Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Does a drug abuser lose empathy for others?
Chronic drug abuse can indeed affect an individual's ability to empathize with others, but it's important to note that this doesn't occur in every case and can depend on a variety of factors, including the specific substance used, the duration and severity of the abuse, and the individual's personal characteristics.
Drugs alter the brain's structure and function, including areas associated with empathy and social cognition, such as the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. Over time, these changes can lead to decreased empathy, making it harder for individuals to understand or share the feelings of others.
Additionally, the lifestyle associated with chronic drug abuse can also contribute to a loss of empathy. As individuals become more focused on obtaining and using drugs, they may start to neglect their relationships and responsibilities, which can further erode their ability to connect with others on an emotional level.
Furthermore, individuals with substance use disorders often experience a range of negative emotions, such as guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression, which can make it harder for them to empathize with others. They might also become defensive or dismissive of others' feelings as a way of protecting themselves from these negative emotions.
However, it's important to note that these changes are not necessarily permanent. Many people who recover from substance use disorders are able to rebuild their capacity for empathy with time, treatment, and effort. Cognitive-behavioral therapies, mindfulness practices, and other therapeutic approaches can help individuals to improve their emotional understanding and empathy.
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.
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.