Addiction to drugs is a worldwide epidemic. It is known as substance abuse and is characterized by a dependence on a legal or illegal drug or prescription medication. The path to addiction usually begins gradually. Perhaps the first use is at a club or party or due to peer pressure from a group of friends. Some people with depression or anxiety may turn to drugs in the mistaken belief that drugs will relieve their symptoms.
Even one drug use can have unpredictable health effects and affect judgment. Illicit drugs may cause risky behavior such as driving while under the influence. Extended drug use can trigger health problems such as heart disease, liver disease and other complications.
As use increases, a person becomes more and more dependent on the substance until eventually it is needed just to get through a day. The craving for the drug becomes so intense that even though a person may want to stop using the substance they are unable to do so. As the brain and body gradually adjust to the amount of drug ingested, a level of tolerance is built; which means the user has to increase the amount used in order to achieve the same effect as the initial dose provided. Attempts to stop using the drug increases the craving and makes the user feel very ill.
It is not just the drug user whose life is affected, friends and particularly family members can have their lives completely disrupted. If the drug user is an adolescent or teen he or she may disappear for a period of time to hangout with like-minded people; causing great worry to parents regarding their whereabouts. Social occasions are skipped by the user, leaving the family to explain the absence. School or work attendance becomes a low priority when obtaining more of the drug takes center stage. Many addicted people turn to crime to finance their drug purchases, resulting in encounters with police and subsequent legal difficulties.
An addicted person may experience poor sleep patterns, either due to sleeping for long periods or having interrupted and insufficient sleep. Appetite may be poor, resulting in an effect on general health. Even personal hygiene routines may be neglected, such as dental care, shaving and bathing. When family members attempt to intervene in order to help the drug user, they are often met with denial, resistance or even threats of violence. If the user is a parent, small children may not receive the care they need or proper nutrition.
Repeated and frequent drug use causes changes in the neurons and nerve cells in the brain. Neurons and neurotransmitters work together controlling heartbeat, respiration and digestion, they also affect mood, sleep, concentration and weight. If the neurotransmitters are out of balance, these functions are altered. Changes in the brain caused by addiction can remain long after a person stops using drugs.
The earlier in life that drug use begins, the higher the chance of addiction and social and medical consequences. The brain continues to develop until early adulthood and drugs can change the developmental pattern. Those who begin using at a young age often have other conditions which led to the drug use such as depression, anxiety or problems with family relationships. Drug use exacerbates the situation and doesn’t help the initial problem.
Obviously the best advice is never to begin using drugs but the sooner intervention and treatment begin the more successful the outcome can be.
If drug use is out of control, get help. A visit to a primary family physician will lead to a referral to a mental health professional. Help is available and detox and therapy can lead to a healthier and happier life.
If you would like further information, please call the Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline at 866-576-4147