Insights to Drug Addiction
Addiction is a chronic, oftentimes, relapsing mental health disorder that leads to obsessive drug seeking behavior and usage, regardless of the deleterious effects on the user and those around them. For most people, the initial impulse to take drugs is deliberate, however, over time, changes that take place in the brain test a user’s willpower and hinder their ability to resist the urge to use drugs. People start experimenting with drugs due to varied reasons. Some start using these out of inquisitiveness, because of peer pressure, to have a good time, ease anxiety or depression, or improve performance at school, work or sports.
It is important to understand that drug use does lead to addiction inevitably. There is no particular level of use at which drug use graduates to complicated from casual. Addiction or drug use has less to do with the amount of the substance used or the frequency at which it is used, and more to do with the repercussions of drug use. Irrespective of how little or how often one is consuming, if the drug use is causing problems in one’s life, at school, work, home, in relationships, in finances, etc., it is likely that one is struggling with drug abuse or drug addiction.
A lot of people fail to understand how or why some people become addicted to drugs. It is generally assumed that people abusing drugs have a weak willpower or lack moral ethics and that they could simply stop using one day through determination. In truth, drug addiction is a complex brain disorder and quitting necessitates much more than a will of steel or good intent.
Just like other chronic and debilitating disorders, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes, drug recovery too can be managed with success. Similar to other chronic disorders, it is not rare for a person to relapse and start using drugs again. However, relapse does not indicate that an individual failed or a treatment failed, it simply means that the drug addiction treatment should be re-established or modified to meet the individual’s requirement so that they can achieve long-lasting recovery.
Effects of Drugs on Brain
Drugs are chemical substances and when these chemicals are introduced into the body, via injecting, smoking, eating, or inhaling, they hit the communication system of the brain and interfere with the way nerve cells function – in receiving, sending, or processing – information. Different drugs work differently because of distinct chemical structures. The drugs might work in two ways in the brain, they might either mimic the natural chemical messengers of the brain or overstimulate the reward circuit of the brain.
Drugs like heroin and marijuana have chemical structures that imitate the structure of a neurotransmitter found naturally in our bodies. These drugs can dupe the receptors, bind with them and thus, activate the nerve cells. Since they do not work in the same way as the neurotransmitters, they end up sending abnormal messages through the brain which can get challenging for the brain as well as the body to process.
On the other hand, drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine propel nerve cells to release excessive amount of dopamine, a natural neurotransmitter, or inhibit the normal recycling of dopamine. As a consequence, intensified messages are produced in the brain disrupting the channels of communication.
Reward Circuit of Brain
Until recently, it was assumed that the feeling of high or euphoria experienced during drug use was caused solely by the dopamine rush, however, now it has been understood that the process is more multifaceted. A majority of drugs, like marijuana, cocaine, nicotine, and others, target the reward circuit which is an integral part of the limbic system. Typically, the reward circuit responds to pleasurable activities by releasing dopamine, which in turn, encourages other parts of the brain to repeat those activities.
This system is eventually controlled by drugs because of which high amounts of dopamine are released, initially in response to the drug and gradually to triggers associated with drug use like the presence of people with whom a person used a drug or being at a place where a person abused a drug. Since the brain remembers, it produces an intense urge to seek and use the drug again. Therefore, dopamine is not responsible for causing the rush of feelings, however, it fortifies the yearning to use drugs.
The brain reinforces that healthy activities like eating, traveling, etc., are repeated. This kick starts the reward circuit because of which when drugs are abused, people tend to use them again and again. Followed by repeated use, the brain starts fine-tuning to the dopamine surges because of which the number of dopamine receptors may reduce or less amount of dopamine may be produced in the brain. This drastically reduces the feelings of pleasure making the person feel depressed and they are unable to derive pleasure from things that appeased them before. Dopamine fuels the brain to repeat the pleasurable activity because of which a person needs increased quantities of the drug to feel normal. This effect is known as tolerance. Repeated use of drugs can get toxic and kill neurons. Prolonged use may eventually produce catastrophic changes in the brain circuits and neurons which may persist even after the person has stopped drug use.
Risk Factors for Drug Use
There are multiple risk factors that may contribute to drug use. Some of the common and serious risk factors are:
- Familial risk factors: Familial risk factors comprise parental or familial substance abuse, level of parental education, childhood maltreatment, marital status of parents, familial socioeconomic status, parent-child relationship and a child perceiving that their parents approve of their substance abuse.
- Physical and sexual abuse: The association between physical and sexual abuse and drug use has already been established by multiple studies. There is also evidence that higher level of use of illicit drugs leads to physical and sexual abuse. Abuse might result in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also linked with the risk of high drug abuse. Physical or sexual abuse also results in stress affecting the brain, especially the amygdala responsible for translocating emotional data to the body based on the memory generated during stressful situations. The stress resulting from abuse causes the amygdala to overstimulate releasing excessive dopamine which in turn is associated with drug addiction.
- Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse occurs when a child’s psychological functioning or intellectual development is hindered. Research has established that emotional abuse can lead to substance abuse. Witnessing violence an increase a person’s susceptibility to use drugs because witnessing violence such as domestic violence causes extreme stress.
- Neglect: A child might feel neglected when their caregiver fails to provide them with the adequate living necessities such as clothing, healthcare, protection, and food. Studies have repeatedly shown that victims of neglect often have a high propensity for drug addiction. The neglect can also have ramifications on the child’s developing brain and neglect during adolescence can have long-lasting consequences.
- Social risk factors: Social risk factors contributing to increased substance abuse comprise bullying, deviant peer relationships, and association with gangs.
- Deviant peer relationships: Peers can influence adolescent substance abuse in the form of deviant peer relationships where an adolescent gets connected to a group of people abusing substances. Studies have shown that the risk of substance abuse is positively associated with deviant peer relationships. A shared inclination to abuse drugs might attract deviant individuals into forming peer groups and in order to achieve a recognized social standing, these individuals start abusing drugs. Likewise, increase risk of substance abuse is also perpetuated by perceived popularity and peer pressure. Adolescents are more likely to indulge in substance abuse when they believe that their popularity within a peer group would increase significantly if they abused drugs. It has been observed that adolescents who yearn to be the leader of a group are more likely to smoke as this is associated with being mature while those who want to feel more belonged to a group drink alcohol as it is perceived to be a communal activity.
- Bullying: Bullying can be defined as a series of interactions where a victim or a weak person is assaulted verbally or physically by an individual or a group. It has been shown that all those involved in the act of bullying have an increased risk of psychosocial problems and mental health disorders because of which they might turn to substance abuse. Research has also shown that a bully is often into alcohol use while a victim is into marijuana or hard drug use.
- Gang affiliation: A gang is a group of three or more people involved in a criminal activity. A significantly positive association has been found between substance abuse and gang affiliation. This is much stronger than that between dugs and deviant peer groups. Gang members have been reported to have a high rate of marijuana and alcohol use. Adolescents are attracted to a gang due to their appeal of criminal behavior and once they become members, they indulge in drug use to consolidate their position and feel belonged.
- Individual risk factors: Many individual factors can also contribute to the risk of substance abuse. These include mental disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), PTSD, and depression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and so on.
Seeking Substance Abuse Treatment
Drug addiction treatment is possible, however, it is not simple. This is because addiction is a chronic disease and people cannot simply stop drug use for a couple of days and get cured. A majority of patients require long-term care from a certified behavioral health center to achieve complete drug recovery. A drug addiction treatment program must help an individual stop using drugs, stay drug-free, and be productive in family, at work, and in the community setting.
Components of drug addiction treatment program
The components of an effective substance abuse treatment include:
- Behavioral counseling
- Applications and medical devices used for the treatment and management of withdrawal symptoms
- Assessment and management of co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety and depression
- Follow-up for the prevention of relapse
Medications and devices
These are used for the management of withdrawal symptoms, treatment of co-occurring disorders, and prevention of relapse.
Withdrawl symptoms:– Withdrawal symptoms can be managed with the use of medication during a detoxification process. Detoxification is not the treatment, rather a preliminary step where it helps the body rid of unwanted drugs and toxins accumulated with years of drug use, at the same time. Further, the body is fortified with essential nutrients and minerals. It has been observed that patients who do not opt for the ensuing drug addiction treatment after detoxification, relapse sooner.
Co-occurring conditions: – Many medications are available for the treatment of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression that co-occur with an addiction and maybe contribute to drug addiction.
Relapse prevention: – Medications are used to help patients re-establish normal brain function and decrease cravings helping in the prevention of relapse. Currently, medications are available for the treatment of alcohol, tobacco, and opioid addiction. However, researchers are developing novel medications for the treatment of cannabis and stimulant addiction. People indulging in polysubstance abuse need simultaneous treatment for all the drugs that they use.
Behavioral therapies: –Behavioral therapies help patients change their behaviors and attitudes pertaining to drug use, learn healthy life skills and receive medication for the treatment of their addiction alongside therapy.
Levels of Care
The different settings available for substance abuse treatment are:
Outpatient behavioral treatment: – In an outpatient setting, admission to the facility is not required. A patient visits the facility for the treatment that comprises a variety of programs involving individual or group counseling or both. Patients receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), multidimensional family therapy, motivational interviewing, and motivational incentives.
Inpatient or residential treatment: – Inpatient or residential treatment can be highly effective for the treatment of individuals with severe problems, including co-occurring disorders. Licensed residential treatment facilities offer round-the-clock structured care including medical supervision and safe housing. A variety of treatment approaches may be used by the residential treatment facility to help an individual achieve drug recovery.
Drug Addiction Treatment at Invictus Health Group
Invictus Health Group partners with centers that deliver a complete spectrum of drug addiction treatment for various sectors of the human population including adolescents, young adults, adult men and women, the elderly, and the LGBT community. Treatments are tailored based on individual needs after a comprehensive evaluation at admission and throughout participation in the program. We believe that all our patients are unique because of which even our customized treatment plans are individualized. These are modified based on the severity of the addiction, presence of co-occurring mental health disorder, unique needs, and the medical history of the person being treated.
Patient centric recovery
At Invictus Health Group, we have partners that strive to explore the underlying causes of addiction and identify the specific needs of patients. Their treatment plans are individualized and are geared towards people experiencing difficulty due to addiction, trauma, and other unresolved issues including previous unsuccessful substance abuse treatment at a behavioral health center.
We understand that even when people may be suffering from the same addictions, they would have a unique story to tell and a distinct history to share. This in turn means that the one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all. At Invictus Health Group, customized plans are designed and administered by our partners, based on an individual’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs, ensuring lasting recovery. Our partnering centers use evidence-backed innovative therapies and their skilled staff endeavors to see our patients achieve drug recovery successfully.
Oftentimes, the family of a patient also experiences intense emotional suffering due to the behavior of their loved one. Over time, these disappointments, hurts, and betrayals may start building up. Each family member has their own way of reacting and they may feel angry, hurt, guilty, helpless, etc. Our program is structured in such a way that we educate the family and help them recognize their role in the healing and recovery process of their loved one. one.
Drug recovery programs require the involvement of the entire family as drug abuse affects not only the individual afflicted but the family as a whole. It is crucial that a family is involved during a recovery process and for that we have set schedules for family visits, workshops, lectures, and more at our partnering facilities. We offer a safe space for the entire family to effectively communicate and heal. Our ultimate goal is to help a patient integrate back into their family and the assurance of familial support so that the individual’s recovery can be lasting.
Irrespective of the harrowing effects of drug addiction, it is possible to recover completely as our partners have created treatment programs which are crafted with that belief in mind. Addiction is a chronic and progressive neurobiological disorder with social, spiritual, and psychological implications. An inpatient or an outpatient treatment is critical for the management and as like other chronic ailments, long-term treatment is a necessity. Followed by the substance abuse treatment program, a continuing care program should also be offered. Enrolling for this provides extensive support system and a comprehensive network of care for the patients.
For more information about our customized programs, treatment modalities, and levels of care, call our 24/7 helpline (866) 548-0190. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.