Alcohol and Drug Addiction 101

05 Feb 2020

Did you know 20 million Americans above 12 years of age have an addiction of some kind? And 100 people die daily as a result of a drug overdose? 

Alcohol and drug addictions have been on the rise in the last decade due to various factors. But, lack of information on how to address the problem with a friend or a family member is partly the problem. Without understanding how alcohol and drug addiction occur and why it is hard for people to quit, it can make you victimize the affected person. Keep reading to understand the signs and causes of substance addiction.

What is Drug Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic brain disease characterized by a psychological dependence on alcohol or drugs. Once the addiction has formed, the affected person can’t resist the desire to use the substance even though it puts them in harm’s way. A drug and alcohol addiction impacts the person’s emotions, actions, and way of thinking. 

Most people who struggle with addiction are aware of the problem but find it hard to stop on their own. This is partly because when a person consumes a drug or alcohol repeatedly, they develop a tolerance. 

Tolerance is when there’s a need to consume larger amounts of the substances to achieve similar results as you did the first time around. Prolonged use of these substances will change the brain chemistry and trigger uncontrollable cravings– that’s addiction.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors?

No one plans to be addicted. Most people find themselves dependent on a substance to function as a result of various factors such as peer pressure, curiosity, and stress. People born and raised in an environment where alcohol or drug was abused are likely to develop the behavior later in life. Other factors that may influence the behavior include genetics and mental health problems.

How Does Addiction Influence the Brain?

Alcohol and drug addiction mostly affect the brain. When a person consumes an excessive amount of drugs and alcohol, it causes the brain to produce large amounts of dopamine (the feel-good hormone), thereby triggering the reward system. Our brains are wired to repeat experiences that make us feel good. However, after prolonged use of drugs and alcohol, the brain will be unable to make the dopamine on its own. This means that the person will find it hard to achieve pleasurable activities when not under the influence. 

Alcohol Addiction Vs. Dependency

Although addiction and dependency are used interchangeably, they are different. Drug dependency refers to when a person develops a tolerance to a specific substance and may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. 

Addiction, on the other hand, occurs when substance use changes a person’s brain chemistry causing uncontrollable cravings. 

While drug dependency can be solved with tapering off the substance, addiction needs treatment. 

What Are the Warning Signs of Addiction?

Alcohol and drug addiction red flags include:

  • Unexplained absences
  • Lapses in concentration and memory 
  • Having sudden new friends 
  • Ignoring responsibilities and commitments 
  • Money fluctuations 
  • Sudden mood swings or change in behavior 
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in physical appearance 

These symptoms differ from person to person, and it can be hard to detect addiction in some people than in others. If you notice any of the above signs, it is crucial to visit or walk into a nearby clinic for a discussion with a qualified doctor.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Treating alcohol and drug addiction is challenging as it relies largely on the person’s willingness. Furthermore, the recovery from an addiction is a lifelong commitment, and no person is completely cured. However, there are few treatment options that you can try, such as rehab, alcoholics anonymous and support groups, drug therapy, counseling, and nutritional changes. 

Additionally, the doctor may prescribe drugs like antidepressants if depression is the cause of the addiction. 

When a person begins alcohol or drug addiction treatment, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, so keep watch. If you notice anything wrong or the person is exhibiting erratic behavior, it is vital to visit an emergency room in Houston, TX, for treatment. 

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