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Published: July 17, 2023
Drug addiction is often misidentified as something people can just get over, creating a dangerous stigma around asking for help. Early intervention is important for recovery, but admitting you need it is hard.
Fortunately, drug addiction is treatable, and many options are available to help individuals who need it.
Millions are battling the chronic disease of drug addiction, and the number grows every year. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, over 37 million people ages 12 and over in the U.S. used drugs in the last 30 days of 2020.
Thousands die yearly from a drug overdose. Females are less likely than males to use illicit drugs or abuse prescription medication.
Drug addiction, a severe substance use disorder (SUD), is usually defined by whether a person’s attachment to a specific substance interferes with their ability to function reasonably, how much of a substance they use, and other factors, according to the DSM-V.
The extent of a SUD can be mild, moderate, or severe based on the evaluation of those factors. Genetics and life experiences can affect a person’s likelihood of developing a SUD, but anyone can struggle with it.
Although the terms are often interchanged, there is an essential distinction between drug abuse and drug addiction. Drug abuse refers to when and how a person uses drugs. Drug addiction addresses whether a person is dependent on a substance to function.
Any use of illicit drugs is considered drug abuse whether the person using them is labeled as addicted or not since these drugs are illegal.
Drug abuse type and level vary. The DSM-V classifies the severity of SUDs based on how many criteria are met, from two to 11, with a minimum of two required for a diagnosis.
A person must meet the following criteria within a year’s time and not have been diagnosed as dependent to be diagnosed with a SUD:
Levels of drug abuse can be determined by the following:
There are many synonyms for drug addiction and those who are addicted to drugs. Most are negative terms that promote stigma about the disease.
Other words for drug addiction may be:
Some terms for people addicted to drugs include:
These names support the idea that a person can stop using but chooses not to rather than that they have a treatable medical condition. These opinions often discourage those with a SUD from seeking help, leading to negative feelings.
When someone cannot stop taking a substance, they are addicted. Even though the person may be fully aware of the consequences of usage, they do not have the mental ability to control resistance.
When a person’s body has become accustomed to regular use of a substance, their body experiences adverse physical symptoms if they prolong the time between usage.
These withdrawal symptoms indicate that a person is dealing with drug dependence because their physical being has become dependent on that usage and struggles to function in its absence.
The most dangerous substances that lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms are alcohol and opioids.
Substance use or drug abuse can happen with everything from illegal drugs to prescription and over-the-counter meds to common household chemicals. It can affect individuals as well as their friends and family members.
This list gives you an idea of what drugs are most often misused:
Understanding the warning signs of drug addiction can help you identify when someone may have developed one. Substance abuse occurs in adolescents as young as 12, so you must watch for symptoms in your children starting at an early age.
Young people may try illegal drugs because of peer pressure, as an escape, for fun, or because they have an underlying mental disorder.
Factors like age, weight, general health, type of substance used, length of use, withdrawal method, etc., contribute to the severity and kind of withdrawal symptoms a person may experience.
Some of the more common symptoms may be:
Using substances to the point that you’re addicted to or abusing them affects you as well as everyone in your circle. It can kill relationships and drastically change how you interact with the world around you while significantly altering your body chemistry.
Short-term effects vary by substance, risk factors, personal health, and more, all determining immediate signs of drug abuse.
These body systems can all be affected by drug abuse:
A list of every health issue associated with drug addiction would be extensive, because a person’s medical and personal history affect how their body responds to different drugs.
Health complications linked to different forms of drug abuse and addiction include:
While nothing guarantees a person will or won’t become addicted to drugs, certain things can put you at greater risk.
Risk factors for drug addiction can be:
These risk factors may make you more vulnerable to addiction, but they do not guarantee that you will become addicted. Causes, on the other hand, are factors that lead to disease. Being in a turbulent home is a risk factor for addiction. Using illegal drugs is a cause of addiction.
A health professional will run tests to determine if you have a SUD. These tests can include questions and labs that help them to assess your level of substance use.
A large part of what is evaluated is how much and how often a person uses drugs and whether that significantly impacts their quality of life based on the criteria outlined by the DSM-V.
Medical-Use Evaluation (MUE) is a series of options a health professional uses to outline a treatment program that will help you overcome your addiction and maintain a drug-free lifestyle wherever possible.
The U.S. Preventive Task Force recommended in 2021 to screen for drug use in adults but not adolescents in most cases.
While blood and urine tests can tell a health provider how much of a substance was in your body at the time of the test, it does not accurately depict a history of use or misuse.
That’s why questions are used more often in screening or in conjunction with labs, which can establish a baseline for maintenance purposes.
Understanding drug use and addiction can be hard. You may not be aware that you or a loved one are dealing with it.
Warning signs that you may need help:
When a health provider has identified drug addiction as one of your health conditions or you have determined that you are struggling with use, it’s time to reach out for help from health care providers.
Detoxification can happen in several ways, whether medical, medically supervised, or self-managed. In a medical setting, symptoms are monitored to ensure that you’re receiving appropriate nutrition and medication to help manage those.
A medical detox can be inpatient or outpatient and is usually based on the results of initial evaluation. You’ll work with health care providers to decide on which treatment program is best for you based on the amount of drugs in your system and any current or past medical and psychological conditions that may affect treatment.
Trying to DIY is not recommended, as it can be extremely dangerous. A full stop on drug use frequently leads to overdose as users try to manage withdrawal symptoms themselves. They often give in and take a dose of drugs that their body is no longer used to, which causes overdose.
Which drug rehab program you need will be determined by your providers once they’ve performed the initial screenings. They are usually inpatient programs where you can be monitored more closely and last one to three months.
If detoxification is needed for your addiction, that is the first step toward healing. Once your body is free of the substance and withdrawal symptoms, you enter a treatment program.
During your stay, you may receive counseling and behavioral and alternative therapies. You may also participate in support groups, group counseling, aftercare planning, and relapse prevention planning.
Sometimes, addiction needs to be treated with medication to help your body deal with the loss of the drug. Depending on what you’re addicted to, MAT may involve continuing on the drug but reducing the dosage or switching to a different drug that will help mitigate symptoms of withdrawal.
Medications used to manage withdrawal symptoms or as maintenance drugs may be:
Outpatient programs are typically for individuals whose addiction is less severe and who have a good and stable home/support system. Outpatient care can also be a less expensive option.
Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are higher levels of outpatient treatment that allow you to go home while maintaining more involved activities.
All outpatient programs involve some combination of medical and behavioral approaches to provide a well-rounded solution and help prevent relapse. They can last a few weeks to several months.
Most support groups base their curriculums on the 12-step program associated with Alcoholics Anonymous. There is also Al-Anon, which is for family members of those addicted to substances. Alateen is specifically for young people whose friends or family members may be addicted.
Other support groups include Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Marijuana Anonymous.
Regardless of how you’ve done the initial treatment, it’s important to continue with treatment programs to help avoid relapse.
You may seek treatment through:
Drug addiction often happens before a person realizes it. It’s easy to think that you can use a drug just once or only on social occasions without becoming addicted.
Unfortunately, most of these drugs are highly addictive and provide euphoric feelings that are hard to mimic in everyday life.
But the good news is that you or your loved one can receive treatment from any number of programs. Reach out via our helpline today to get connected with your recovery program options.
A person is addicted to drugs when the need for drugs overrides all other aspects of life.
Detoxification is the process of ridding all drugs, alcohol, or otherwise harmful substances from a person’s body.
Marijuana is the most-used type of drug. Its addiction rate is approximately 10% for ages 18 and over and 17% for users who start before age 18.
Drug addiction is currently identified as a treatable chronic disease. However, recent advances in the science of addiction provide hope that it may become curable.
No, but genetics can factor into how likely a person is to become addicted to drugs. Also, a family history of addiction can make a person predisposed toward drug use.
The most important thing that you can do to help someone with addiction is to provide support without suffocation. Educate yourself on the condition with reputable sources and seek out your own support group.
Don’t try to force your loved one into anything or badger them incessantly — simply let them know that you care about them and are there to help.
Screening for Unhealthy Drug Use: Recommendation Statement.
What Is a Substance Use Disorder?
Substance use, abuse, and addiction.
ASHP Guidelines on Medical-Use Evaluation.
High-Risk Substance Use Among Youth.
U.S. Opioid Dispensing Rate Maps.
Substance Use Disorder.
Drug Abuse Statistics.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs.
Commonly Used Drugs Charts.
Is It Too Soon To Start Talking about a Cure for Addiction?
Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs.
Synthetic Cathinones (‘Bath Salts’) DrugFacts.
Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts.
What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine misuse?
Drug dependence is not addiction—and it matters.
DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders: Recommendations and Rationale.
Number of cocaine users worldwide from 2010 to 2020, by region.
Number of individuals taking heroin in the United States in 2021, by age group*.
Number of people in the U.S. who used cocaine in their lifetime from 2009 to 2021.
Number of people in the U.S. who used methamphetamine in their lifetime from 2009 to 2021.
Learn About Marijuana Risks.
Learn About Methamphetamine.
Risk and Protection Factors.
Another word for DRUG ADDICTION.
Slang for ‘drug addict.
Slang for ‘drug addiction.
SAMHSA Announces National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Results Detailing Mental Illness and Substance Use Levels in 2021.
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