,   or the loss of old friends. Common signs and symptoms of drug addiction You’ve   built   up   a   drug   tolerance.   You   need   to   use   more   of   the   drug   to   experience   the   same   effects   you   used   to   attain   with   smaller amounts. You   take   drugs   to   avoid   or   relieve   withdrawal   symptoms.   If   you   go   too   long   without   drugs,   you   experience   symptoms   such   as nausea,   restlessness,   insomnia,   depression,   sweating,   shaking,   and   anxiety.   You’ve   lost   control   over   your   drug   use.   You   often   do drugs   or   use   more   than   you   planned,   even   though   you   told   yourself   you   wouldn’t.   You   may   want   to   stop   using,   but   you   feel powerless. Your   life   revolves   around   drug   use.   You   spend   a   lot   of   time   using   and   thinking   about   drugs,   figuring   out   how   to   get   them,   and recovering   from   the   drug’s   effects.   You’ve   abandoned   activities   you   used   to   enjoy,   such   as   hobbies,   sports,   and   socializing,   because of your drug use. You   continue   to   use   drugs,   despite   knowing   it’s   hurting   you.   It’s   causing   major   problems   in   your   life—blackouts,   infections,   mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use anyway. Warning signs that a friend or family member is abusing drugs Drug   abusers   often   try   to   conceal   their   symptoms   and   downplay   their   problem.   If   you’re   worried   that   a   friend   or   family   member   might   be abusing drugs, look for the following warning signs: Physical warning signs of drug abuse Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination Behavioral signs of drug abuse Drop in attendance and performance at work or school Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it. Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities) Psychological warning signs of drug abuse Unexplained change in personality or attitude Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out” Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason Warning Signs of Commonly Abused Drugs Marijuana:   Glassy,   red   eyes;   loud   talking,   inappropriate   laughter   followed   by   sleepiness;   loss   of   interest,   motivation;   weight   gain   or loss. Depressants   (including   Xanax,   Valium,   GHB):   Contracted   pupils;   drunk-like;   difficulty   concentrating;   clumsiness;   poor   judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness. Stimulants   (including   amphetamines,   cocaine,   crystal   meth):   Dilated   pupils;   hyperactivity;   euphoria;   irritability;   anxiety;   excessive talking   followed   by   depression   or   excessive   sleeping   at   odd   times;   may   go   long   periods   of   time   without   eating   or   sleeping;   weight loss; dry mouth and nose. Inhalants   (glues,   aerosols,   vapors):   Watery   eyes;   impaired   vision,   memory   and   thought;   secretions   from   the   nose   or   rashes   around the   nose   and   mouth;   headaches   and   nausea;   appearance   of   intoxication;   drowsiness;   poor   muscle   control;   changes   in   appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash. Hallucinogens   (LSD,   PCP):   Dilated   pupils;   bizarre   and   irrational   behavior   including   paranoia,   aggression,   hallucinations;   mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion. Heroin:   Contracted   pupils;   no   response   of   pupils   to   light;   needle   marks;   sleeping   at   unusual   times;   sweating;   vomiting;   coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite. Visit a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in your area. Recognizing   that   you   have   a   problem   is   the   first   step   on   the   road   to   recovery,   one   that   takes   tremendous   courage   and   strength.   Facing your   addiction   without   minimizing   the   problem   or   making   excuses   can   feel   frightening   and   overwhelming,   but   recovery   is   within   reach.   If you’re ready to make a change and willing to seek help, you can overcome your addiction and build a satisfying, drug-free life for yourself. Support is essential to addiction recovery Don’t   try   to   go   it   alone;   it’s   all   too   easy   to   get   discouraged   and   rationalize   “just   one   more”   hit   or   pill.   Whether   you   choose   to   go   to   rehab, rely   on   self-help   programs,   get   therapy,   or   take   a   self-directed   treatment   approach,   support   is   essential.   Recovering   from   drug   addiction   is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance. Support can come from: family members close friends therapists or counselors other recovering addicts healthcare providers people from your faith community When a loved one has a drug problem If you suspect that a friend or family member has a drug problem, here are a few things you can do: Speak   up.    Talk   to   the   person   about   your   concerns,   and   offer   your   help   and   support,   without   being   judgmental.   The   earlier addiction   is   treated,   the   better.   Don’t   wait   for   your   loved   one   to   hit   bottom!   Be   prepared   for   excuses   and   denial   by   listing   specific examples of your loved one’s behavior that has you worried. Take   care   of   yourself.   Don’t   get   so   caught   up   in   someone   else’s   drug   problem   that   you   neglect   your   own   needs.   Make   sure   you have people you can talk to and lean on for support. And stay safe. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations. Avoid   self-blame.    You   can   support   a   person   with   a   substance   abuse   problem   and   encourage   treatment,   but   you   can’t   force   an addict   to   change.   You   can’t   control   your   loved   one’s   decisions.   Let   the   person   accept   responsibility   for   his   or   her   actions,   an essential step along the way to recovery for drug addiction. DON’T: Attempt to punish, threaten, bribe, or preach. Try to be a martyr. Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to use drugs. Cover up or make excuses for the drug abuser, or shield them from the negative consequences of their behavior. Take over their responsibilities, leaving them with no sense of importance or dignity. Hide or throw out drugs. Argue with the person when they are high. Take drugs with the drug abuser. Feel guilty or responsible for another's behavior. Adapted from: National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information