Drug Addiction – What Is It?
The National Institution Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines drug addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.
NIDA considers it a brain disease because drugs change the brain. They change the brain’s structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.
If you or someone you love is addicted to drugs they could exhibit a few or all of the following signs and symptoms:*
Cravings. People may experience intense urges or cravings for the drug as their addiction develops.
Physical dependence. Physical dependence to drugs can develop as people grow accustomed to the persistent presence and influence of the substance. The changes in physiology that accompany this process leave people feeling bad or functioning sub-optimally when the drug is no longer in the system.
Tolerance. Over time and with prolonged use, people can build up a tolerance to the drug, meaning they need more of the drug to achieve the desired effects.
Withdrawal symptoms. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop using abruptly or when they wean themselves off the drug over a period of time. This is the presence of a withdrawal syndrome that indicates that physiologic dependence is at play.
Poor judgment. When an individual is addicted to drugs, he or she may do anything to obtain more, including risky behaviors such as stealing, lying, engaging in unsafe sexual activity, selling drugs, or crimes that could land the person in jail.
Drug-seeking. People may spend excessive amounts of time and energy finding and get their drug of choice.
Financial trouble. People may spend large amounts of money, drain their bank accounts, and go outside their budgets in order to get the drug. This is a major red flag.
Neglect responsibilities. When people choose using or getting the drug over meeting work or personal obligations, this is a classic sign of addiction.
Develop unhealthy friendships. When people start using new substances, they may spend time with others who have similar habits. They may hang out with a new group of people who may encourage unhealthy habits.
Isolate. Alternatively, they may withdraw and isolate themselves, hiding their drug use from friends and family. Some reasons for this may include perceived stigma or increased depression, anxiety, or paranoia as a result of their drug addiction.
Addiction is a Family Disease
It can be hugely devastating. It affects all aspects of the family’s life. Everything from relationships, to finances, physical, emotional and mental health.
Often, an addicted person will do anything to obtain or use drugs, including stealing money, prescription medications, or household items.