Understanding Drug Addiction

A common misconception about drug addiction is that it is a choice and a matter of willpower. While the initial decision to use drugs may have been a choice, by the time drug addiction develops, it is often out of the person’s control. The changes to their brain make it very difficult to stop using on their own without professional treatment. Addiction is a chronic disease, but long-term recovery is possible.

Drug addiction can include both illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine, or prescription medications. Just because a doctor prescribes a medication does not mean that there is not still a risk of addiction. Certain pain relievers can be highly addictive. When a person is struggling with drug addiction, they are often unable to stop on their own despite negative consequences. Treatment at an addiction rehab center can help them to develop the skills and implement the changes necessary to overcome addiction.

The Most Common Types of Drug Addictions Include the use of Heroin, Cocaine, Meth, and Opioids

There are many drugs, both legal and illegal, that have addictive properties. Not everyone who uses these drugs will become addicted, but the risk exists and is influenced by genetics and environmental factors as well. The most common types of drug addiction include:

  • Cocaine Addiction: Cocaine can create an intense feeling of euphoria because it increases dopamine production in the brain. Like heroin, it also alters the brain’s reward system
  • Heroin Addiction: Heroin is derived from morphine and can be highly addictive. It is an opioid drug that alters how the brain perceives pain and reward
  • Marijuana Addiction: Although you cannot overdose on marijuana and it is legal in some states, it is still an addictive drug and can have harmful effects on both physical and mental health.
  • Meth Addiction: Meth is short for methamphetamine, a drug that also induces an intense euphoria due to increased dopamine production in the brain. It is extremely addictive.
  • Opioid Addiction: Opioids can include both prescription medications such as OxyContin or Vicodin and illicit drugs such as heroin. They are commonly used to relieve pain but can induce euphoria as well.

What Comes First, Drug Addiction or Mental Illness?

It is not uncommon for a person battling drug addiction to also have a mental illness. However, it can be difficult to determine which came first. Drug and alcohol use can worsen the symptoms of mental illness and can lead to issues with depression and anxiety. At the same time, those with a mental illness may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with the symptoms they experience and trying to alleviate them on their own. In either case, the two can be interrelated and both impact recovery efforts. It is important to address both conditions simultaneously in recovery.

Statistics about Drug Addiction in the US

Drug addiction in the United States has continued to be a growing problem over the years. Researchers are learning more about addiction every day and coming up with ways to improve treatment options. Still, statistics about drug addiction in the US are eye-opening. According to a 2013 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  • Approximately 24.6 million Americans (ages 12+) had used an illicit drug within the past month.
  • Approximately 6.5 million Americans (ages 12+) had used a prescription drug for non-medical purposes in the past month.
  • Of the estimated 22.7 million Americans in need of addiction treatment in 2013, only around 2.5 million people received treatment.

However, there is hope and help is available. 1st Step Behavioral Health provides comprehensive care for those battling drug addiction and/or mental health disorders.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

There are many drugs that come with the risk of addiction. The signs and symptoms of drug addiction vary depending on the substance being used. For instance, someone who is addicted to marijuana may not exhibit the same symptoms as someone addicted to heroin. There are similarities between symptoms of drug addiction, however. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • Experiencing drug cravings
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Sense of euphoria
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor coordination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Memory problems

These symptoms can interfere with a person’s daily activities and take a toll on their health, relationships, career, family and other aspects of their life. A person may also experience similar symptoms when going through withdrawal if they try to stop using drugs on their own but have already developed an addiction.

How do you know if there is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

A co-occurring disorder means that a person is battling not only drug addiction but a mental health disorder as well. It can be difficult to differentiate between the symptoms of these conditions because they can overlap and be interrelated with one another. Addiction can worsen mental illness and mental illness can worsen addiction. Recognizing changes in behavior and thought patterns alongside the continued use of drugs or alcohol may indicate that a co-occurring disorder is present. Comprehensive evaluations at a rehab center like 1st Step Behavioral Health can lead to a more definitive answer as well as provide treatment options. It is important that both conditions are treated together and one is not overlooked.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Drug Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment for drug addiction and mental health disorders is available and can help people to effectively work through the challenges that they face and create a plan to reduce the risk of relapse. By treating both conditions together, they can better understand the interrelated nature of the two and how to minimize negative impacts on their life. This often involves a combination of therapy, counseling, medication management, holistic activities, and support groups. If you or a loved one is struggling with a dual diagnosis, 1st Step Behavioral Health can help you to get on the road to recovery. Contact us today by calling or texting (855) 425-4846.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.