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 are the symptoms of opioid addiction?
Opioid addiction is a chronic condition characterized by compulsive use of opioids despite harmful consequences. Recognizing the symptoms of opioid addiction can help in providing timely intervention and support for the affected individual. Some common symptoms of opioid addiction include:
- Physical symptoms: Opioid addiction can cause various physical symptoms, such as constricted pupils, drowsiness, slowed breathing, constipation, and itching. The person may also exhibit signs of intoxication, like slurred speech and impaired coordination.
- Behavioral changes: Opioid addiction can lead to changes in behavior, such as increased secrecy, social withdrawal, mood swings, and unexplained absences. The person may neglect personal hygiene, appearance, or responsibilities in favor of obtaining and using opioids.
- Tolerance and withdrawal: Over time, individuals with opioid addiction may develop a tolerance, requiring higher doses or more frequent use to achieve the desired effects. If the person stops using opioids, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes with goosebumps.
- Loss of control: A key symptom of opioid addiction is the inability to control opioid use, even when the person wants to stop. They may spend an excessive amount of time and resources obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of opioids.
- Continued use despite negative consequences: Individuals with opioid addiction often continue using opioids despite experiencing negative consequences, such as health problems, relationship issues, financial difficulties, or legal troubles.
- Preoccupation with opioids: Opioid addiction can lead to a preoccupation with the drug, resulting in the person prioritizing opioid use over other aspects of their life, including personal relationships, work, or hobbies.
- Risk-taking behaviors: Opioid addiction can lead to increased risk-taking behaviors, such as using opioids in dangerous situations, sharing needles, or engaging in criminal activities to obtain the drug.
- Neglecting relationships: Opioid addiction can strain personal relationships, as the person may prioritize their opioid use over their connections with friends and family.
- Changes in sleep patterns: Opioid use can disrupt sleep patterns, causing the person to experience insomnia or excessive sleepiness.
- Cravings: Individuals with opioid addiction may experience strong cravings for opioids, often leading to compulsive drug-seeking behaviors.
Do addicts lie to themselves?
Yes, it is quite common for individuals struggling with addiction to lie to themselves, a phenomenon often referred to as denial. Denial is a psychological defense mechanism that helps a person avoid confronting painful realities, emotions, or actions that they may not be prepared to handle.
In the context of addiction, an individual might convince themselves that they have their drug or alcohol use under control, that they can stop anytime they want, or that their substance use is not impacting their life negatively. They may downplay the quantity of substance consumed, the frequency of their use, or the resulting consequences. This self-deception can serve to protect them from the guilt, shame, or fear that might arise from acknowledging the full extent of their addiction.
Here are some common forms of self-deception seen in addiction:
- Minimization: Downplaying the severity or consequences of their substance use.
- Rationalization: Creating explanations or excuses to justify their drug or alcohol use.
- Blaming: Attributing their substance use or related problems to external factors or other people.
- Diversion: Changing the topic or focus to avoid discussing their substance use.
Denial and self-deception can make it hard for people struggling with addiction to seek help or fully engage in treatment, as they may not fully acknowledge that they have a problem. This is why interventions, carried out with love, understanding, and professional guidance, can be essential in helping individuals recognize the reality of their addiction and take the necessary steps towards recovery.
However, it's crucial to remember that lying and self-deception are not moral failings but symptoms of the disease of addiction. Professional help and compassionate support from loved ones can help individuals break through their denial and embark on the path to recovery.