What is Addiction?
Addiction is a physical and psychological dependence on a substance despite its negative effects. It is a chronic disease affecting the brain’s memory and risk/reward functions. Substance addiction is when a person is addicted to either one or a combination of the following:
- Inhalants such as aerosols and vapors
- Illicit drugs such as heroine and cocaine
In Fort Collins, Colorado, drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem. Recent statistics show that the city of 161,000 has a significant number of people who abuse drugs every month. Alcohol, marijuana, and stimulants like methamphetamines are among the most popular abused substances. Sadly, every year, many of these addicts lose their lives in drug-related incidents. Do not end up a statistic. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug abuse and seeking professional help can save your life.
What are the Signs of Alcohol and Drug Addiction? When You Should be Worried
When addiction becomes a problem in your life or the life of a loved one, it manifests itself in numerous ways. Here are a few signs your addiction is getting the better of you and your life:
1) Strong Cravings for Drugs
You crave a drug or substance incessantly. These cravings are intense urges. In some cases, they can be debilitating; you lose concentration and are unable to focus on your daily responsibilities. Often, these cravings are so severe they cause excessive consumption. If you’re addicted to alcohol you take huge gulps of the substance at a go, eventually blacking out. If nicotine is your thing you may find yourself smoking more than 30 cigarettes a day. Because of the systematic cravings, you maintain a good supply of the drug. You stock your fridge with hard liquor or you go to more than one doctor to get prescriptions for a fictitious problem. You keep a secret stash of the substance hidden in your room, car or even place of work. Even when you have no money, you make sacrifices to keep your supply plentiful.
2) Physical Dependence, Tolerance and Withdrawal Symptoms
You need the substance to function “normally.” You’ve grown so accustomed to consuming the drug that your body has gotten used to its persistent presence. You feel bad when the drug is no longer in your system. It affects your performance at work, at school, and at home. Over time, because your body is so used to having the drug, it adapts to it. You develop a tolerance to the drug and its effects. Now, you need more of it to “get high” or “feel good.” You have to consume more bottles of alcohol to get drunk, inhale more aerosols to feel relaxed or take larger doses of medicine than the doctor prescribed to stop the anxiety. When you do try to quit or stay long without the drug, you feel strange. You develop severe withdrawal symptoms. You get shaky, nauseous, depressed, anxious, restless or confused. You sweat profusely, develop stomach upsets, sleep difficulties and in severe cases, you have seizures.
3) You take Drugs to Escape Negative Feelings
You drink or take substances for emotional reasons. When you are stressed, depressed, sad, anxious, tired or nervous, you take drugs to feel better. The substance provides a “relief” from negative emotions. You do this even though you know it will harm you in the long run. You do it even though you told yourself you wouldn’t take as much of it as you did or for as long as you did. You lose control of your emotions and resign to letting the substance provide temporary “relief.”
4) Poor Judgement, Dangerous Risk Taking
You spend all your money on the addictive substance. You spend so much, eventually, you face financial difficulties. Because you are addicted to the drug, you will do anything to get it, including risky things such as lying, stealing, gambling and trading sex for money or drugs. You jeopardize your life and family just to consume the drug. At this point, you have lost control. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. You start abusing the drug at dangerous times. For example, you drink excessively before reporting to work in the morning, you smoke a whole pack of cigarettes before taking part in physically strenuous activities, you take drugs against the physician’s orders or even worse, you take medicine together with alcohol. And when you do get high, you engage in risky behaviors such as driving recklessly or handling heavy machinery.
5) Neglecting Responsibilities
You neglect your responsibilities at work, school and at home. You dedicate your free time to indulging in alcohol and drugs. You drop out of class, spend family weekends binge drinking in bars and forget to do work assignments. You choose the substance over your education, career, and family and ignore the consequences of your actions. You stop pursuing your hobbies or interests. You used to love hiking but now you won’t do it unless there’s alcohol involved. You loved doing 5K runs three times a week but now you can barely get a kilometer done before your lungs collapse from heavy nicotine use so you quit altogether. Eventually, you stop taking care of yourself. You lose all sense of personal grooming. You stop taking showers and brushing your teeth. You don’t comb your hair, you wear the same clothes over and over and your colleagues keep away from you because you smell.
6) Straining close Relationships
Your substance abuse causes problems between you and your family, partner and close friends. The drug is a bigger priority to you so you dissociate yourself from them. You withdraw to hide your substance use from them. In some cases, you develop unhealthy relationships. You spend time with people in the same boat as yourself. You hang out with your suppliers, fellow addicts and people who encourage your unhealthy substance abuse.
7) Poor Physical Health
Prolonged drug and alcohol abuse does cause physical problems. These include: rapid weight loss or weight gain, frequent nosebleeds, rashes, bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, headaches, bad breath, body shakes and tremors, slurred speech and impaired muscle functioning. Psychologically, prolonged substance abuse takes a toll on the body. Stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine cause anxiety, hyperactivity, irritability, euphoria and eating disorders. Hallucinogens such as LCD may cause hallucinations, confusion, paranoia, and aggression. Other substances may cause mood swings, giddiness, depression and personality changes. All these are signs of alcohol and drug addiction is a huge problem in your life. If you have any one or a combination of these signs, you need to commit yourself to recovery. Do not wait until you have lost everything or hit rock bottom before seeking help. Recovery can occur at any time in the addiction process. In fact, the earlier you seek help, the better your chances of recovery.
Overcoming Addiction Denial to Treat Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Many people with a substance addiction will understate the condition’s seriousness. They will even trivialize it despite its obvious signs and symptoms. They do this to justify their continued indulgence and avoid having to face the severity of their drug problem. Despite how serious an addiction may seem, recovery is possible if you accept help. Some people go a step further by invoking their willpower, claiming they can stop abusing drugs if they really wanted to. This is false. Prolonged drug abuse is a chronic disorder that actually affects the brain’s functioning as well as its perception of risk and reward. It takes more than just “willpower” to truly recover. Honesty about addiction is the first step to true recovery.
What are the Treatment Options for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse?
Rehabilitation centers offer two types of treatment programs: outpatient and inpatient programs. Outpatient programs will allow you to go home while attending treatment. They give you the flexibility to continue your daily routines while getting treatment for alcoholism or drug abuse. Outpatient treatment will involve:
- Prescription medication
- 12-step therapy
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy
- Relapse prevention education
Intensive Outpatient treatment (IOP) is also an option if you would like to attend rehab in the evening and work during the day. Inpatient or residential programs will require you to live in a rehabilitation center for the entire treatment period, typically 30 to 90 days. In these centers, you benefit from increased interaction with rehabilitation officers and enhanced access to quality medical care. You also get to keep away from unhealthy environments and relationships that can trigger a relapse. Inpatient programs offer:
- Supervised detoxification
- Individual or group therapy
- 12-step therapy
- Family therapy
- Outings to beaches and restaurants
- Therapeutic activities such as meditation and yoga
Afterward, you may even join a step-down program such as a sober living home to help you in your addiction recovery. Do you have a drug addiction problem? Get professional help today. It’s never too late to recover.