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.
Top reasons that drug and alcohol abusers in recovery relapse?
Relapse is a common part of the recovery journey for many individuals struggling with substance abuse. It's important to note that a relapse doesn't mean treatment has failed; rather, it indicates that the treatment plan needs to be revisited or adjusted. Here are some of the top reasons why individuals in recovery might relapse:
- Stress: High levels of stress can trigger a return to substance use as a coping mechanism.
- Lack of Support System: A strong support system is crucial in maintaining sobriety. Lack of emotional support and understanding from friends and family can contribute to relapse.
- Triggers and Temptations: Being in environments or around people associated with past substance use can act as triggers, leading to a desire to use again.
- Unresolved Psychological Issues: Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma, can lead to a relapse if they're not effectively treated.
- Overconfidence: Some individuals may become overconfident and believe they can control their substance use without professional help, leading to a relapse.
- Poor Self-Care: Neglecting physical health, skipping meals, lack of sleep, and not taking care of oneself in general can contribute to a relapse.
- Incomplete Treatment: Leaving a treatment program before it is completed can leave individuals ill-prepared to resist the urge to use substances.
- Not Having a Plan: If an individual does not have a clear plan for dealing with cravings or triggers, they are more likely to relapse when confronted with these challenges.
- Challenging Emotions: Negative emotions like anger, sadness, loneliness, and frustration can sometimes lead to a desire to return to substance use as a way to escape.
- Celebrations or Positive Events: Surprisingly, positive events or celebrations can also trigger a relapse. The association of substance use with celebration or reward can lead to the temptation to use.
Facts about fentanyl
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that has garnered significant attention in recent years due to its role in the opioid crisis. Here are some essential facts about fentanyl:
Potency: Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Due to its high potency, it is prescribed in micrograms (mcg) rather than the milligrams (mg) typically used for other opioids.
Medical use: Fentanyl is primarily used in medical settings to manage severe pain, such as chronic pain or breakthrough pain in cancer patients. It is also used as an anesthetic during surgical procedures. Fentanyl is available in various forms, including transdermal patches, lozenges, tablets, and injections.
Illicit use: Fentanyl has become a significant concern in the illicit drug market due to its potency and relatively low production cost. Illegal fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit prescription pills, increasing the risk of overdose for unsuspecting users.
Overdose risk: Fentanyl's potency makes it particularly dangerous, as even a small amount can cause an overdose. Signs of fentanyl overdose include slow or shallow breathing, unresponsiveness, pinpoint pupils, cold and clammy skin, and loss of consciousness. Fentanyl overdoses can be fatal if not promptly treated.
Naloxone: Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that can rapidly reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose by displacing the drug from the opioid receptors in the brain. Due to fentanyl's potency, multiple doses of naloxone may be necessary to reverse an overdose effectively.
Fentanyl analogs: There are numerous fentanyl analogs or derivatives, such as carfentanil, acetylfentanyl, and furanylfentanyl. These analogs can have varying potencies, often significantly stronger than fentanyl itself, which can further increase the risk of overdose and fatalities.
Legal classification: Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States, indicating that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence but also has accepted medical uses. Illicit fentanyl and its analogs are often classified as Schedule I substances, indicating that they have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Addiction and dependence: Fentanyl, like other opioids, carries a risk of addiction and physical dependence. Chronic use can lead to tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms if usage is reduced or stopped abruptly.