If you’re a caffeinated coffee drinker or you’re a diabetic, then chances are you know what it’s like to be dependent on a drug. Imagine going a day or two without coffee — a debilitating headache is the likely consequence and probably a foul mood. Diabetics, naturally, must have insulin — severe illness and death will result without it. Although it’s fair to say that both types of people are chemically dependent on a drug, that dependency is probably not negatively affecting their lifestyles or relationships. When a chemical dependency negatively affects everyday life — as well as the lives of those around you — that is addiction.
A Neurobiological Disease
Addiction is characterized by more than a physical dependence on a drug. Instead, addiction results from a variety of genetic, environmental, and psychosocial causes, according to HealthCentral.com. Although brain chemistry does indeed change for the worse after prolonged drug or alcohol abuse, symptoms such as lack of control, cravings, and compulsive use even after suffering harm also identify a user as an addict. Many “pseudoaddicted” people take painkillers for legitimate reasons and await the next dose anxiously because they are in lasting, physical pain; in a real addiction, the person continues taking the medicine even after the pain has been successfully treated.
Over time the addicted user develops an increasing tolerance for the drug. This results in increased dosages, “doctor shopping,” or even trying a stronger drug such as heroin. By all outward appearances, the person may look fine — but pay close attention if prescriptions mysteriously disappear or if your loved one goes to more than one pharmacy. More obvious signs of addiction include frequently taking more than the prescribed dose or snorting, injecting, or crushing pills.
On the other hand, if your loved one is taking medicine strictly for pain relief and is not addicted, he or she will be able to work, interact with others, and make positive contributions to families, communities, and relationships. Addicts tend to isolate themselves and lose the ability to interact appropriately with others. An addict might lose a job, avoid life, and begin a steep lifestyle descent.
If you suspect that someone you love needs help from a drug addiction rehab, contact Clarity Way. Our alcohol and drug rehab programs utilize a comprehensive, holistic approach to treat people who are suffering from the effects of addiction.
Image: Carsten Schertzer