Dependence on a particular substance or activity or addiction, is one of the most complex areas of mental health. It affects not only the abuser, but can also have devastating impact on the family and loved ones. Addiction can often be difficult to treat, and there is a good deal of controversy surrounding the causes of addiction and the best approaches to treatment.
Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse or misuse, excessive or inappropriate use of a substance, can be difficult to define, with people’s opinions, values, and beliefs varying significantly on the topic. For some, any use of an illegal drug or any use of alcohol with the primary purpose of intoxication constitutes abuse. For others, abuse is indicated by recurring, negative consequences, such as:
- Failure to address personal needs, meet social, work, and academic obligations
- Physical injury or illness
- Alcohol- or drug-related legal problems, such as arrest for driving while intoxicated
- Impulsivity, including spending money excessively
- Problems in relationships with intimate partners, family, and friends, and associates
- Diminished interest in other activities
- Short-term memory loss or blackouts
When Abuse Becomes an Addiction
Substance abuse can lead to dependence or addiction when the amount of substance used and the rate of use increase. People who are drug or alcohol dependent are unable to control the impulse to use, and they often experience withdrawal symptoms in the sudden absence of the substance. Alcoholism, for example, occurs when people become chemically dependent on alcohol, and those who are addicted may become ill if they suddenly stop drinking. People may also feel psychologically dependent on a substance and continue to use it, particularly under stressful circumstances, or to alleviate other psychological problems. Some people deny or are unaware that they have a problem with addiction, and sometimes a person’s substance dependency and abuse remains hidden from loved ones.
Signs of chemical dependence include:
- Increasing tolerance, or the need to consume more of the substance to reach the desired altered state
- Requiring Persistent need and use of the substance throughout the day
- Dismissal or resentment of expressions of concern from loved ones
- Disconnecting social ties with non-users and seeking the company of other users
- Avoidance of normal everyday activities and failing to meet obligations
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the substance.
- Hiding use from family and friends
- Using heavily for many hours or several days (binging)
- Inability to quit
Rise in Opioid Addiction in the United States
The alarming number of people using opioid prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin heroin is increasing. The same is true for illegal drugs including heroine. As a result, the United States is considered by mental and medical health providers to be in the midst of an opioid epidemic. These substances have become widely used, resulting in an alarming increase in the number of deaths resulting from overdose. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and opioids are responsible for more than half of these deaths. Because tolerance to a drug decreases after a period of abstinence, it is at this time that people have an increased risk of overdose. Families and communities are being ravaged by the effects of this addiction.
Causes of Substance Abuse/Addiction
Substance abuse and/or addiction may stem from psychological, biological, social, and physiological factors in an individual’s life. A family history of substance abuse can make a person more vulnerable to addiction, while social factors, such as peer pressure and ease of availability can increase the likelihood of a person developing a problem with drugs or alcohol. When someone begins using substances heavily, physiological changes often take place, causing that person to become physically dependent; thus, requiring this individual use the substance in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Alcoholism often runs in families, although not all children of people addicted to alcohol become addicted themselves, and there is some debate among professionals about the degree to which alcoholism is genetic. A child witnessing a parent/parent caregiver drink in response to stress can model this behavior, increasing thier likelihood of choosing to drink in response to stress.
Research shows that many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol have other mental health conditions or significant emotional/psychological distress. About half of all people with mental health diagnoses face challenges with drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives, usually because of using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.
Help to Overcome Addiction / Substance Abuse
Our MentalVerdure addiction recovery therapists can help people who become addicted to set achievable and empowering short-term goals as they work to overcome addiction. Once our clients achieve sobriety, they work with their clinicians to develop and strengthen their adaptive coping skills to regain, improve, and maintain physical and emotional health. Our professionals will begin to explore contributors to addiction with the person in treatment and help the person to use this information to contribute to development of new coping strategies. Together, our therapists and individuals being treated will work to set long-term goals that may include rebuilding damaged relationships, accepting responsibility for actions, as well as reducing and eliminating guilt.
With intervention, a person who has become dependent on drugs or alcohol is often more likely to overcome an addiction, and MentalVerdure.com offers several types of therapy in working with our clients through this process. We provide supportive services through an integrated treatment model of care in promoting health and recovery.