Throughout history, people have held varying beliefs and attitudes towards drugs. Some societies, like the Inca, used drugs in spiritual rituals to communicate with their gods. Others, gave stimulants to their soldiers during the second world war to give them an edge in battle.
Today, drug use is still a contentious issue with drug addiction recognised as a complex and multifaceted problem that affects people from all walks of life. Drug addiction can have serious negative impacts on every aspect of your health and happiness but with the right knowledge and professional help it is possible to transform your life.
What is drug addiction?
Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterised by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because drugs change the brain’s structure and functioning, leading to long-lasting effects on your behaviour.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), classifies substance use disorders based on a set of criteria, including impaired control, social impairment, risky use and certain pharmacological signs.
According to the UK Home Office, there were an estimated 586,780 adults aged 16 to 59 with a drug use disorder in 2020/21 in the UK, while approximately 35 million people worldwide suffer from drug use disorders.
What are some common forms of drug addiction?
There are so many different types of drugs that have the potential for drug abuse and addiction. Some of the most common forms of drug addiction include:
Cannabis addiction refers to the compulsive use of cannabis/marijuana, despite its negative effects on one’s life. While many countries around the world have started to legalise cannabis, long-term cannabis use can lead to a range of physical and mental health issues.
Cocaine addiction involves the regular and uncontrollable use of cocaine which is a powerful stimulant drug. This addiction can result in severe psychological and physical consequences, including potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes. Click here to learn more.
Crack addiction is characterised by the compulsive smoking of crack cocaine, a highly potent and addictive form of the drug. It can cause extreme paranoia, aggression and severe health problems. If you would like to learn more about crack addiction, click on the button below.
Crystal meth addiction
Crystal meth addiction results from the use of methamphetamine, a potent and highly addictive stimulant. Long-term use can lead to severe mental and physical health issues, including psychosis and organ damage.
Ecstasy addiction refers to the habitual use of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), a synthetic drug with stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Chronic use can result in depression, anxiety and cognitive impairment. Click here to learn more.
Heroin addiction is marked by the compulsive use of heroin, an opioid drug derived from morphine. This addiction can lead to severe health issues, such as collapsed veins, infections and lethal overdose. If you would like to learn more about heroin addiction, click here.
Ketamine addiction involves the misuse of ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic drug. Prolonged use can result in bladder damage, memory problems and dissociative symptoms. If you would like to learn more about ketamine addiction, click below.
LSD addiction refers to the compulsive use of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), a powerful hallucinogenic drug. While physical dependence is rare, psychological addiction can lead to distorted perceptions and impaired judgement.
Spice addiction is characterised by the habitual use of synthetic cannabinoids, often marketed as a “legal” alternative to cannabis. These substances can cause unpredictable and severe health effects, including organ damage and even death.
Am I addicted to drugs?
Recognising and acknowledging drug addiction early on is crucial for successful treatment and recovery. However, drug addiction often deceives individuals and their loved ones, making it difficult to see the need for help. To determine if you might be struggling with addiction to drugs, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I use drugs more often or in greater amounts than I initially intended?
- Have I tried to cut back or quit using drugs but found myself unable to do so?
- Do I spend a significant amount of time obtaining, using or recovering from the effects of drugs?
- Have I experienced cravings or strong urges to use drugs?
- Has my drug use caused problems in my relationships, work or school?
- Have I given up or reduced important social, occupational or recreational activities because of drug use?
- Do I continue using drugs despite knowing the physical or psychological harm they cause?
- Have I developed a tolerance to drugs, requiring more significant amounts to achieve the desired effect?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be struggling with drug addiction and should consider seeking professional help for drug addiction.
How does drug addiction develop?
Drug addiction can develop in various ways, as illustrated by the unique stories of three fictional characters:
Sarah – illicit drug addiction via prescription drug addiction
Sarah was prescribed painkillers after a nasty car accident left her in a lot of pain. Over time, she began to rely on her medication to cope with her emotional pain as well. Eventually, she started using higher doses but had to turn to illicit opioids when her prescription ran out. This resulted in Sarah developing an addiction to these illegal drugs and being unable to stop taking them despite the problems they were causing her.
Alex – drug addiction through recreational use
Alex began experimenting with drugs in high school to fit in with his friends. Initially, it was just recreational, but as he faced increasing pressures at home and school, he began using drugs as a means of escape. Soon, his casual use spiralled into a full-blown addiction where he needed to take drugs just to feel “normal” and function in everyday life.
Lisa – drug addiction through self-medication
Lisa suffered from anxiety and depression and found that using drugs temporarily alleviated her symptoms. Over time, she became dependent on the substances to function but needed more to get the same effects. Eventually, the drugs began to exacerbate the symptoms of her anxiety and depression leading to a vicious cycle.
While these characters are fictional, these stories are very typical of the different paths people can take to develop drug addiction.
What underlying factors can lead to drug addiction?
Several risk factors can increase your chances of developing a drug addiction, including:
- Genetic predisposition: Studies have shown that genetic factors account for 40-60% of a person’s vulnerability to addiction.
- Family history: Having a close relative with a history of addiction can increase your risk greatly.
- Early exposure: Using drugs at a young age can alter brain development, making one more susceptible to addiction.
- Mental health disorders and trauma: People with unresolved trauma and mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, may be more likely to self-medicate with drugs, ultimately leading to addiction.
- Environmental factors: Factors such as peer pressure, family dysfunction and socio-economic status can contribute to drug addiction.
The health effects of drug addiction
While different drugs cause different effects, some of the common health effects of drug abuse and addiction include:
- Damage to vital organs
- Weakened immune system
- Respiratory problems
- Increased risk of infectious diseases
- Mental health issues
- Cognitive impairment
- Overdose and death
Signs of drug overdose
A drug overdose occurs when someone consumes more drugs than their body can handle, resulting in potentially life-threatening effects. Recognising the signs of an overdose can be crucial for obtaining timely medical assistance. Common signs of a drug overdose may include:
- Difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
- Unresponsiveness or unconsciousness
- Chest pain or rapid heartbeat
- Dilated or pinpoint pupils
- Seizures or tremors
- Nausea or vomiting
- Agitation or paranoia
- Bluish lips, fingernails or skin
If you suspect someone is experiencing a drug overdose, call emergency services immediately and follow their instructions. Prompt action can save lives.
Effects of drug addiction on your life
Drug addiction can also negatively impact various aspects of your life, such as:
- Strained relationships with family and friends
- Loss of employment or difficulties maintaining a job
- Academic failure or dropping out of school
- Legal issues related to drug possession or drug-induced behaviours
- Financial problems due to the cost of drugs and the consequences of addiction
How is drug addiction treated?
Drug addiction treatment often involves a combination of:
- Drug detox: This is the process of removing drugs from the body and managing withdrawal symptoms, which can include medications to ease discomfort.
- Drug rehab: This involves identifying and addressing the psychological aspects of addiction. This is done through evidence-based therapy, counselling and support groups, to help you develop coping skills and prevent relapse later on.
Neither of these steps alone is usually enough to overcome addiction so it is important you receive professional help for drug addiction to address the multi-faceted nature of the condition.
How to get help for drug addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling, seeking professional help for drug addiction is the first step towards recovery.
Contact Oasis Runcorn today and take the first step towards a healthier, happier and drug-free future. Remember, recovery is possible, and it’s never too late to seek help.