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.
If a drug abuser loved their family wouldn't they stop?
Substance Use Disorder, commonly known as addiction, is a complex disease that affects the brain and behavior. It's important to understand that addiction is not a matter of willpower or moral strength, and it doesn't reflect an individual's love or lack of love for their family. Here's why a person struggling with addiction might not simply stop, even if they deeply care for their family:
Altered Brain Function: Drugs can alter the brain's structure and function, especially in areas related to reward, judgment, decision-making, learning, and memory. This can lead to intense cravings and a compulsive desire to use drugs, despite knowing the harm they're causing.
Physical Dependence: Regular use of certain drugs can lead to physical dependence, where the body needs the drug to function normally. Stopping the drug can cause uncomfortable or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms, which can make quitting extremely difficult without medical help.
Psychological Dependence: Some individuals use drugs to cope with stress, trauma, or mental health disorders. These individuals may feel they cannot function or feel normal without the substance, and overcoming this psychological dependence can be challenging.
Fear of Withdrawal: Fear of the withdrawal process, which can be physically and emotionally painful, can deter individuals from quitting, even if they want to stop for their loved ones.
Denial: Many people struggling with addiction are in denial about the extent of their problem. They may not realize or admit how much their substance use is hurting themselves and their family.
Loving someone, even deeply, does not automatically grant the ability to overcome addiction. Recovery often requires professional help and involves more than just the decision to stop using drugs. It includes learning new coping skills, addressing underlying issues that may contribute to the addiction, and receiving ongoing support. With proper treatment and support, many people are able to recover from addiction and rebuild their relationships with their loved ones.
What is drug addiction commonly called in the mental health fields?
In the mental health field, drug addiction is commonly referred to as a "Substance Use Disorder" (SUD). This term is used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States.
A Substance Use Disorder is defined as a pattern of behaviors characterized by an inability to control or cut down on use, spending a lot of time obtaining the substance, craving the substance, failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home due to substance use, and continuing to use the substance despite knowing it's causing physical or psychological harm.
Substance Use Disorders can be further categorized based on the specific substance involved, such as Alcohol Use Disorder, Opioid Use Disorder, Cannabis Use Disorder, and so forth. The severity of the disorder is also assessed (mild, moderate, or severe) based on the number of diagnostic criteria met by an individual.
It's worth noting that this terminology emphasizes the understanding of drug addiction as a medical disorder, rather than a moral failing or a matter of willpower. This shift in language is part of a larger effort to reduce stigma and promote a more compassionate, effective approach to treatment.