Drug addiction is a disease characterised by compulsive drug seeking and use that is often impossible to control, despite the harmful consequences. Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, the brain changes that occur as a result of repeated drug use can challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist the urge to use drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug addiction are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of abstinence.
Many people do not consider addiction to be a serious medical condition, leading to the common misconception that those who use drugs lack morals and desperately willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In real c ty, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than just the intention. Drugs change the brain’s chemistry to an extent that makes quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.
As a person continues to use drugs, their brain adapts by reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high felt by the individual compared to their first time taking the drug— this is known as tolerance. This means the user needs to take more of the drug in order to achieve the same high as originally felt. These brain adaptations often lead to the person becoming less and less able to derive pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food, sex, or social activities.
If you suspect your friend or family member is battling an addiction, you will have to look closely for tell-tale signs, as they are unlikely to admit they have a problem and tend to cover their tracks very well. While there are certain traits that are common among addicted individuals, the signs and symptoms of substance addiction vary. drug of choice and personal circumstances also come into play. To be safe, look for the following indicators of a drug or alcohol problem: There are a variety of signs that you might be seeing now – even ones you have See how many of these common warning signs of addiction you or your loved one may be exhibiting.
Not everyone is able to afford private rehab treatment. For those who can, there are a number of options available on the NHS that are accessible through your local GP. Sadly the options available are limited, this is due to lack of government funding and also lack of understanding around which addiction treatments work best. Private rehabilitation is often considered the best option because patients get round-the-clock care and medical assistance if necessary. The addiction rehab process involves four key steps—intake, detox, rehabilitation, and ongoing recovery. Intake consists of a comprehensive evaluation, which is then used to create an individualised treatment plan. Detox manages unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Rehab involves extensive therapy, which aims to rectify drug-seeking behaviours. Ongoing recovery provides individuals with long-term support and relapse prevention.
People can develop an addiction to any type of legal or illicit substance, with most rehab facilities providing treatment for all major drug addictions. These include:
Amphetamine and methamphetamine are stimulant drugs. They increase breathing and heart rate and lessen appetite. Users tend to feel more alert, energetic, confident and cheerful and less bored or tired. With high doses people often experience a rapid flow of ideas and feel they have increased physical and mental powers. As a street drug, it usually comes as a white, pink, grey or yellowish powder. It may also come as pills or a grey putty-like substance known as paste. It is usually sold wrapped in small pieces of paper. Other names for this drug include: uppers, wake ups, billy whizz, whizz, whites, base.
Cocaine is a white powder derived from the leaves of the coca shrub, a plant that grows in the Andean countries of South America such as Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. Street names for cocaine include: C, charlie, coke, dust, Gianlucca, gold dust, Percy, lady, snow, toot, white.
Cocaine is a strong but short acting stimulant drug that tends to make users feel more alert and energetic. Many users say they feel confident and physically strong and believe they have great mental capacities. Common physical effects include dry mouth, sweating, loss of appetite and increased heart and pulse rate. At higher dose levels users may feel very anxious and panicky.
Crack is a smokable form of cocaine. It is an intense, short acting drug produced by ‘cooking’ the cocaine in water and baking soda to produce crystals or small rocks around the size of a peanut. Unlike the powder equivalent, use of crack cocaine is often associated with inner city areas suffering social deprivation.As far as crack is concerned, claims have been made that, unlike cocaine, it is instantly addictive making occasional or intermittent use impossible. Certainly, crack appears to induce an intense craving in some users which can rapidly develop into a ‘binge’ pattern of use. However, studies of people who have used crack show that nowhere near all go on to daily, dependent use and that when this happens it usually takes a few months.
Ecstasy is a stimulant drug which also has mild hallucinogenic effects. It has been described as being like a mix of amphetamine and a weak form of LSD. The effects of taking a moderate dose start after 20-60 minutes (longer if on a full stomach) and can last for up to several hours.
Physical effects include pupil dilation, jaw tightening and an increase in body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate. As with amphetamine there is often a loss of appetite. Users may also experience a period of nausea. A few common street names for ecstasy are Brownies, dolphins, doves, E, eckies, Edward, fantasy, love doves, M and Ms, New Yorkers, sweeties, tulips, X, XTC.
Hallucinogens describe a drug which alters perception; the way you see, hear, feel, smell or touch the world. This can mean that the senses can get all mixed up or changed. People may see colours much more brightly, hear sounds differently, or say that they can hear’ colours and see’ sounds – a phenomenon known as synaesthesia. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that is derived originally from ergot, a fungus found growing wild on rye and other grasses.
As a street drug it is usually sold as a liquid that has been absorbed onto paper sheets (blotters). These sheets are subdivided into small squares, called tabs, which often have designs on them.
Heroin (medical name diamorphine) is one of a group of drugs called ‘opiates’. These drugs are derived from opium, the dried milk of the opium poppy. Opium contains morphine and codeine, both effective painkillers. Heroin is made from morphine and in its pure form is a white powder. Today street heroin usually comes as an off white or brown powder. Medical heroin is usually formulated as tablets or an injectable liquid. A number of synthetic opiates (called opioids) are also manufactured for medical use and have similar effects to heroin. Heroin is also known as: Boy, brown, china white, dragon, gear, H, horse, junk, skag, smack.
Ketamine, also known as Green, K, Special K, Super K, Vitamin K or Donkey Dust, is a dissociative anaesthetic, meaning users will feel detached from themselves and their immediate surroundings. The drug also has painkilling, stimulant and psychedelic effects. Effects are immediate if injected, though this practice is rarer, with most users sniffing the drug. If sniffed, the effects will take around 20 minutes to come on, and can last for one or two hours.
Larger doses (anything above 200mg) may induce a so called ‘K-hole’, where a user can experience considerable and lengthy detachment from reality. The user may experience hallucinations, similar to those while using LSD followed by numbness, often in the limbs, and strange muscle movements. Users may also feel sick or throw up – which can be very dangerous at high doses if the user is unconscious or disorientated as people may choke on their vomit.
Cannabis, also known as Marijuana, dope, draw, ganga, grass, hash, hashish, is a drug derived from a bushy plant found wild in most parts of the world and easily cultivated in Britain. There are three varieties of the plant, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. In Western countries it is generally used as a relaxant and mild intoxicant.
Using cannabis causes a number of physical effects including increased pulse rate, decreased blood pressure, bloodshot eyes, increased appetite, tiredness and occasionally, dizziness.
These effects can start within a few minutes and may last several hours depending on how much is taken.
Methamphetamine is a strong form of amphetamine. It comes as powder, crystals or tablets and has a similar euphoric effect to cocaine but a much longer duration of action.
As with all amphetamines, methamphetamine makes users feel alert, energetic, confident and powerful. Being a stimulant, use of the drug also leads to an increased heart rate and blood pressure which raises the risk of heart problems, including heart attacks. Taking higher doses lead to greater risks.
The effects of methamphetamine can last a long time and be followed by a severe come-down. Injecting the drug or smoking its crystalline form leads to a very intense ‘high’ similar to that produced by crack cocaine but much longer lasting – 4-12 hours.
Prescription medications are different from illicit drugs in that they have legitimate medical purposes. Yet this clear benefit of prescription drugs is also its biggest trap. The fact that the drugs are prescribed for real medical problems does not make them any less addictive than their illicit counterparts. And unfortunately, prescription drug addiction is every bit as real as addictions to alcohol and illegal drugs.
In the UK, the most commonly abused prescription medications include those in the following categories:
Heroin is considered one of the most addictive substances on the planet. This strong, illegal drug is derived from the opium poppy, and works to kill pain, elevate mood, and flood the brain with “happy” neurotransmitters like dopamine.
The boom in heroin abuse and addiction in the US has been linked to an increase in opioid prescription painkiller addiction, especially related to hydrocodone and oxycodone. Many people first become addicted to opioid painkillers after having surgery, like wisdom tooth removal, or suffering a major injury, such as a slipped disc. Although the initial opioid painkiller prescriptions are intended to be taken under the prescribing doctor’s supervision and for a limited period of time, many people discover that they develop a dependence on these drugs and begin to find more ways to get them.
Although alcohol can be found in household items in medicines and cleaning solutions, the most common form of this substance is the ethanol found in beer, wine, and hard liquor. This is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which lowers inhibitions and creates a sense of calm, even euphoria, in users. Because alcohol relaxes the person imbibing it, it can be very easy to drink too much. A practice known as binge drinking is defined as consuming more than five servings of alcohol in two hours. In addition, dependence and addiction can form easily, where individuals feel they need alcohol to feel good, normal, or happy.
Many people use the words addiction and abuse interchangeably, but drug and alcohol addiction and abuse are two different things. Both of them have the potential to affect a person’s life, but the difference is the degree to which they levy that control.
The main difference between drug abuse and drug addiction is that addiction takes over a person’s life. The pursuit of the drug of choice, drinking or getting high, recovering from using, and finding more alcohol or drugs takes up a good part of an addict’s time. An addict will miss work or school, as well as time with friends and family, to feed the addiction.
It’s not uncommon for an addict to have financial, health or legal problems because of his or her addiction and continue to use. They have developed a chemical dependency that prevents them from stopping on their own.
Sometimes people who have a problem don’t think they have or refuse to believe that they are addicted or dependent. So if you think your friend has a problem and you want to help them, think about how you’re going to approach it and what you’re going to say. It could be a sensitive subject for them and you don’t what to look like you’re nagging them. They may not listen to you at first but don’t let this put you off. The best thing that you can do is to be there for them, to support and encourage them to change.
A good thing to do is keep your friend away from situations or places which might entice them – like say the pub or a mate’s house. Rather, show them some other things to do to keep themselves busy.
With the proper help and support, many drug users are able to overcome their drug use before any serious harm has been done to them, or their family and friends. Other drug users have to hit rock bottom before they can see the harm and damage they are doing and start addressing their drug use.