What is drug addiction anyway?

Drug addiction is different from drug abuse, because drug abusers can quit without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Drug addicts are physically or psychologically dependent on drugs, and cannot quit without professional help.

One of the best explanations of drug addiction comes from the National Institute of Health (NIH). NIH researchers have concluded that almost every drug of abuse — including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine — elevates the level of certain brain chemicals or neurotransmitters known as dopamine.

Dopamine is usually elevated by natural positive events, such as looking at a sunset or winning a contest. Addiction results from repeated disturbance of the brain’s natural rewards system. There comes a point when an individual’s brain becomes so altered that normal rewards are no longer sufficient. Judgment and decision-making circuits become impaired. At that point, the individual’s overriding motivation becomes seeking and taking drugs.

Drug addiction can impact a person’s career, reputation, relationships, finances, family and health. It is no exaggeration to say that drug addiction can be a life-threatening condition.

 Why did I get dependent on drugs when other people don’t?

Drug addiction and alcoholism are considered diseases of the brain, but no one knows why certain people are more susceptible to drug addiction than others.

There seems to be a genetic component, but experts are unsure how it works. They know, for example, that substance abuse runs in families. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves, partly because they use their parents as role models. However, some studies indicate that children of alcoholics who are adopted by non-drinking families are still more prone to substance abuse than are children of non-alcoholics.

Some people become addicted to drugs after they experience chronic pain. Others have undiagnosed psychological problems that they may be attempting to self-medicate through drug abuse. People with low self-esteem and poor body images tend to abuse amphetamines because these drugs make them feel more powerful and temporarily suppress appetite.

Others may have started using drugs in response to peer pressure, and then developed a dependency or an addiction.

Why can’t I just quit on my own? Should I try quitting on my own before I enter drug rehabilitation?

By definition, addiction means there is no longer any choice about using drugs. A drug addict has to keep using to feel normal. Drug addicts may tell themselves and their loved ones that they can stop any time, but the truth is they cannot stop using drugs, even when they want to.

When people who are addicted stop using drugs, they experience unpleasant and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, sweats, and disorientation. Withdrawing from certain drugs too quickly can cause sudden death, which is the main reason why withdrawal should be done only under medical supervision. Drug addicts also experience extreme cravings to use their drug again.

Is there a way that I could talk to a professional counselor right now?

Yes. If you have any concerns about drug addiction or which center is best for your needs, we have professional counselors ready to answer your questions at . Call now for answers. Everything you say is confidential and private, and you will be under no obligation to enroll in any program.

I’m addicted to cocaine. How will my treatment be different than for someone who is addicted to heroin?

Each drug presents different withdrawal symptoms. For example, people who withdraw from heroin get the classic “kicking the habit” and “cold turkey” symptoms. Their skin will usually develop goose bumps, and their legs will twitch during their detoxification period. Withdrawal from cocaine is different. You won’t get the flu-like symptoms that people addicted to heroin and opiates experience, but most people dependent on cocaine experience depression, anxiety, exhaustion, insomnia, irritability, and extreme drug cravings when they withdraw.

After your body is completely detoxed, your rehabilitation program will be similar to that of anyone who has become addicted to any kind of drugs. You will have to learn how to cope without drugs, develop new friendships and interests, and incorporate changes in your family relationships in order to remain drug-free.

I’ve heard you can’t get addicted to marijuana, but I can’t stop smoking it. Are there drug rehabilitation centers for marijuana smokers?

About 16 percent of the people in drug rehabilitation are there because of marijuana. They often report withdrawal symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, decreased appetite, and drug cravings when they stop using their drug. They are at significant risk for psychological dependency — so in that sense, people can and do become dependent on marijuana.

Marijuana is not a harmless drug. No one is sure about its long-term effects. It is fat-soluble and accumulates in the lungs, testes, liver, and other organs. It has been linked to the most deadly kind of testicular cancer. Research conducted in 2009 indicates that marijuana causes changes in the brain and may permanently impair users’ ability to remember.

I’m pregnant and addicted to drugs. What should I do?

You should not drink or use drugs when you are pregnant. If you are addicted to drugs, you need to talk to a medical professional now. It is not safe to withdraw from drugs on your own because you may damage your baby or miscarry. If you do not have a doctor, you can call us for advice. Make this call today so that you can get the help you need – for you and for your baby.

The person who needs drug treatment is not me, but someone I love. What do I do?

The first thing you need to do is to get help for yourself. Entering into the drama of this person’s life – for example, covering up for him at work, school or with the law; allowing his drug use to take over your priorities as well as his; and putting yourself at risk for personal injuries – will not do you or him any good in the long run. Talk to your doctor about what is going on, and get a referral to a counseling service. If you do not have enough money to pay for counseling, try joining a community support group like Al-Anon or Narc-Anon.

You can also arrange an intervention for this person, but you should not try to do this on your own. An intervention is a confrontation between the drug addict and his family, loved ones, and sometimes even co-workers and doctor. These people confront the person about the negative ways in which her drug abuse is affecting their lives, and then at the end of the meeting, they drive her to a drug rehabilitation center. If she refuses to go, they give her consequences such as loss of enabling her drug abuse, loss of friendship, loss of job, and even marriage.

What are the different kinds of drug treatment programs?

There are several different kinds of treatment programs, including residential drug rehabilitation, outpatient programs, inpatient programs, therapeutic or emotional growth boarding schools, wilderness programs, and methadone clinic programs.

Residential drug rehabilitation refers to comprehensive programs where people stay overnight and work their programs full-time, usually for one to six months. These programs are usually connected to a detoxification unit where people first undergo withdrawal from drugs under medical supervision. Detoxification usually takes a few days to a few weeks, depending on the individual.

After detoxification, clients remain at the center to undergo counseling and classes to learn to live a drug-free life. This is the most expensive treatment plan, but usually achieves the best outcomes.

Therapeutic or emotional growth, boarding schools are residential programs for young people (usually students between the ages of 11 and 24). Clients enroll not only for drug abuse treatment but also for help with alcoholism, depression, psychological and behavioral problems, eating disorders and related challenges.

Some schools specialize in particular problems, such as boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or girls who are struggling with alcoholism. Therapeutic boarding schools have an academic component that allows students to keep earning credits toward high school or college while they are completing the program. Depending upon the structure of the therapeutic boarding school, students may remain enrolled anywhere from a few months to more than a year.

Wilderness programs are usually designed for young people. Experienced counselors guide clients on camping and hiking trips, living together in a challenging yet safe environment that facilitates personal growth and allows for significant professional intervention. Wilderness programs allow young people to get away from the environments in which they were having problems, and give them a dramatic opportunity to start living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. Wilderness programs are intense, short-term residential programs that students usually attend for no more than a few months.

Inpatient programs are usually connected to a hospital or large medical center. People who are abusing drugs can become patients within special units, where they work with psychological counselors and doctors on a 24-hour basis. These programs were more common in the past, but have become less commonplace because insurance companies are less likely to pay for them.

Outpatient programs are usually connected to a hospital, medical center, or drug clinic. After detoxification is over, people attend classes at their centers every day as if it were their nine-to-five job, and then go home at night. Some programs require people to attend only a few days a week. While this alternative is usually less expensive than full time enrollment in a residential program, it is hard for some people to remain in their old environments — near their drug dealers and drug-using friends — and still remain abstinent. These programs work best for people who had been abusing substances, but had not developed a dependency or addiction.

Methadone clinics provide access to counseling services as well as professionally supervised medically assisted addiction treatment. Heroin addicts go to methadone clinics every day in order to take oral doses of methadone, which allows them to stop using heroin without experiencing withdrawal or cravings. Some methadone clinic clients eventually choose to go into a program that gradually weans them from their dependence upon methadone.

How do I find out which residential drug rehabilitation program is best for me?

It is important to think about what you want to achieve and to set new goals for yourself as you work through your drug rehabilitation program. Drug rehabilitation is not just about ending an addiction, but about pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

Do you want to develop a new sport or hobby that requires a certain geographical setting? For example, let’s say you always wanted to take up skiing — you may opt to go into drug rehabilitation in Utah or some other area that is home to winter sports. If privacy and discretion are among your top concerns, you may choose a luxury or executive program located a distance from where you currently live and work.

What types of accreditation or certifications should I look for in a drug treatment program?

The program should be licensed and inspected by the government of the state in which it is located. Look for accreditation from the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO). Another lesser-known one is CARF, or the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. The center might also be a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers.

If the program includes an academic component, the school should be accredited and licensed, and students should be able to earn credits that can be transferred to the high school or college they attend upon completion of the program.

What happens in a drug rehabilitation center?

There are three phases of residential drug rehabilitation.

1. The first phase is detoxification or the chemical ridding of drugs from your body. Chemical withdrawal can take a few days or several weeks depending on the amount of drugs you abused and how long you abused them. Some people can start Phase Two of drug rehabilitation immediately because their withdrawal symptoms are very mild. Others are too uncomfortable with flulike symptoms, and have to wait until they recover to start Phase Two.

2. The second phase involves learning the skills you will need to live a new life without drugs.

  • One component of Phase Two is cognitive behavioral therapy, a short-term process that focuses on setting goals and changing behavior, achieved through individual sessions with a personal counselor.
  • Group therapy helps you understand how you function in groups, whether it’s at home, school or work, and how to have better relationships with other people.
  • You also may participate in art, drama or music therapy as a way to help you get in touch with your feelings and find healthy new means of expressing them.
  • Participating in sports, physical exercise and recreational activities and eating healthy meals will help you achieve your top physical condition.
  • You may also have activities such as journalling and yoga to teach you how to relax and handle stress without drugs.
  • Finally, you attend classes to learn how to recognize what triggers drug use and how to cope with such triggers, and how to find new interests to fill up time formerly spent using drugs.

3. The third phase of drugs rehabilitation is follow-up care. When you return home, you continue in individual and family counseling, and may attend local support meetings to help you remained drug-free.

Some people want to find a center located near their homes and others look at it as their chance to get away from home and try something new. Some centers specialize in certain cultural traditions, some are gender-specific, some provide specialized services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals, and some are equipped to serve clients with physical or emotional disabilities.