Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Why can't a person just simply stop abusing drugs?
Drug addiction, often referred to as Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in the mental health field, is a complex condition characterized by compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences. It's considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain's structure and how it works, leading to changes that can persist long after the cessation of drug use. Here are several reasons why it's not simply a matter of willpower to stop using drugs:
Physical Dependence: Repeated drug use can lead to physical dependence, where the body adapts to the drug and requires it to function normally. Abruptly stopping the drug can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can be uncomfortable or even dangerous, creating a compelling reason to continue using the drug.
Changes in Brain Function: Drug use can disrupt critical brain areas involved in reward, motivation, learning, judgment, and memory. This can lead to intense cravings for the drug and impaired ability to resist drug use, even in the face of negative consequences.
Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders: Many individuals with substance use disorders also have other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. These individuals may use drugs as a way to self-medicate, making it difficult to stop without treating the underlying condition.
Environmental Factors: Social and environmental cues can trigger cravings and make it difficult to avoid substance use. This can include things like spending time with friends who use drugs, living in a stressful or chaotic environment, or even visiting places where they used to use drugs.
Psychological Factors: Some individuals may use drugs to cope with stress, trauma, or other adverse experiences. Without healthier coping mechanisms and support, it can be very challenging to stop using drugs.
It's essential to understand that addiction is a chronic disease, similar to diabetes or heart disease, and not a moral failing or lack of discipline. Just as with other chronic diseases, treatment often isn't a matter of simply deciding to stop. It usually involves medical intervention, behavioral therapies, and long-term support. With the right treatment and support, recovery from addiction is entirely possible.
What to do if someone has a fentanyl overdose?
Fentanyl overdose is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate action. Here are the steps you should take:
- Recognize the Signs: Common signs of a fentanyl overdose include slow or irregular breathing, drowsiness or unresponsiveness, constricted or pinpoint pupils, and cold and clammy skin.
- Call Emergency Services: Dial your country's emergency number (911 in the U.S) immediately. Explain the situation clearly and provide any known information about the person's drug use.
- Administer Naloxone if Available: Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. If you have access to this medication, administer it according to the instructions, usually a spray in the nostril or an injection under the skin or into the muscle.
- Perform Rescue Breathing or CPR: If the person isn't breathing or has shallow breathing, start doing chest compressions and rescue breathing if you're trained to do so.
- Stay Until Help Arrives: Do not leave the person alone. Stay with them and try to keep them awake and responsive if possible.
- Provide Information: When emergency responders arrive, provide them with as much information as possible about the situation, including the person's age, weight, the drug they took, when they took it, and any underlying health conditions they might have.
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.