Drug addiction is not the same as recreational drug use. Drug addiction develops when a person continues to use drugs even though they are having a serious, negative effect on the ability to hold a job, be in a relationship or meet other responsibilities. Drug addiction is the most serious form of what is known as substance use disorder (SUD). Drug addiction can include a variety of substances, ranging from marijuana to stimulants to opiates. Alcoholism is another type of SUD.
All forms of addiction affect the brain at the neurochemical level, bringing about changes that alter the way the brain functions. Addiction develops when the brain has changed in response to a person’s drug use. Addictive behavior becomes reflexive and is out of the person’s control. Thus, drug addiction is best understood as a disease of the brain that translates into abnormal and destructive behavior
Drug addiction (and other types of addiction) are considered to be complex, in that many aspects of a person’s health are impacted, and chronic, in that the condition cannot be cured – but it can be managed.
The primary symptom of drug addiction is frequent, intense cravings that absorb the person’s attention so their main focus is on obtaining and using the drug, even when it is clearly causing major problems in their life.
All types of substance use disorders, including drug addiction, are best treated with a combination of therapies. While the right treatment may vary from person to person, most people with an addiction to opiates or any other type of drug benefit from a combination of medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, group support, family therapy, and counseling and coaching from a specialist who has completed extensive training in recovery from addiction.
In our Manage Addiction Lifeline program, we use a variety of medications to treat opioid addiction. These include (but are not limited to) Buprenorphine with Naloxone, Buprenorphine without Naloxone, Naltrexone and Methaodone.
Additionally, medication may be used to treat co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Addiction is a chronic condition, which means it cannot be cured – but it can be managed. Drug addiction is like diabetes and heart disease in that treatment, including medication and lifestyle change, can enable a person with the condition to live a happy, healthy and productive life.
In a word, never. Relapse is very common – most people in treatment for addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol or both, relapse once or several times. Relapse prevention and planning are key components to our Manage Addiction Lifeline program. Our curriculum emphasizes the importance of developing strategies to reduce the likelihood that you will relapse and use drugs again, while also creating a plan for what to do to get yourself immediately back on track if relapse occurs.
Though the signs and symptoms of drug addiction vary from one person with the problem to the next, there are certain behaviors that signal a high risk. These include:
Many, if not most, people with drug addiction believe they can stop using at any point – but it’s exceedingly rare to be able to do so. A clear sign that a person has developed an addiction is when he or she is unable to stop using, despite efforts to do so.
The word “detox” is short for detoxification, which describes what happens when an addicted person’s body is deprived of the drug. Another word for detoxification is withdrawal. Both terms refer to dramatic symptoms that result when a drug is suddenly stopped. These symptoms may include restlessness, muscle cramps, insomnia, vomiting, diarrhea, incontinence, and chills – all of which may last anywhere from several hours to several days. There are also mood symptoms, which can be more long-lasting. These include depression, anxiety and confusion.
When a person with drug addiction undergoes the process of detoxification or withdrawal under medical supervision, he or she may receive medical treatment (including medications, fluids, etc.) that both eases the discomfort of withdrawal and also ensures that safety.
While many residential programs last for 28 days, most research shows that this is not adequate for achieving lasting change. Studies show that effective treatment should last at least 90 days and that longer periods of treatment are likelier to bring about long-term success at living a drug-free life.
Many people are surprised to hear that treatment for drug addiction works as well as treatment for any other kind of chronic disease (such as diabetes or heart disease). The most successful treatments combine several types of treatment and also help the person with addiction work through the problems that may have contributed to the addiction as well as put in place a plan for a life that is less likely to trigger relapse.
While both forms of treatment can be effective, studies show that online treatment can often be even more effective. (Online treatment has many different names, including telehealth, telemedicine, virtual treatment, e-therapy and remote treatment.) Because treatment depends on many factors, including the development of stable, mutually supportive relationships with professionals and peers, the most effective types of online treatment include a range of activities, including one-on-one doctor-patient visits, counseling, group sessions with others who are in recovery, and multimedia learning tools.
Talk therapy is a critical element of effective treatment. It’s important for people with drug addiction to learn to recognize their own harmful thought patterns and to find new ways to function on their own and with others. Online treatment gives people more flexibility in scheduling visits and doesn’t require people to leave home. Resources are available around the clock so people in online treatment programs need never feel alone. Online treatment programs are also significantly less expensive than in-person treatment programs and often are covered by insurance, as well.
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