Addiction Information

Below please see our most asked and answered questions about addiction and substance abuse information – Please click on the + plus sign to see the answer to any question.

What is drug addiction?
Drug addiction is a complex brain disease. It is characterized by drug craving, seeking, and use that can persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences. Drug-seeking may become compulsive in large part as a result of the effects of prolonged drug use on brain functioning and, thus, on behavior. For many people, relapses are possible even after long periods of abstinence.
How quickly can I become addicted to a drug?
There is no easy answer to this. If and how quickly you might become addicted to a drug depends on many factors including the biology of your body. All drugs are potentially harmful and may have life-threatening consequences associated with their abuse. There are also vast differences among individuals in sensitivity to various drugs. While one person may use a drug once or many times and suffer no ill effects, another person may be particularly vulnerable and overdose with the first use. There is no way of knowing in advance how someone may react.
How do I know if someone is addicted to drugs?
If a person is compulsively seeking and using a drug despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, physical problems brought on by drug abuse, or family problems, then he or she is probably addicted. Seek professional help to determine if this is the case and, if so, the appropriate treatment.
What is the difference between drug addiction and drug abuse?
The easiest way of defining drug abuse is observing that a person uses a drug for something other than a medically prescribed purpose. That is, they have a habit of taking a drug to “get high” or “feel better.” They take more than prescribed amounts. They take the drugs for recreation.

Some “drugs” that are used for recreation may not be prescription meds, or over-the-counter medications, or even street drugs. They can be common, everyday chemicals. For example, people inhale glue or solvents to get high. People want to have a mood change, to feel good.

Professional drug counselors will tell you that any use of illegal drugs is drug abuse. Those drugs are illegal because they are potentially very addictive and harmful to a person’s health. That broadens our definition of drug abuse even more. Therefore, any illegal drug use, or any use of prescription or non-prescription medication use beyond what is prescribed by a medical professional, or any use of a chemical to get high, is drug abuse.

Almost any substance can be abused and abuse or addiction is possible. Cigarettes, caffeine and other common, legal substances are abused by people every day. Sometimes the line between use and abuse is fuzzy.

For example, people might go to the bar after work and have a couple of drinks with their friends. Is that abuse? Some might argue that it becomes abuse when it becomes a regular, daily occurrence. Too many cigarettes, too much coffee, too many diet sodas; the line is determined by the person.

Is addiction hereditary?
There is plenty of evidence for a connection between genetic endowment and addiction to alcohol and drugs. By analyzing patterns of inheritance, researchers have learned that heredity accounts for about half of the risk that a person will develop an addiction. Addiction is a medical illness and develops in the same way as many other illnesses.
What is drug addiction treatment?
There are many addictive drugs, and treatment for each specific drug abused will differ. Treatment also varies depending on the characteristics of the patient.

Problems associated with an individual’s drug addiction can vary significantly. People who are addicted to drugs come from all walks of life. Many suffer from mental health, occupational, health, or social problems that make their addictive disorders much more difficult to treat. Even if there are few associated problems, the severity of addiction itself ranges widely among people.

A variety of scientifically based approaches to drug addiction treatment exists. Drug addiction treatment can include behavioral therapy (such as counseling, cognitive therapy, or psychotherapy), medications, or their combination. Behavioral therapies offer people strategies for coping with their drug cravings, teach them ways to avoid drugs and prevent relapse, and help them deal with relapse if it occurs.

The best programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet the needs of the individual patient, which are shaped by such issues as age, race, culture, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, parenting, housing, and employment, as well as physical and sexual abuse.

Medications, such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or neuroleptics, may be critical for treatment success when patients have co-occurring mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or psychosis.

Treatment can occur in a variety of settings, in many different forms, and for different lengths of time. Because drug addiction is typically a chronic disorder characterized by occasional relapses, a short-term, one-time treatment often is not sufficient. For many, treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and attempts at abstinence.

What is detoxification, or detox?
Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is often the first step in a drug treatment program and should be followed by treatment with a behavioral-based therapy and/or a medication, if available. Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.
What is withdrawal? How long does it last?
Withdrawal is the variety of symptoms that occur after use of some addictive drugs is reduced or stopped. Length of withdrawal and symptoms vary with the type of drug. For example, physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include: restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes. These physical symptoms may last for several days, but the general depression or dysphoria (opposite of euphoria) that often accompanies heroin withdrawal may last for weeks. In many cases withdrawal can be easily treated with medications to ease the symptoms, but treating withdrawal is not the same as treating addiction.
Why can't drug addicts quit on their own?
Nearly all addicted individuals believe in the beginning that they can stop using drugs on their own, and most try to stop without treatment. However, most of these attempts result in failure to achieve long-term abstinence.

Research has shown that long-term drug use results in significant changes in brain function that persist long after the individual stops using drugs. These drug-induced changes in brain function may have many behavioral consequences, including the compulsion to use drugs despite adverse consequences — the defining characteristic of addiction.

Understanding that addiction has such an important biological component may help explain an individual’s difficulty in achieving and maintaining abstinence without treatment. Psychological stress from work or family problems, social cues (such as meeting individuals from one’s drug-using past), or the environment (such as encountering streets, objects, or even smells associated with drug use) can interact with biological factors to hinder attainment of sustained abstinence and make relapse more likely.

Where do 12-step or self-help programs fit into treatment?
Self-help groups can complement and extend the effects of professional treatment. The most prominent self-help groups are those affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous, all of which are based on the 12-step model, and Smart Recovery and others not based on the 12 steps.

Most drug addiction treatment programs encourage patients to participate in a self-help group during and after formal treatment.

How can families make a difference for someone needing treatment?
Family and friends can play critical roles in motivating individuals with drug problems to enter and stay in treatment. Family therapy is important, especially for adolescents. Involvement of a family member in an individual’s treatment program can strengthen and extend the benefits of the program.
How do I begin a treatment program at Addiction Recovery Resources, Inc. of New Orleans?
Just call one of our Patient Needs Coordinators at 1-866-399-HOPE or 504-780-2766, to schedule a free assessment that will determine which of our programs is right for you.

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