If you were to ask a heavy smoker to simply quit, what do you think the response would be? How about telling a gambler to simply walk away from the casino? It seems that people are so quick to think it is easy to walk away from something that has plagued a person for most of their life. This blog is to not only enlighten, but it is also to educate society on the driving factors behind addiction and why it is so difficult to walk away from.
Why do people use drugs?
People use drugs for many reasons. Some individuals indicate that they either want to feel good or stop feeling bad. There are some who use substances to perform better in school or at work.
Then there are the vast few who are curious because others are doing it and they want to fit in.
-This is most commonly a reason among teens who use.
Drugs excite the parts of the brain that make you feel good.
But after you take a drug for a while, the feel-good parts of your brain get used to it. Then you need to take more of the drug to get the same good feeling. Soon, your brain and body must have the drug just to feel normal.
You feel sick, awful, anxious, and irritable without the drug. You no longer have the good feelings that you had when you first used the drug. This is true if you use illegal drugs or if you misuse prescription drugs.
Misuse includes taking a drug differently than how your doctor tells you to (taking more or crushing pills to “shoot up” or snort), taking someone else’s prescription, or taking it just to get “high.” For so many, drug use can start to escape, but it can quickly make your life worse. Besides the physical effect’s drugs take on your body, different drugs can also effectively affect your brain and body.
What is drug addiction?
Drug addiction is when you cannot stop taking the drug even if you want to. The urge is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm. The addiction can become more important than the need to eat or sleep. The urge to get and use the drug can fill every moment of your life. The addiction replaces all the things you used to enjoy. A person who is addicted might do almost anything (lie, steal, or hurt people), to keep taking the drug. This can lead to problems with your family and friends and can even lead to arrest and jail. It is almost certain that once an individual will become addicted to illegal drugs as well as prescription drugs if they are misused.
At first, taking drugs is (usually) your choice.
But as you continue to take them, using self-control can become harder and harder; this is the biggest sign of addiction. Brain studies of people with addiction show physical changes in parts of the brain that are very important for judgment, making decisions, learning and memory, and controlling behavior. Scientists have shown that when this happens to the brain, it changes how the brain works and it explains the harmful behaviors of addiction that are so hard to control.
Drug addiction is also known as a chronic disease. That means it stays with you for a long time, even if you stop using for a while. It does not go away like a cold. A person with an addiction can get checked into treatment but quitting for good can be very hard if not provided the tools to main this once discharged.
What makes people more likely to become addicted to drugs?
There are multiple reasons for individuals to become addicted to drugs. Listed below are a few of the most common ones:
- Trouble at home. If your home is an unhappy place, or was when you were growing up, you might be more likely to have a drug problem. When kids are not well cared for, or there are lots of fights, or a parent is using drugs, the chance of addiction goes up.
- Mental health problems. People who have untreated mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, or untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to become addicted. They might use drugs to try to feel better or to cope with the problem itself.
- Trouble in school, trouble at work, trouble with making friends. Failures at school or work, or trouble getting along with people, can make life hard. You might use drugs to get your mind off these problems.
- Hanging around other people who use drugs. Friends or family members who use drugs might get you into trouble with drugs as well.
- Starting drug use when you are young. When kids or teens use drugs, it affects how their bodies and brains finish growing. Using drugs when you are young increases your chances of becoming addicted when you are an adult.
- Your biology. Everyone’s bodies react to drugs differently. Some people like the feeling the first time they try a drug and want more. Other people hate how it feels and never try it again. Scientists do not have a test yet that will predict how each person will react.\
What is a “trigger” and how it is detected?
A trigger is anything that makes you feel the urge to go back to using drugs. It can be almost anything (place, person, thing, smell, feeling, picture, or memory) that reminds you of taking a drug and getting high. A trigger can also be something stressful that you want to escape from. It can even be something that makes you feel happy. People fighting addiction need to stay away from the people and triggers that can make them start using drugs again, just like people with breathing problems need to avoid smoke and dust.
People who have stayed sober for a while, either because they were in jail or in treatment, should know that they are at a high risk of overdose if they relapse and take the same amount of drug they used to. Their cravings may not have decreased, but their tolerance has, meaning their body cannot handle high doses of the drug anymore. Without immediate treatment, overdose often leads to death. This is one of the main reasons you often hear about people dying of an overdose soon after leaving rehab. They have not identified how to incorporate what they learned in rehab and put it into their daily lives.
What other ways can prevent relapse?
While most rehabs and other institutions provide medications and other tools, one of the main ways of prevention is to work on maintaining the “PPT”.
- People: It is the crowd that you either got high with, bought drugs from, or started the addiction around. It has been mentioned that someone in recovery who changes their inner circle will more than likely want to remain sober.
- Places: It is the environment you were getting high in, bought drugs from, or first began using at. Individuals who change their surroundings, are more likely to remain sober.
- Things: This one can be kind of tricky to explain. Things simply sums it up as the things you did to get high. Whether it was stealing from someone, writing bad checks to pay for the drugs, or any other “activities” a person may indulge in to obtain the ultimate goal: the high. People who change their behaviors, are more likely to remain sober.
Utilizing all three in combination with medications and other possible individual treatment plans, will allow the individual the possibility to maintain sobriety.
It is possible to maintain sobriety with the right tools and knowledge. I have been clean almost 6 years simply following exactly what I preached above. Hopefully, this opened the eyes of so many who have the preconceived notion that quitting is just as easy as breathing. If that were the case then smokers would not need help with smoking cessation, while gamblers wouldn’t need gamblers anonymous
Desiree Townsend is a Past Intern Counselor of Greenway Therapy.