Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
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.
In what ways do drug addiction change one's personality?
Drug addiction can significantly change an individual's personality in various ways. The changes are often a result of how the substance interacts with the brain and can affect one's behaviors, emotions, and interactions with others. Here are some common ways in which drug addiction may alter personality:
Increased Aggression or Irritability: Substances can affect the brain's balance of neurotransmitters, leading to changes in mood and behavior. This can result in increased aggression, irritability, or mood swings, which might not align with the person's typical personality traits.
Decreased Motivation: Many addictive substances can lead to a decreased interest or motivation in activities that were once enjoyed. This can result in a noticeable change in personality, as the person may appear apathetic or disinterested in life outside their substance use.
Increased Impulsivity and Risk-taking: Drug addiction often leads to increased impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors. This is due to changes in the brain's reward system and decision-making processes, leading individuals to take more risks to obtain the substance, often disregarding the potential consequences.
Paranoia and Anxiety: Some substances can induce feelings of paranoia or increase levels of anxiety. Individuals who were previously calm and trusting may become suspicious, anxious, or overly worried.
Depression: Many individuals struggling with substance use disorders also experience symptoms of depression. This can lead to a noticeable change in personality, including increased sadness, lethargy, and withdrawal from social activities.
Manipulative Behavior: In order to continue using and obtaining drugs, individuals may resort to manipulative behaviors, such as lying, stealing, or deceit. This can result in a significant change in personality, as individuals may prioritize their addiction over their relationships and personal values.
Social Isolation: As drug addiction progresses, individuals may isolate themselves from family and friends, either to hide their substance use or because their primary relationships are increasingly with others who are using drugs.
Neglect of Personal Care: Addiction can lead to neglect of personal care and hygiene, which may manifest in physical changes as well as shifts in personality traits related to self-discipline and self-respect.
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.