Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
What does a detox do for a person afflicted with alcohol or drug addiction?
Detoxification, or detox, is the process of removing toxic substances, such as drugs or alcohol, from an individual's body. It is usually the initial step in treating a person with alcohol or drug addiction before they undergo further treatment or therapy. Detox serves several purposes in the recovery process:
- Physical stabilization: Detox helps the body rid itself of harmful substances, allowing the individual to regain physical stability. This process can alleviate some of the immediate health risks associated with substance abuse.
- Management of withdrawal symptoms: Detox addresses the withdrawal symptoms that can arise when an individual stops using drugs or alcohol. Depending on the substance and the severity of the addiction, withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include physical discomfort, agitation, anxiety, and even life-threatening complications. A medically supervised detox can provide a safe and controlled environment to manage these symptoms, which may include the use of medications to alleviate discomfort and reduce cravings.
- Preparation for further treatment: Detox is often the first step in the recovery process, preparing the individual for further treatment such as counseling, therapy, or support groups. By addressing the physical dependence on substances, detox allows the individual to focus on the psychological, emotional, and behavioral aspects of their addiction during the subsequent phases of treatment.
- Assessment of individual needs: During detox, healthcare professionals can evaluate the individual's specific needs and circumstances, which may include co-occurring mental health disorders or other medical conditions. This assessment can help inform a tailored treatment plan to support the individual's recovery journey.
- Establishment of a support network: Detox provides an opportunity for individuals to connect with healthcare providers, therapists, and other individuals in recovery. This support network can play a critical role in maintaining motivation and providing encouragement throughout the recovery process.
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.
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.