Types of Addiction
Addiction is considered a progressive disease that currently affects millions of lives nationwide. The impacts of addiction are far-reaching and devastate whole families and communities. Addiction is proven to directly impact unemployment and incarceration rates across America, affecting homes in all socioeconomic levels. The numbers are shocking, and growing at alarming rates annually. It is estimated that more than 22 million individuals are addicted to drugs and or alcohol in our nation alone.
Addiction is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as the following:
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by the inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death. “
Addiction is Behavior-Defined
Individuals in the grips of addiction will forgo everything else in their lives in the endless pursuit of drugs or alcohol. It is important to note that addiction can happen to anyone at any time during their life. Sometimes our assumptions about addicts are grossly off base. The idea that only the homeless or unmotivated become addicts is misleading and inaccurate. The truth is that addiction affects individuals from every age, race, gender, educational and economic level. It is also a misnomer that individuals choose to be addicts. The idea that addiction is simply a result of poor choices and lack of self-control only adds to the negative stigma addiction already carries.
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Three Main Types of Addictions
It may be difficult in today’s society to determine where the line between social drinking and problem drinking falls. It might be easier to consider how drinking makes an individual feel, or the motivations behind drinking when attempting to address potential alcoholism. If an individual regularly consumes alcohol in order to deal with life issues or to alleviate emotional pain, the potential for addiction is much higher. As with drug addiction, no individual strives to become dependent. Taking steps to recognize personal risk levels, combined with a strong support group, can prevent full-blown alcoholism.
The reality is if you rely on alcohol to function, or the use of alcohol has disrupted your life, you likely have a drinking problem. The following list of questions might help determine if you have a problem with alcohol:
- Often “Black out” or are unable to remember things done while drinking socially or alone
- Hide your alcohol consumption from friends and family
- Lie when questioned about drinking
- Depend on alcohol to provide relaxation
- Consume more alcohol than intended on a regular basis
- Have an increasing number of friends and family members expressing worry about alcoholism
Illicit & Street Drug Addiction
Any illegal drug consumption risks chemical dependency. The amount of substance abused, as the type of illegal drug used, and various risk factors involved will all determine whether an individual risks addiction. Sometimes social use stems from curiosity and depending on the potency of the drug, can lead quickly to dependence.
Certain street drugs like heroin and meth act by flooding the brain with feel-good endorphins. As the brain continues to be exposed to these drugs, it begins to produce less dopamine and other mood-effecting chemicals. The damage is permanent, as heroin destroys normal brain chemical balance, and users will begin to experience pain when it leaves the system. For this reason, illicit drug addiction can often occur quickly, even after a short period of use. The amount needed to obtain the same high increases with every use, as do the withdrawal symptoms.
Prescription Drug Addiction
One of the most disturbing, and fastest growing addictions nationwide involve prescription pain medications. Most individuals with no addiction history and few addiction risk factors can safely use prescribed doses of narcotic pain medications. This group of people is probably unlikely to become addicted and misuse these powerful drugs. But there are individuals for whom even a limited exposure to opioids can trigger addictive tendencies. Most prescribed pain medications such as morphine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are very concentrated and taken in higher doses will cause an intoxicating high.
Another reason individuals might become dependent on opioids is the resulting anxiety relief that occurs when taken regularly. This can be an attractive escape for certain people looking for a way to avoid the stresses of productive adulthood. Prescription drug misuse, or narcotic abuse, is one of the most prevalent addictions currently in the United States.
Symptoms of Narcotic Addiction
When people with no history of drug addiction appropriately use narcotics at prescribed doses to control pain, they are relatively unlikely to become addicted to the drugs. However, opioids provide an intoxicating high when injected or taken orally in high doses. Opioids are also powerful anxiety relievers. Additionally, in people with no history of addiction who take opiates for chronic pain, studies have not found clear-cut predictors of who is more or less likely to eventually abuse their painkillers. For these reasons, narcotic abuse is one of the most common forms of drug abuse in the U.S.
The abuse of prescription pain medication is often overlooked as there isn’t much of a negative stigma when taking Vicodin or morphine for diagnosed pain control. The misnomer that prescriptions are safer than street drugs is also one of the reasons many addictions go undiagnosed or even recognized. The following is a list of symptoms that point to possible narcotic addiction:
- An uncontrollable urge to use opioids
- An inability to curb or cease opioid use
- Increased difficulty performing well academically or occupationally
- Withdrawal from social circles due to conflicts
- Sudden legal issues stemming from drug seeking
- Consumed with planning and sourcing opioid use
- Withdrawal symptoms when reducing amounts
- Increasing tolerance resulting in increased dosing
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