Despite education and the prevalence of news about drug and alcohol abuse, many continue to lack a true understanding of what drug addiction is. Once thought to be a moral affliction, drug addiction is now considered to be a disease by various medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and various counseling and social work organizations, to name a few.
Though there has been a gradual shift in society’s perception of drug addiction and its treatment, more progress must be made to advance the public’s understanding of chemical dependence, its prevention and treatment. Drug addiction does not have cultural, racial, sex, or socioeconomic boundaries. Anyone can acquire the affliction.
The shift in the medical community from treating drug addiction (outside of withdrawal) solely through psychiatric treatment, counseling or self-help groups came about through research. Researches first had to ask themselves, “what is addiction?” When one becomes addicted to a substance, there are reproducible and predictable changes that occur in the brain’s structure and function.
Addiction primarily affected the reward system by affected the regulation the neurotransmitter dopamine; the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. However, multiple other neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine, endogenous opioids (endorphin), glutamate, cannabinoids, and acetylcholine are also involved. Likewise, areas of the brain that regulate emotions, decision-making, impulse control and judgment are impacted. Essentially, the brain is being controlled by drugs and the addict is unable to stop exposing themselves to mood-altering substances.
One can be addicted to mood-altering substances such as caffeine, nicotine, or marijuana (depending on the jurisdiction), or can be addicted to highly toxic deleterious substances like methamphetamine or opiates (heroin, prescription pain pills). In any case, the diagnostic criteria are nearly identical.
The continued use of a substance, despite negative consequences and the inability to terminate use even when one is desperate for sobriety.
By the time most addicted persons enter a drug rehab, they have already wholeheartedly attempted to terminate their use multiple times, without success, or with short periods of success. The lack of favorable outcomes is not due to a deficit of morality, but rather to a neurologic condition that requires expert drug treatment to heal. Treatment and sobriety need not be postponed until one hits ‘rock bottom’.
Since addiction is a chronic disease, much like diabetes and hypertension, its treatment requires ongoing recovery efforts. Many of those addicted to drugs fear that they will be in treatment for the remainder of their lives. This is far from the truth. Post-treatment recovery activities can include weekly or monthly counseling, regular physician visits and taking medication when necessary, self-help groups, healthy recreation activities and spiritual pursuits.
Unfortunately, relapse is a part of any chronic disease. Many drug addicts who have received appropriate treatment and are in a committed recovery program do not have a ‘slip’ and do not relapse. Sadly, others do. A relapse does not necessarily mean that the recovering person did not follow-through or was not committed to his/her sobriety, nor does it mean that the person is a failure. Relapses occur. The most important thing is that the person in relapse seek drug treatment and the assistance of a strong self-help group as soon as possible.
Although many medical options have become available for drug addiction treatment, new and more potent drugs are being illegally manufactured and distributed worldwide, ever battling with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Many of these substances, such as fentanyl, carfentanil, U-47700 (Pink), and many other synthetic drugs have led to many deaths by overdose or suicide. Prevention is always the best answer for addiction. But, when one has become addicted there are many drug treatment options available to treat each unique individual and restore health. In order to benefit from treatment, the patient must have a deep comprehension of what drug addiction is.
MOST COMMONLY ABUSED DRUGS
(Dextromethorphan or DXM)
Prescription Sedatives & Tranquilizers
Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts)
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