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Understanding Addiction To Drugs And Alcohol

When a person develops a drug seeking behavior without bothering about the circumstances then this person is most likely addicted. Some drugs are habit forming and develop tolerance in the human body so that the addicted person needs more and more of it to get the desired effect. Almost all addicted people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. There are a large number of addictive substances like tobacco, cocaine, alcohol etc. which are physically and psychologically addictive, while others like chewing gum or nail biting are purely psychological.

It is difficult to understand addiction because of its complex nature in which the physical and psychological factors feed off each other.

How can you recognize addiction?

This is a disorder that affects a large range of people and there is no difference regarding the income, occupation, race, personal willpower or culture. Almost anyone can develop an addiction. If you are experiencing any of the following then you possibly have developed an addiction.

  • Having trouble in controlling the quantity of the substance to be taken
  • Having trouble in controlling the number of times you take the substance
  • Having trouble in controlling the length of time for which the substance is taken over and above the period prescribed

Usually the initial decision to use the substance is voluntary, but it slowly develops into an uncontrollable need to use the substance. Repeated abuse of the drugs changes the chemistry of the brain so that the addicts keep on using drugs, even if they understand that such abuse may harm them.

Diagnosis of an addiction

Diagnosing an addiction is similar to diagnosing any other ailment. The medical expert will examine the patient for symptoms which meet specific criteria which is scientific in nature and this defines the ailment in question just like it defines an addiction. The American Psychiatric Association has published The diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which is commonly used for diagnosing addictions.

The criteria provided in the DSM are most often accepted and used by professionals to help in determining the occurrence and seriousness of a substance abuse disorder. These include:

  • Lack of control – The person uses the substance in larger amounts and for longer periods than they intended initially
  • The desire to control the usage – Most addicts want to cut back on the use, but are not able to do so
  • Amount of time spent – The patient spends a lot of time in trying to acquire the substance
  • Cravings – There is intense desire to use the drug or alcohol
  • No responsibility – the patient gives more priority to the substance usage than to important activities like work, school or social obligations
  • Relationship problems – the relationships with family and friends often become strained due to drug abuse
  • Losing interest – The patient stops engaging in other positive activities or entertainment and simply wants to be under the effect of the drug
  • Dangerous use – The patient continues to use the drug in spite of obvious danger
  • Worsening situation – The patient continues to use the drug in spite of ill effects on physical or psychological health
  • Tolerance – the person needs larger amounts of the drug for the desired effect
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Warning Signs Of Addiction

Most addicts start with experimenting with the substance and it is a fallacy that people only who have weak will power get addicted. Even people with a strong will and an intense desire to quit are unable to quit on their own. For this reason it is necessary to understand how an addiction develops.

There may be any number of reasons why the person initially takes the drug including peer pressure, curiosity, or stress and trouble at work or home. As the person likes the effect of the drug or alcohol, it increases his or her desire to take it. Slowly the body and/or the mind get used to this effect and then the problem turns into an addiction.

If you are concerned about someone close to you who may be struggling with addiction, there are several warning signs you can look for. Here you need to bear in mind that different people are different and it may be more difficult to detect addiction in some people than in others. Let us look at some general red flags to be aware of:

  • Ignoring responsibilities and commitments
  • Unexplained absences at school or work
  • Suddenly there is a new set of friends
  • Suddenly seems to be short of money all the time’
  • Keeping awake later than usual or sleeping longer
  • Being secretive about some parts of their personal life and lying about their whereabouts
  • Withdrawing from regular social contacts
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Weight loss or obvious changes in the physical appearance of the person

No patient expects to develop an addiction when they start experimenting with a drug or when taking a prescribed narcotic. However, if they continue the experimentation, then they may end up getting addicted. Often the person himself or herself also does not realize the signs until the addiction becomes out of control. The key to combating addiction is to know when to seek help and get the necessary support.  Reliable drug addiction treatment centers would have a holistic approach to treatment.