Most people do not understand what addiction is; they feel it is something that happens to those who have made poor choices in their lives or is a consequence of bad behaviour. However, addiction can be classed as any pattern of behaviour that has a negative impact on the life of the affected individual. Therefore, almost anything could become an addiction if it is allowed to spiral out of control. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the difference between liking something a lot and being addicted. The term ‘addiction’ is often bandied about with little thought to those whose lives are being torn apart by it. While there are many distinct types of addiction, drug addiction is probably the one that most people are aware of because once it has a person in its grip, it can be extremely challenging to break free. So why is drug addiction so hard to overcome? To answer this, we need to take a closer look at drug addiction and how it affects people.
What Is Drug Addiction?
It is easy to say that those affected by drug addiction had a choice or ‘it is their own fault because they should not have used drugs in the first place’. Nonetheless, not everyone who uses drugs will go on to develop an addiction. There are many who can use drugs recreationally without ever having a problem while others can be more or less hooked from their very first use.
It must also be noted that the illness that is drug addiction is viewed in a very negative light. Most believe that those affected by drug addiction are from a certain background, are poorly educated, and have no prospects in life. This negative stereotyping of the illness is often that which prevents affected individuals from getting the help required to overcome addiction.
The truth is that drug addiction is not just an illness caused by illegal drugs; medication prescribed by GPs for genuine medical conditions can also be highly addictive and can leave people with devastating addictions for which they will need a programme of detox and rehabilitation to get their lives back on track.
It is also important to remember that drug addiction, like any other addiction, is an illness that is not reserved for a certain type of person from a specific type of background. The reality is that drug addiction affects individuals from all backgrounds. No matter what age a person is, what their gender, race, or religion, they can develop a drug addiction if they use illegal drugs or prescription medication.
Why Do Some People Develop Drug Addictions?
Nobody chooses to become a drug addict, and saying that someone should just stop using drugs to make their problems go away is naïve and unhelpful. In any other circumstance, if doing something caused negative problems for the individual, he or she would simply stop doing it. However, with addiction, the user has no control over their behaviour. Their ability to think logically has been interfered with by the changes that have occurred in their brains.
Therefore, drug addicts will continue to use substances that are causing adverse effects in their lives because they cannot stop – even if they want to. With that in mind, it is worth asking the question; ‘Why do some people develop addictions to drugs while others do not?’.
There is no definitive answer to this question. Nobody really knows why some people are affected and others are not. The only thing that is certain is the fact that there are several factors that can make it more likely for addiction to occur. These include having a family history of addiction, suffering trauma, having mental health problems, and the age the individual was first exposed to substance use.
How Does Drug Addiction Affect the Individual?
A drug addiction affects both the mind and the body. There are both physical and psychological issues that relate to the illness and the effects that it has on the person. A psychological addiction is one that affects the mind. A person’s behaviour may change when he or she is mentally dependent on a particular substance. With a physical addiction, the individual will experience physical symptoms whenever he or she needs their drug of choice.
Drug addiction affects the behaviour and the health of the affected person; below we have listed some of the symptoms a drug addict might expect to have. The type of symptoms the individual will be affected by will depend on the substance to which he or she is addicted.
- Loss of appetite
- Strong cravings for their drug of choice
- Feelings of irritability or anxiety when in need of a fix
- Feeling as though they will be unable to cope without this drug
- Constantly thinking about using this substance
- Feeling depressed when unable to get their drug of choice
- Denial that the problem exists
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Body aches
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Body tremors
- High blood pressure
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
The above are some of the symptoms that are obvious when a person has been abusing drugs. Nevertheless, prolonged drug abuse can lead to many more problems for mental and physical health. Drug abuse is linked to many illnesses including liver damage, lung damage, chronic depression, anxiety disorder, hepatitis C, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
What Effect Does Drug Addiction Have on Others?
It is easy to say that drug addiction is an illness that affects the individual and that he or she should be just left to get on with it. The truth is that this is an illness that is rarely contained to the person using the drugs. Everyone close to the addicted person will be negatively affected by this illness, and the impact that substance abuse and addiction has on entire communities and the economy can never be understated.
Substance abuse costs the economy billions of pounds every year in healthcare and policing. This is something that affects every single taxpayer, so the need for rehab services is vital. Nonetheless, overcoming a drug addiction can be very challenging. Those affected may find it extremely difficult to get to a point where they are confident of never returning to drug use again. But why is drug addiction so hard to overcome?
The Challenge of Beating a Drug Addiction
We have discussed what drug addiction is and the impact that it has on the lives of those affected and the people around them. For those with no experience of this illness, it may be difficult to understand why anyone would continue to use drugs when doing so is negatively affecting not only their lives but the lives of the people they love as well.
As previously mentioned, drug addiction alters the way the brain functions. What might make sense to those who are not affected by it may mean very little to the person who cannot break free from their urge to use a specific substance.
Most addicts will make promises to loved ones about how they are going to say goodbye to drugs and how they will never use again. The affected person may well mean what he or she is saying at the time and these promises usually comes after a particularly bad episode of drug abuse. He or she might be ashamed of things said or done while under the influence or may be suffering the negative symptoms associated with withdrawal.
However, once the urge to use comes over them, all the promises made will be forgotten as all the individual can think about is the drug and how he or she will feel once they have used it. These intense cravings tend to take over and everything else pales into insignificance. This includes spouses, parents and even children. All that matters to the addict is the drug.
It is these strong and powerful cravings that often trigger a return to drug use among those who have taken the first steps on the road to recovery. The addict must have an ardent desire to change and have plenty of support to overcome their addiction.
Help for Addiction
The first part of the recovery process deals with tackling the physical addiction and takes place with a detox. Detox programmes usually take between seven and ten days to complete. How detox goes will depend on the person and the type of drug he or she was using. Detoxing addicts can expect to suffer various withdrawal symptoms during this process, which will vary in intensity. Some will be mild and include mood swings, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and mild tremors. Yet the risk of severe symptoms such as seizures, convulsions and intense shaking can occur.
One thing that most drug addicts will experience during their detox is intense cravings for their drug of choice. As the detox progresses, these feelings will come to a head before then subsiding. These may return at a later stage, which is often the point when the recovering addict suffers a relapse – mainly because he or she was not expecting these powerful cravings and may have become complacent about their recovery.
A comprehensive recovery programme incorporating detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare is the best way to overcome a drug addiction. With a strong desire to change and the motivation to get past any obstacle in your way, you can beat drug addiction once and for all. You will also need plenty of support from counsellors, therapists, and loved ones.
For information about our detox and rehabilitation programmes and how we can help you to beat your drug addiction, call our helpline today.