Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
How do addictive drugs influence behavior?
Addictive drugs influence behavior by interacting with the brain's reward system. This system is responsible for driving pleasurable feelings and motivating behaviors essential to human survival, such as eating and socializing. Addictive substances can hijack this system, leading to changes in behavior and brain function.
Here's a simplified explanation of how this works:
Alteration of Neurotransmitter Activity: Addictive substances often increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters, chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells in the brain. One key neurotransmitter affected by many drugs is dopamine, which is closely associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.
Overstimulation of the Reward System: By increasing dopamine levels, addictive drugs overstimulate the reward system, often creating a sense of euphoria. This intense pleasure can lead individuals to repeat the drug use to recapture this feeling.
Development of Tolerance and Dependence: Over time, the brain adapts to the increased dopamine levels by producing less dopamine or reducing the number of receptors that can receive signals. As a result, the drug's effects are lessened, a phenomenon known as tolerance. This can lead users to take increasingly larger doses of the drug to achieve the same dopamine high. This cycle can lead to dependence, where the brain relies on the drug to function normally.
Withdrawal and Cravings: When the drug is not taken, withdrawal symptoms can occur as the brain attempts to rebalance itself. These can include negative emotions like anxiety and depression, physical symptoms like nausea or restlessness, and intense cravings for the drug.
Compulsive Drug-seeking Behavior: As the cycle of tolerance, dependence, withdrawal, and cravings continues, individuals may engage in compulsive drug-seeking behavior, even when faced with negative health, social, or legal consequences. This is a key characteristic of addiction.
Impairment in Decision-making and Self-control: Long-term drug use can also cause changes to other areas of the brain that impair decision-making, self-control, judgment, learning, and memory, further fueling the cycle of addiction.
Where can I get help for my addiction to drugs with very little money?
If you're seeking help for your addiction to drugs and have limited financial resources, there are several options available to you. These organizations and services can provide support, counseling, and treatment at little to no cost:
- National Helplines: Our own helpline (1-877-882-9275) or the SAMHSA National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) provides free, confidential, 24/7 assistance in English and Spanish.
- Local Support Groups: Many communities have support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery, that offer peer-to-peer support and resources for individuals struggling with addiction. These meetings are typically free and can be found in various locations.
- Non-profit and Faith-based Organizations: Some non-profit and faith-based organizations offer free or low-cost addiction treatment services, such as counseling, group therapy, and recovery programs. Contact local community centers, churches, mosques, or synagogues to inquire about available resources.
- Sliding Scale Treatment Centers: Some addiction treatment centers offer services on a sliding scale, meaning they adjust fees based on your income level. Contact local treatment centers and inquire about their financial assistance options.
- State-Funded Treatment Programs: Many states provide funding for addiction treatment programs that offer free or low-cost services to eligible residents. Contact your state's health department or substance abuse agency to learn more about available programs.
- Medicaid: If you are eligible for Medicaid, it may cover substance abuse treatment services, including detoxification, counseling, and medication-assisted therapy. Check with your state's Medicaid office for more information on covered services and eligibility requirements.
When do you walk away from a loved one that is a drug addict?
Deciding to distance yourself from a loved one who is struggling with addiction is a deeply personal and difficult decision. There's no universal right or wrong answer, as it depends on the individual circumstances, the severity of the addiction, the impact on your wellbeing, and other factors. However, there are a few circumstances where walking away might be the appropriate course of action:
- Self-preservation: If the relationship with the loved one is causing significant harm to your mental, emotional, or physical health, it may be necessary to establish boundaries or distance yourself for your own wellbeing. Remember, you can't effectively support others if you're not taking care of yourself.
- Enabling Behavior: If your actions are enabling the individual's substance abuse rather than supporting their recovery, creating distance might be beneficial. Enabling can include covering up for their substance use, providing financial support for their habit, or repeatedly rescuing them from the consequences of their behavior.
- Lack of Respect for Boundaries: If your loved one consistently ignores or disrespects boundaries that you have established, it might be time to consider distancing yourself.
- Abuse or Violence: If your loved one becomes abusive or violent under the influence of drugs, prioritizing your safety is crucial. In such instances, it's critical to seek help from local authorities or a domestic violence hotline.
- Unwillingness to Seek Help: If your loved one consistently refuses to seek help, denies they have a problem, or repeatedly relapses without making an effort towards recovery, it might be necessary to consider distancing yourself.