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.
What medications are used for the treatment of addiction?
Several medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of addiction to alcohol and certain types of drugs. The specific medication used can depend on the substance the person is addicted to, their overall health, and other individual factors. Here are a few examples:
For Alcohol Addiction:
- Disulfiram (Antabuse): This medication causes unpleasant effects such as nausea and flushing of the skin if a person drinks alcohol. The aim is to discourage them from drinking.
- Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol): Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of alcohol, helping to reduce cravings.
- Acamprosate (Campral): Acamprosate works by restoring the balance of certain chemicals in the brain that may become disrupted due to alcohol addiction. It can help people maintain abstinence from alcohol after they quit drinking.
For Opioid Addiction:
- Methadone: This is a long-acting opioid agonist that can prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for opioids. It is dispensed through specialized opioid treatment programs.
- Buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone): Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that can help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone also contains naloxone to prevent misuse.
- Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol): Like its use in alcohol addiction treatment, naltrexone can block the euphoric effects of opioids.
For Nicotine Addiction:
- Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs): These come in various forms like gums, patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers, and can help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings when quitting smoking.
- Bupropion (Zyban): Initially developed as an antidepressant, bupropion can also help reduce cravings and the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
- Varenicline (Chantix): Varenicline helps reduce cravings for nicotine and decrease the pleasurable effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
What can I do to help someone addicted to drugs?
Learn about addiction: Educate yourself on drug addiction, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. This knowledge will help you better understand the person's struggles and provide informed support.
Approach with empathy: Start a conversation with the person about their drug use in a non-judgmental and empathetic manner. Express your concerns for their well-being and the impact of their drug use on their life.
Encourage professional help: Encourage the person to seek professional assistance from a medical professional, therapist, or addiction counselor. Offer to help them find suitable resources and provide support as they take steps towards treatment.
Offer emotional support: Be available to listen and provide emotional support throughout the recovery process. Maintain open communication and offer a safe space for the individual to share their experiences and feelings.
Suggest support groups: Recommend joining support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery, which provide a community of individuals with similar experiences and offer guidance and encouragement throughout the recovery process.
Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries to protect your own well-being and communicate your expectations about the person's behavior. Be firm yet compassionate, making it clear that you will not enable their drug use.
Assist with lifestyle changes: Help the person develop healthier habits, such as engaging in physical activity, improving their diet, and finding alternative ways to manage stress. Offer to participate in these activities together to provide additional support and motivation.
Be patient: Recovery from drug addiction is a long-term process, and relapses may occur. Understand that setbacks are part of the journey, and continue to offer support and encouragement as the person works towards sobriety.
Care for yourself: Supporting someone with drug addiction can be emotionally taxing. Ensure you are taking care of your own mental and emotional health by seeking support from friends, family, or professional counselors if needed.