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Drug Abuse vs. Drug Addiction

Chemical Dependency and Addiction Facts

Drug addiction facts can be used to ensure more public awareness about the addiction crisis that pervades our society. Despite the fact that more than 9 percent of the population deals with substance addiction and another 7 percent struggles with substance abuse, the majority of Americans know little about these serious conditions.

Of the 23.5 million Americans dealing with drug or alcohol addiction or abuse, only 2.6 million are receiving treatment. Highlighting the public’s seemingly subconscious acceptance of this epidemic, a vast number of addiction centers are undersubscribed.

Drug Addiction vs. Drug Abuse

One of the most common misunderstandings is the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. Although the terms are often misused, there are distinctions between drug abuse and drug addiction.

Drug addiction is a disease that is characterized by a dependency, withdrawal symptoms and the overwhelming need to resupply. Drug addiction is most often accompanied by powerful physical and psychological symptoms.

Drug Abuse is chemical abuse that is characterized by the destructive use of the substance that leads to a host of personal, career and social problems. While the drug abuser does not suffer the cravings that the drug addict experiences, he or she usually has underlying psychological or emotional issues.

The drug abuser often participates in binge use while the addict is constantly pursuing resupply. Persistent drug abuse can lead to addiction. Persons suffering drug abuse can be cured. Addiction is a lifelong illness that can never be cured but can be treated. Persons in treatment for drug abuse and drug addictions are likely to relapse before finally learning to manage their illness, their lifestyle and their environment.

Drug Addiction Facts You Should Know

Drug addiction is not confined to commonly known illicit drugs and prescriptions. Drug addiction and drug abuse can occur from other substances such as inhalants and household cleaners. Any substance that has the capacity to create a euphoric high and can be ingested or inhaled can cause an addiction.

Most addicts suffer the physical and psychological symptoms of addiction. Upon diagnosis, the presence of a co-occurring psychological condition is called a "dual diagnosis." Patients in addiction or abuse rehabilitation treatment will be treated for both conditions during the program. Generally speaking, patients with dual diagnosis tend to be less compliant with their treatment.

The symptoms of substance addiction are varied. No two addicts respond the same way to drugs or to treatment. While patients may be enrolled in the same program, the treatment protocol for the individual patient is determined by a review of the individual’s medical history, test results and psychological evaluation.

There is no single cause for drug addiction or drug abuse. Scientists believe that addiction is caused by a number of individual characteristics including biological, psychological, social and genetic risk factors. These factors can increase or decrease the individual’s probability to become dependent.

Drugs that create euphoria affect the brain. The specific effects can vary greatly. Every drug that is abused has the potential to affect the way the brain functions.

Drug Addiction Symptoms

Drug addiction has several universal symptoms. Some drug addiction symptoms are physical and others are psychological.

The most universal psychological symptom of drug addiction is denial. The addict lives in a state of denial; at home, at work, wherever he or she is, in the face of legal issues, financial burden and failing relationships, the addict refuses to acknowledge that he or she cannot stop using.

One of the most prevailing symptoms of drug addiction is increased tolerance. As the addict abuses the drug, his or her tolerance level increases. The brain requires more of the drug to achieve the euphoric sensation. The higher the tolerance level, the greater the demand for resupply.

Efforts to self-treat also characterize addiction. At some point, most addicts attempt to stop using. The effort is usually a conscientious attempt to prove the person can manage their use. The brain is an unwilling partner in this exercise. Self-detoxification can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms that, if unmanaged, could jeopardize the individual’s life. The pain and suffering of attempted self-treatment is often a reason that addicts are resistant to rehabilitation. The addict who has self-treated understands the challenge of recovery.

The need to resupply is a looming symptom of addiction. As the addict’s tolerance increases, the need to resupply is constantly on the persons mind. The addict will do anything to facilitate resupply. This usually results in financial, health and legal issues.

Relationship issues are another symptom of drug addiction. Long standing friendships, time spent with family members and loved ones change in favor of relationships with other users in an environment that is conducive to procurement and use.

Addicts knowing and willingly distance themselves from persons who they know will not support their habit. This leads to a secretive life that includes missing work, school or shirking any number of responsibilities. The addict’s free time is spent seeking procurement or using.

The Most Common Types of Drug Addiction

Amphetamines - This are many types of amphetamines, including prescription medications:

  • Methylphenidate – Ritalin and Concerta
  • Dextroamphetamine
  • Amphetamine - Adderall
  • Methamphetamine – Meth

If overdosed, these substance can cause death.

Anabolic steroids - These drugs are most used by bodybuilders and other athletes. Short-term aggression and paranoia and long-term physical effects including infertility and organ failure are effects of this powerful class.

Cannabis - The scientific name for cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition to the negative effects, marijuana is most dangerous when it is cut or mixed with other substances.

Cocaine - Cocaine stimulates the nervous system and can be snorted in powder form, smoked in the rock form (crack cocaine) or injected in liquid form.

Ecstasy - Also known as MDMA, Ecstasy creates a high sense of euphoria and increases desire. If overdoses, MDMA increases body temperature and can be fatal.

Hallucinogens - LSD and mescaline and natural hallucinogens like certain mushrooms are common hallucinogens. These drugs alter perceptions and can lead to risky behavior.

Inhalants - Inhalants are unusually accessible in the form of household cleaners, like ammonia, bleach, and other substances that emit fumes. Inhalants can cause permanent brain damage and worse.

Opiates – Opiates covers a wide range of narcotics that includes heroin, codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, and Percodan. These drugs affect the nervous system. Opiates are highly addictive and can lead to fatality.

Phencyclidine – Known as PCP, this drug causes paranoia and aggression. PCP users pose risks to themselves and others.

Sedative, hypnotic, or anti-anxiety drugs – Prescribed to quell or depress the nervous system, these drugs are addictive and can cause death in cases of overdose. They are especially dangerous if mixed with other substances.

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