Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Why do drug addicts do what they do?
"People with substance use disorders engage in their behavior for various reasons, often complex and interconnected. Understanding these reasons is crucial to treating addiction. Here are some common factors:
Pleasure Seeking: Drugs often produce intense feelings of pleasure, euphoria, or relief from pain. The initial high can be so powerful that individuals continue using the substance to experience that feeling again.
Escape or Self-Medication: Many people use drugs as a way to escape from reality or cope with difficult feelings, trauma, stress, or mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Drugs can temporarily dull these feelings, but they do not address the root cause of the distress.
Physical Dependence: Over time, the body can develop a physical dependence on the substance, requiring it to function normally. Without the substance, the individual may experience unpleasant or even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Psychological Dependence: Even after physical dependence is managed, psychological cravings can persist. The desire to use drugs can become a powerful mental urge that dominates a person's thoughts and behaviors.
Peer Pressure or Social Influence: The influence of friends or social circles where drug use is common can encourage initial use or ongoing abuse of drugs.
Genetic Factors and Early Exposure: Genetics can play a role in vulnerability to addiction, as can exposure to drugs at a young age or in the prenatal period.
Lack of Coping Mechanisms: Without healthy coping strategies for life's stresses and challenges, some people turn to drugs as a way of dealing with these issues.
Changes in Brain Function: Long-term substance use can lead to changes in the brain that result in increased cravings and decreased ability to resist drug use, despite harmful consequences.
Can alcohol withdrawal be fatal?
Yes, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal in severe cases, which is why it should always be managed under the supervision of healthcare professionals. This is especially true for individuals who have been drinking heavily for a long period of time or who have a history of severe withdrawal symptoms.
The most serious form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens (DTs), which occurs in approximately 5% of patients undergoing withdrawal. It typically starts 48 to 72 hours after the last drink, and symptoms can include severe confusion, hallucinations, high blood pressure, fever, heavy sweating, and rapid heartbeat. In addition to these, seizures can occur, which add to the risk.
Delirium tremens is a medical emergency and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Mortality rates without treatment are estimated to be as high as 35%, but with appropriate treatment, this rate drops to 5-15%.
Even less severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous because they can lead to dehydration, severe vomiting, or other complications. Furthermore, withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult for an individual to maintain abstinence from alcohol, increasing the risk of a potentially dangerous relapse.
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.