Drug Addiction: The Stigma, the Emotion, and the Facts. The horror stories and feelings of helplessness used to describe drug addiction have been written about again-and-again until the words lose their impact. That’s a tragedy, one we’ll address today by adding emotional appeal to the dry facts, and by backing up those emotions with current data instead of hyperbole.
Drug Addiction: The Stigma, the Emotion, and the Facts
There’s no escaping the roller coaster of feelings that accompany drug addiction. What begins as apparently harmless experimentation and harmless fun devolves into a trap that can’t be escaped. The addictive force of the drug bonds to the brain, changing neurological chemistry until the euphoric high is a central part of a person’s life. Relationships crash and burn, family ties are cut, and a once bright future is transformed into an addicted ruin, all because of cravings that have taken on a life of their own. Here’s just a few of the negative factors to expect as drug dependency takes over.
- Deep depression.
- Frustration expressed as unpredictable mood swings.
- Sense of alienation.
- Constant state of confusion.
- Guilt. Hiding the truth becomes a new norm.
- Anger, closely associated with frustration.
Living the Cycle of Abuse
Addicts have described the sensation as being like falling down a dark hole or sinking into a mire of inescapable quicksand, caught in the cravings related to chemical dependency. The brain can’t resist the false reward of the high, and the user returns to their drug of choice in the desperate hope of recapturing that same sensation. Only there’s something amiss. It’s not the same dizzying high because the chemicals of the cerebellum have adapted to the old dose, and the only way to relive the same high is to increase the dose. This is the first tragic step down a dark path where drug users dwell. An ever greater dose is always going to be needed to keep in touch with the high.
The end of that path is blocked by the bodies of fatal overdoses, by addicts who’ve ended up incarcerated due to stealing to feed their habit, by men, women, and youngsters who’v succumbed to the addiction and given in to the cravings. Since the early 90’s, drug-related deaths have more than tripled in the United States, a harsh and worrying fact we must acknowledge if we’re to fight the grip of drug addiction (www.cdc.gov).
Vulnerable Groups to Consider
Metropolitan areas and suburban neighborhoods may appear to be totally unrelated in the nationwide spread of drugs, but they’re really branches of a complex network of substance distribution. Criminals dealing in drugs use established routes to circumvent law enforcement agencies, filtering the narcotics down to street gangs and individual dealers. Cocaine and heroin are passed and purchased in out of the way locations, shady rooms and bars. Methamphetamine finds its way to college campuses and parties attended by vulnerable teens. Amphetamines and other stimulants are piled up in colorful displays like candy treats, ready to infect tomorrow’s generation of adult minds.
Peer pressure does the rest, minimizing sensible doubts in favor of the need to fit in and be part of the group. Other factors include stress, a condition that’s prevalent in today’s society as we deal with paying the rent, trying to hold on to a job, and keeping up with over-achieving friends who are rocketing through the promotion ladder. Illogical and unreasonable as it surely is, it’s a natural human reaction to escape life’s problems by burying our heads in the sand. Drugs make this incautious move so tempting, so simple, and the dealers are only too happy to help as long as there’s money to be made. Making Meths, converting expensive cocaine into affordable, deadly crack, dealers and gangs are always on hand to turn their customers misfortunes into living nightmares (www.justice.gov)
Identifying and Isolating General Symptoms
There’s no way to go into detail here, debating and describing precise symptoms and signs seen in all drug addicts, not when each drug causes such a range of initial reactions. The end result, addiction, is common to all of the substances, but initial signs vary wildly from drug-to-drug. A stimulant causes hyperactivity to the point the user can’t sit still. There’s twisting and scratching. The suspected addict has dilated pupils, may constantly sniff at the air and lick his or her lips. A substance like Heroin has the opposite effect, sedating the mind, sending the user into a trance-like state where he or she loses sense of time. Judgment is compromised and behavior is strangely erratic (www.drugabuse.gov)
Some Common Symptoms to Look For
- Problems at work or school.
- Secretive behavior and lying to cover a new lifestyle.
- Trouble with figures of authority.
- Physical wear on the body. Loss of energy.
- Unusual and uncharacteristic behavior.
- Poor judgment and compromised reasoning skills.
- Missing money used to support an expensive drug habit.
Substance Abuse in Teenagers
Society has made huge strides in improving our lives. Parent work hard to make a better life for their kids, offering more than the previous generation. The result is an era where teens have all the comforts of home and more. They have cash to buy gadgets and the time to enjoy a little leisure before sinking into the humdrum of life with a full-time job. Meantime, parents supply the money, and there may be a part-time job after school to pay for a car. There’s also a blossoming growth in independence, the need to explore the world. But with this need comes vulnerability and exposure to less savory parts of society. Drugs and drink are there to be experimented with caution cast aside.
Good kid or bad, it doesn’t matter. Anyone can be led astray, and drug dealers are experts in finding new customers. Walking, talking, young and boisterous, teens make for fine young addicts (www.time.com. It may be considered a rite of passage by many, but the fact is over 90% of current addicts had their first taste of alcohol or their initial contact with drugs when they were under 18 years of age (www.casacolumbia.org).
5 Drugs Commonly Used by Teens
- Marijuana – Also known as cannabis, this easily available drug compromises judgment and is constantly debated as a possible gateway to more harmful and addictive narcotic substances.
- Prescription Drugs – The fastest growing threat to the nation, prescription addiction may not be the leading cause of drug addiction, yet, but it’s catching up with lead addictive substances at an astonishing rate (www.drugabuse.gov). Oxycontin and Vicodin, powerful pain killers, are favored by teens, and they’re relatively easy to get hold of. A recent study concluded that 1 in 12 high-school students have used Vicodin.
- MDMA – The popular and trendy party drug, also known as Ecstasy, is used in the nightclub scene to enhance the experience, so say the promoters of the drug. It’s taken orally in the form of a small pill, often personalized with cartoon characters and street names. Newly formulated strains of the drug can cause extreme cravings and result in severe reactions including unconsciousness.
- Inhalants – For the teen with little or no access to money, an inhaled substance purchased from a hardware store or found in the family garage makes a credible substitute. Glue and paint, cough syrups and air fresheners, teens will find a way to get high unless we’re vigilant. Use tough love to steer them away from this disastrous course (www.inhalant.org).
- Cocaine – It’s estimated over 13% of adolescents have sampled cocaine and its even more addictive crack cocaine form (www.bradleyhospital.org). While cocaine isn’t as prevalent in our cities and towns as marijuana or prescription drugs, it’s incredibly addictive and a growing problem for youngsters.
Effective Treatment Options
The very nature of substance abuse, of combating drug addiction, precludes attempting to beat the effects alone. A person is in effect battling their own mind, trying to stop the tide coming in would be easier than combating the chemical changes in the brain of an addict. Any progress away from the addiction is likely to be short-lived, temporary, until the user is pulled back, overwhelmed by cravings that become physically painful. In short, there’s no escape without help.
Seek Inpatient Treatment
Get back on the path to lasting recovery with a leading inpatient program that offers the tools and supervision necessary to build a framework of resistance to the impossible appetites that come from drug dependency. An inpatient facility has the professional resources to help in taking refuge from the temptations in an addicts unhealthy lifestyle, providing a well-equipped haven from addiction and the circles of friends and acquaintances that feed the dependency. An inpatient center breaks the habit, allowing a drug addict to gain the sense of perspective that’s so desperately needed to walk away from the addiction, taking positive strides back to a happy and productive life. Remember, this process can’t be tackled alone, that’s what inpatient care is for.
The Benefits of Inpatient Care
Some drug facts are like a slap in the face, but they have to be recognized not ignored. Look at this figure of 105 Americans losing their lives to drugs every day (http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/overdose/facts.html) and, instead of despairing, use these numbers for motivation, making a proactive, definitive move toward inpatient treatment and all the benefits awaiting drug addicts with the courage to seek relief from dependency.
Inpatient care removes the addict from the addictive environment.
In the process, new coping skills are taught to enable the addict to effectively manage issues in life.
Living in the facility creates an envelope of stability and serenity.
The chance to relate to other addicts and recover together.
Daily therapy sessions in group and solo appointments.
The Inpatient Program
This carefully administered program teaches coping skills, provides an essential space of stability, and allows the addicted patient to heal by engaging in therapy sessions. Those therapies are one-on-one meetings with counselors and professional therapists, as well as scheduled group therapy assemblies where everyone gets the opportunity to relate how they came to this place at this time. There’s no judgment here, no accusations and no guilt, just the chance to face demons and gain new-found coping skills. Additionally, the process delves deeper, looking for underlying causes, forgiving lapses where the patient gives in to the drug once more, taking the healing one day at a time so that the eventual recovery becomes a part of life. Even then there will be follow-ups and coaches to hold the hand of the one-time addict, keeping them on track and away from temptations that may never completely fade. Vigilance is key, consciously being self-aware of moments of weakness and addressing those moments with patience and compassion.
Substance Abuse in Adults
Older, more mature minds experience the same temptations and moments of weakness as adolescents. Life’s pressures may have dramatically swept the feet from under a family authority figure, or a relationship has broken down, perhaps irrevocably. The adult mind is no more equipped to resist temptation at this time than is the younger, immature mind. Marijuana and prescription drugs will again salve the spirit, eventually taking on the role of dependent substance, becoming a fake support and salve to obliterate painful memories.
Even nastier surprises await a person who has access to harder substances thanks to a wallet freshly stuffed with cash from a high-earning job. Heroin and pure cocaine, methamphetamine and designer drugs, transform a once independent adult presence into a slave to drugs. Hallucinogens, including LSD, hard to get hold of opiates, nothing is out of range of older addicts. The highest fatality group connecting to drug addiction is in the 45-49 age group, with men twice as likely to overdose as women (www.cdc.gov).
Identifying Signs of Addiction in Family Members
Regardless of the demographic involved and in service of preparing families for the possibility of one of our own succumbing to drugs, let’s take a closer look at signs and symptoms.
- Heroin – Sudden changes of behavior and slurring of speech, often accompanied by disorientation. An addict will wear long-sleeved tops to cover syringe marks. A surreptitious check of a room may uncover anything from syringes to drug residue on aluminum foil.
- Cocaine – A negative emotional shift that includes paranoia and anxiety. The compound is often snorted up the nose so damaged nasal cavities are an obvious symptom. Look for a runny nose, nosebleeds and a hoarse voice.
- Prescription Drugs – This is a harder one as these drugs are designed for specific purposes, reducing pain, stimulating the body, dulling the senses. The addict may get the pills from friends or pay from them, in which case more detective work is required. Caution can be thrown to the wind as the addict steals or falsifies prescriptions, perhaps visiting multiple doctors to get the drug. The careless approach is likely a call for help and a sign of deeper emotional issues.
- Methamphetamine – The new drug of choice for trendy youngsters, crystal meths is another stimulant. It’s smoked, injected, and consumed in as many different ways as it has colorful street names. Hidden labs make the drug and distribute it to our unwary young.
Drugs kill people from different age groups and cultures every day. It’s an indiscriminate killer, destroying lives. This epidemic of man-made origin sends close to 7,000 people to the emergency room every day (www.cdc.gov), many of those poor souls never waking up to a new day. Use the power of inpatient care, the treatments, the serene and clinical environment, to defeat these figures before someone in your family falls victim to this disease.