Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
What is the most common substance abuse disorder?
The most common substance use disorder globally is alcohol use disorder (AUD). This disorder, often referred to as alcoholism, is characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
Alcohol use disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of eleven criteria, within a 12-month period.
The criteria include issues like spending a lot of time drinking, or recovering from drinking, giving up important social or recreational activities in favor of drinking, developing a tolerance (needing to drink more to achieve the desired effect), experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, and continuing to drink even when it's causing physical or psychological problems.
It's important to note that substance use disorders can develop with the use of many different substances, including illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin, and legal substances like alcohol or prescription medications. The prevalence of these disorders can vary by region and demographic group.
Regardless of the substance involved, these disorders can have serious impacts on individuals' physical and mental health, relationships, and ability to work or study. Treatment can often help people with substance use disorders to recover and lead healthy lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, don't hesitate to seek professional help.
What areas of the body are most effected by long term drug abuse?
Long-term drug abuse can have significant impacts on various systems and organs within the body. The specific effects can vary depending on the type of drug used, but here are some general areas that can be affected:
Brain: Drug abuse can change the brain's structure and function, leading to alterations in behavior, judgment, memory, decision-making, and even mental health. Chronic use can lead to neurological disorders and cognitive decline.
Heart: Many drugs put a significant strain on the cardiovascular system, leading to a range of heart-related issues. These can include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, damaged heart muscle, irregular heartbeat, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Liver: The liver plays a key role in metabolizing substances, including drugs. Chronic drug use can lead to a variety of liver conditions, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure.
Lungs: Drugs that are smoked or inhaled can cause serious lung damage. This can lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases. Opioids can also slow breathing, potentially leading to hypoxia, a condition where not enough oxygen reaches the brain.
Kidneys: Certain drugs can lead to kidney damage and disease, including kidney failure. This can be caused by increased body temperature, breakdown of muscle tissue that clogs the kidneys, and direct kidney toxicity from the drugs themselves.
Digestive System: Drug use can also affect the digestive system, leading to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and changes in appetite and metabolism. Some drugs can also cause significant damage to the stomach and intestines.
Skin: Certain drugs can also affect the skin, leading to conditions like acne, skin infections, or skin picking resulting in sores. Intravenous drug use can lead to collapsed veins and infections of the blood vessels and heart valves.
Immune System: Some drugs can weaken the immune system, making users more susceptible to infections, diseases, and certain types of cancer.
It's important to note that the specific health effects of drug abuse can vary depending on the individual, the drug(s) used, the frequency and duration of use, and other factors. Seeking professional help and treatment is crucial for mitigating the negative health consequences of drug abuse.
How long do drug withdrawal symptoms last?
The duration of drug withdrawal symptoms can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of substance used, the duration of use, the degree of dependence, individual metabolism and health status, and whether one quits cold turkey or with medical assistance.
Generally, withdrawal symptoms can be divided into acute and post-acute phases:
Acute Withdrawal: This is the initial phase of withdrawal, where physical symptoms are typically the most severe. Depending on the substance, acute withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours to a few days after the last use and can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. For example, alcohol withdrawal symptoms often start within 8 hours of the last drink and can last up to a few days or weeks, while opioid withdrawal symptoms usually start within 12-30 hours of the last dose and can last approximately a week.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS): Some individuals may experience a second phase of withdrawal known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. PAWS refers to a group of symptoms that occur after the acute withdrawal phase, predominantly psychological, such as anxiety, irritability, mood swings, depression, and sleep disturbances. PAWS can last from a few weeks to a year or more after the cessation of substance use.
It's important to remember that withdrawal can be dangerous and even life-threatening in some cases, especially when it comes to substances like alcohol and benzodiazepines. Therefore, withdrawal should always be done under medical supervision. The support and treatment offered by medical professionals during detoxification can also help to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and make the process safer and more comfortable.