Drug and Alcohol Addiction
It is most likely the person with a drug/alcohol problem will be in denial as to having a drug/alcohol addiction. They will often attempt to withhold the extent (minimize or rationalize) their drug/alcohol use from family and friends. As they slide down the slippery slope of denial they may begin to suffer the effects of their own dishonesty and guilt. Thus, they become withdrawn, difficult to reason with, and/or possibly develop strange behavior.
The more they use drugs and alcohol, the guiltier they will feel, and the more depressed they will become. They will sacrifice their personal integrity, relationships with friends and family, their job, savings, and anything else they may possess in an attempt to get more drugs/alcohol. The drugs/alcohol now become the most important things in their life. As a result, their relationships and job performance will go drastically downhill.
There is such a thing as a “drug/alcohol personality”, which is artificially created by drugs/alcohol. Drugs/Alcohol can change the attitude of a person from his/her original personality to one secretly harboring hostilities and hatreds he/she does not permit to show on the surface (publicly).
This establishes a link between drugs/alcohol and increasing difficulties with crime.
The drug/alcohol personality includes such characteristics as:
- Mood swings
- Unreliable. Unable to finish projects.
- Unexpressed resentment and secret hatreds.
- Dishonesty. Lies to family, friends, employers.
- Withdraws from those who love him. Isolates self
- May appear chronically depressed.
- May begin stealing from family and friends.
Drugs and alcohol are broken down in the liver. When a person drinks or uses drugs over a period of time, the body becomes unable to completely eliminate them all. These metabolites, (the substances the body converts the drugs and alcohol into) although removed rapidly from the blood stream, become trapped in the fatty tissues. The problem that needs to be addressed is that these drug/alcohol residues remain for years. There are various types of tissues that are high in fat content, and these tissues are turned over very slowly. When they are turned over, the stored drug metabolites are released into the blood stream and reactivate the same brain centers as if the person actually took the drug. The former addict now experiences a drug re-stimulation (or “flashback) and drug craving. This is common in the months after an addict quits and can continue to occur for years, or even decades.
The Cycle of Quitting, Withdrawal, Craving and Relapse when the addict initially tires to quit, carries cells in the brain that have become used to large amounts of these metabolites are now forced to deal with much decreased amounts. Even as the withdrawal symptoms subside, the brain “demands” that the addict give it more of the drug/alcohol. This is called drug/alcohol craving.
Craving is an extremely powerful urge and can cause a person to create all kinds of “reasons” they should begin using drugs or drink again. He/she is now trapped in an endless cycle of trying to quit, craving, relapse, and fear of withdrawal. Eventually, the brain cells will again become used to having lowered drug metabolites. However, because deposits of drug or alcohol metabolites release back into the bloodstream from fatty tissues for years, craving and relapse remain a cause for concern. Left unhandled, the presence of metabolites, even in microscopic amounts, cause the brain to react as if the addict had actually taken the drug again, and can set up craving and relapse even after years of sobriety.
Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. Drugs of abuse alter the brain’s structure and function, resulting in changes that persist long after drug use has ceased. This may explain why drug abusers are at risk for relapse even after long periods of abstinence and despite the potentially devastating consequences.
No single treatment is appropriate for everyone. Treatment varies depending on the type of drug and the characteristics of the patients. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs is critical to his or her ultimate success in returning to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and society.
Treatment needs to be readily available. Because drug-addicted individuals may be uncertain about entering treatment, taking advantage of available services the moment people are ready for treatment is critical. Potential patients can be lost if treatment is not immediately available or readily accessible. As with other chronic diseases, the earlier treatment is offered in the disease process, the greater the likelihood of positive outcomes.
Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his/her drug abuse. To be effective, treatment must address the individual’s drug abuse and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems. It is also important that treatment be appropriate to the individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture. - adapted from NIH
Alcohol-related problems — which result from drinking too much, too fast, or too often — are among the most significant public health issues in the United States. Many people struggle with controlling their drinking at some time in their lives. Approximately 17 million adults ages 18 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and 1 in 10 children live in a home with a parent who has a drinking problem.
Signs of an Alcohol Problem
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that doctors diagnose when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm. The condition can range from mild to severe and is diagnosed when a patient answers “yes” to two or more of the following questions.
In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there? - adapted from the NIAAA
Does Treatment Work?
The good news is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with an alcohol use disorder can benefit from some form of treatment. Research shows that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.
If you or a loved one has a problem with drug or alcohol use, please contact us as we can conduct a formal assessment of his/her symptoms to see if a drug or alcohol disorder is present. Our professional staff is here to make sure you or a loved one are provided the highest quality of compassionate care, in complete confidentiality. Contact us today, and get started on the road to healthiness.