What Makes A Person An Alcoholic?

An alcoholic is a term used to describe someone who suffers from the overuse of alcohol. Someone who is an alcoholic often finds themselves having a strong desire, physical and/or psychological, to utilize alcohol far from their ability to control it, regardless of how it affects them or the problems it may cause at home, work, and financially. Although the word “alcoholic” may conjure a particular image to mind, there are actually several different types of alcoholics. This is the most prevalent subtype, making up 31.5 percent of people who are alcohol dependent. The average age of dependent young adults is 25 years, and they first became dependent at an average of age 20. They tend to drink less frequently than people of other types. However, most of their drinking is binge drinking – they drink five or more drinks on an average of 104 (73 percent) of those days. On drinking days, the average maximum number of drinks is 14. This pattern of alcohol use is more likely to be hazardous than non-binging patterns. There is a term that is used called a chronic alcoholic.

Chronic alcoholic

This is a more specific term for an alcoholic. Basically it means that the person is dependent and severely addicted to alcohol. This term is mostly used when stereotyping who/what an alcoholic is. The typical patient that is defined as a chronic alcoholic is a male, usually divorced, and use other substances on top of alcohol. Often, they are homeless or living in a dysfunctional environment. They suffer from schizophrenia, depression or other mental health issues. Chronic alcoholics will participate in drinking daily and what seems like endlessly. They will drink dangerously high levels of alcohol. Normally, they prefer to be alone. They do not like to contact and/or socialize with anyone including family and friends. They do not have a job, and cannot control their drinking and may also suffer from cognitive impairment, which is the rapid decline in aging and leaves an individual at higher risk of dementia and other health issues that emerge as you get older.

Treatment for a chronic alcoholic

The first step in treating someone with chronic alcoholism is medical intervention and it is required to start their rehabilitation process. Because of the fact that they are indeed addicted to alcohol physically, a chronic severe alcoholic will go through withdrawals and could be at risk of serious health conditions such as a heart attack or cardiovascular collapse if they do not have medical detoxification. Aside from treating the individual for alcohol addiction, they are also treated for any other conditions that follow with the alcohol addiction. These conditions include; depression, anxiety, personality disorder or even more serious health problems like said above; schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There has also been other health conditions resulting in severe chronic alcoholism; alcohol related cancer, heart disease, malnourishment or vitamin deficiencies, all of which being linked to chronic alcoholism.

Moderate drinker or alcoholic?

There is not just a moderate drinker and then an alcoholic. There is more factors to be considered when figuring out if an individual is a moderate drinker or an alcoholic. People see moderate drinking as someone who has a beer every once and awhile or someone who has wine with their dinner and then alcoholic as someone who drinks every day, all the time, 24/7. This accusation is false.

There are plenty of levels in between those accusations when determining someone an alcoholic or not. Taking this into consideration, 1 in 3 adults are excessive drinkers. The reality is that most adults who drink, drink maybe a couple drinks during the week and then on the weekends they typically drink more than what they would during the week. Women who consume 8 or more drinks each week are excessive drinkers. As for men, the excessive amount for them would be 15 drinks or more per week.

Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for 88,000 deaths per year. 90 percent of excessive drinkers are not considered to be dependent on alcohol, or in other words, alcoholics. What is the difference between excessive drinking and an alcoholic? If an individual can go a period of time without alcohol and without experiencing withdrawals or they do not report an increased tolerance for alcohol, then they are not an alcoholic. But if the situation was reversed, then the individual is considered an alcoholic. Excessive drinkers are not in need of help, therapy, treatment, or rehabilitation. Alcoholics, on the other hand, need to know when to seek for help.

Binge drinking is having five or more drinks within two hours for men and then four or more drinks within two hours for women. Excessive drinking is doing the same thing, but five or more days a week. Social or moderate drinkers can take or leave a drink. Normally, they do not make decisions based on alcohol and rarely, almost never, experience any legal, social, or physical consequences. Heavy drinker’s intake in large amounts of alcohol. May experience consequences resulting in their drinking, but normally can change drinking behavior or stop altogether. The continuance of binge drinking and heavy drinking can lead to alcoholism and result into many health problems. They will not be able to stop drinking and will not be able to know when it is a good time. They do not take their consequences into consideration and will not be able to stop even if they wanted to because it becomes a habit.

Why alcohol is a problem

People who suffer from alcohol addiction, are unable to control their obsession for alcohol. The obsession takes over their ability to know when to stop, how much they should be drinking, and when the right time to drink is. Unfortunately, this leaves a negative impact on a lot of alcoholic’s lives in the long run. For most, the results are poor health and loneliness.

It is easy for a nonalcoholic to tell and alcoholic to stop drinking. They do not know how difficult it truly is for an alcoholic to stop. A lot of the time, they want to stop their drinking, but do not know how to or the willingness is there but it has become so much of a habit that they genuinely do not know how or when to stop. A nonalcoholic knows when to stop and knows what the right amount for their body is. Once drinking starts affecting a person’s personal life is when they should start to seek for help. If an individual does not get help right away, then chances are the rehabilitation process will take more time than if they did get help instantly. It is not impossibly, but it will definitely take longer. Heavy drinking over many years increases the risk for serious health problems including alcohol-related liver disease (hepatitis or cirrhosis,) heart disease, stomach problems, brain damage, cancer, and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

Do alcoholics experience hangovers?

Alcoholics definitely experience hangovers. The symptoms are nausea, dry heaves, shaking, etc. They can be so severe that alcoholics do not want to drink ever again, but once the urge comes up again, there is nothing holding them back and just one drink can lead to multiple drinks, which results into a severe hangover once again. Another symptom of hangover is black outs. This can increase in severity as the day’s progress and the individual continues their drinking habits. They can get as bad as multi day lapses of memory. If an individual is not experiencing hangovers and they have indeed been diagnosed as being an alcoholic, then this means that they have BAL (Blood Alcohol Level). BAL is basically a medical term used to say that the individual is intoxication for legal and medical purposes. Alcoholics do indeed get hangovers and sometimes it can result into seizures, which sometimes results into death.

The difference between an Alcoholic and Alcoholism

A person is an alcoholic who suffers from alcoholism. Therefore, an alcoholic is a person with an illness of alcoholism. Alcoholism is a long term disease and can be treated within time and patience. In a lot of cases, the individual would result into alcohol because of stress, peer pressure, or upbringing. They see it as a happy place and overuse it to its max. Alcoholic abuse differs from an alcoholic. They usually are people who do not display the qualities of alcoholism, but still have a problem with it. They have not yet become as dependent as an alcoholic is with alcohol, but could possibly get to that point. They have not yet completely lost control over themselves with its consumption. Moderate alcohol consumption will not usually cause any physical or psychological harm, but in some cases, a simple outing and drinking with friends could lead to heavier alcohol consumption if it happens continuously. Which does cause serious health and psychological problems.

What causes Alcoholism?

As time progresses, regular alcohol consumption can interrupt the chemical balance of our brain. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which controls impulsiveness, as well as glutamate, which stimulates the nervous system. Levels of dopamine in your brain are raised during the consumption of alcohol. Dopamine is the go happy chemical in your brain, the higher the levels, the more your body is going to want to feel that way more often. Alcohol can make your dopamine levels shoot up, making it harder for you to say no. Over a long or medium time span, the negative use of alcohol can drastically alter the levels of these brain chemicals, making an individual crave alcohol in order to get rid of any bad feelings and bring in the good.

Symptoms of Misuse of Alcohol

  • Drinking alone.
  • Drinking in secret.
  • Not being able to limit how much alcohol is consumed.
  • Blacking out – not being able to remember chunks of time.
  • Having rituals and being irritated/annoyed when these rituals are disturbed or commented on. This could be drinks before/during/after meals, or after work.
  • Dropping hobbies and activities the person used to enjoy; losing interest in them.
  • Feeling an urge to drink.
  • Feeling irritable when drinking times approach. This feeling is more intense if the alcohol is not available, or there appears to be a chance it may not be available.
  • Having stashes of alcohol in unlikely places.
  • Gulping drinks down in order to get drunk quicker and then feel good.
  • Having relationship problems (triggered by drinking).
  • Having problems with the law (caused by drinking).
  • Having work problems (caused by drinking, or drinking as root cause).
  • Having money problems (caused by drinking).
  • Requiring a larger quantity of alcohol to feel its effect.
  • Nausea, sweating, or even shaking when not drinking.

How to know if you misuse alcohol:

Sometimes it can be difficult to draw the line between safe alcohol use and the misuse of alcohol. You may misuse alcohol if you answer “yes” to some of the following questions below:

  • Do you need to drink more in order to feel the effects of alcohol?
  • Do you feel guilty about drinking?
  • Do you become irritable or violent when you’re drinking?
  • Do you have problems at school or work because of drinking?
  • Do you think it might be better if you cut back on your drinking?

Things to notice

  • Alcohol consumption interferes with work, school or other activities because of being hungover or sick.
  • The person will drink despite knowing he or she will be driving, boating or doing something else that would be risky when impaired.
  • There are memory losses or blackouts.
  • There are accidents or injuries after drinking.
  • The person drinks even though there are physical conditions that would be worsened by drinking.
  • The person cannot control how much or when he or she drinks.
  • He needs to take in more alcohol to get the same buzz as before.
  • Withdrawal symptoms set in when alcohol consumption is stopped, and the person may feel sick, sweaty, shaky and anxious.
  • The person gives up other activities they used to enjoy, so they can drink
  • A lot of time is spent either drinking or recovering from drinking.
  • Even though there is harm to career, education, family or other relationships, the person still drinks.
  • The person drinks early in the day, stays drunk for a long time, or drinks alone
  • They try to conceal their drinking and make excuses.
  • They consistently rely on alcohol to relieve stress or solve problems.
  • The drinker would like to quit drinking but despite repeated attempts, still drinks.
  • Alcohol becomes a focal point in life. The drinker must always make sure there is enough on hand, and social activities nearly always include drinking.

Known Risk Factors:

  • more than 15 drinks per week if you’re male
  • more than 12 drinks per week if you’re female
  • more than 5 drinks per day at least once a week (binge drinking)
  • a parent with alcohol use disorder
  • a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia

You may also be at a greater risk for alcohol use disorder if you:

  • are a young adult experiencing peer pressure
  • have low self-esteem
  • experience a high level of stress
  • live in a family or culture where alcohol use is common and accepted
  • have a close relative with alcohol use disorder

Professional Diagnosis

Your doctor or your healthcare provider can diagnose the misuse of alcohol, also known as alcohol use disorder. They will do a physical exam and ask questions about your “normal” drinking habits.

Your doctor may ask if you:

  • drive when you are drunk
  • have missed work or have lost a job as a result of your drinking
  • need more alcohol to feel “drunk” when you drink
  • have experienced blackouts as a result of your drinking
  • have tried to cut back on your drinking but could not

They will normally use a questionnaire to help diagnose your condition, if any. A diagnosis does not usually consist of anything more than just a diagnostic test, they may order some blood work to check your liver health to show signs of liver disease.

Alcohol use disorder can cause serious and long lasting damage to your liver. Your liver is responsible for removing bad toxins from your blood. When you drink too much, your liver has a harder time filtering the alcohol and other toxins from your bloodstream. This can lead to liver disease and other complications. Basically, your liver acts as a filter of your body and if damaged your body will not get filtered out like it should be and could cause serious health issues.

The outlook for a person with alcohol use disorder

Recovering from alcohol use disorder is a difficult journey. Your outlook will depend on your ability to stop drinking. Most people who seek treatment are able to overcome the addiction. A strong support system is helpful for making a complete recovery.

Your outlook will also depend on the health complications that have developed as a result of your drinking. Alcohol use disorder can severely damage your liver. It can also lead to other health complications, including:

  • bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
  • damage to brain cells
  • cancer in the GI tract
  • dementia
  • depression
  • high blood pressure
  • pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • nerve damage
  • changes in mental status, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (a brain disease that causes symptoms such as confusion, vision changes, or memory loss

Why do people turn to alcohol?

People commonly fall into addiction because they begin using drugs to overtake particular emotions that they are currently going through. The abuse of the alcohol makes them feel good and forget about the problem they have at hand. Eventually they think they cannot live without drugs. Prescription drugs, street drugs and alcohol are more available than ever.

  1. Some drugs are legal

Alcohol and nicotine are not only both legal drugs but they are the most commonly abused drugs.

  1. They get a Prescription for drugs

There is a huge misconception that just because a doctor prescribed drugs they are safe. Prescription drugs are every bit as dangerous and addictive as street drugs like cocaine and heroin.

  1. Going against the grain

Young adults and teenagers often start to abuse drugs because they are not sure where they fit in. Rebelling by abusing drugs and alcohol is not uncommon among young adults. What can start off as “fun” and “recreational” can quickly turn into an uncontrollable addiction.

  1. Feelings of emptiness

Addiction often starts when an individual feels lonely. They turn to drugs and alcohol thinking that it will fill a void that they have been living with.

  1. Peer Pressure

Teenagers and adults can succumb to peer pressure. The pressure of being around others who are abusing drugs or alcohol can make anyone follow suit and do things that they never thought they would.

  1. Drugs and alcohol can make you feel good

People commonly fall into addiction because they begin using drugs to mask particular emotions that they are going through. The abuse makes them feel good and forget about the problem at hand. Eventually they think they can’t live without drugs.

  1. Drugs and alcohol are more available than ever

Prescription drugs, street drugs and alcohol are more available than ever. Prescription drugs can be obtained on the streets, through doctors and even online. Where there is a will there is a way.

  1. Alcohol isn’t enough

Often times addiction starts with alcohol but when the effects of alcohol are not what they used to be the addict turns to harder and stronger drugs.

  1. Experimenting

It is not uncommon for addiction to stem from a person being curious and experimenting with drugs. It is a scenario that often starts with alcohol or marijuana but ends up with cocaine, prescription medication or even crystal meth and heroin.

  1. Self-Medicating

People from all different backgrounds use alcohol to unwind at the end of the day or prescription drugs to help them cope with stress of everyday life. Patterns like this can quickly turn into addiction.

How to help an alcoholic

Put their feelings into consideration, aside from your own. Do not approach a loved one if they are drunk and you want to talk about them getting treatment. Start by using statements such as; “I have noticed…” or “I have been concerned…” It is not easy for someone to admit they have an alcohol problem, so be patient. Consider consulting with a counselor or physician prior to your conversation with your loved one. Always be positive while talking to them. They could be at a low point in life and need support and positivity over negativity and put downs. Make it aware that tools are available to them for help.

Treatment programs usually consist of:

  • Group and individual counseling or therapy.
  • Education on addiction and its consequences.
  • Relapse prevention strategies.
  • Aftercare planning.

Drug abuse

Drug abuse is an extreme desire to obtain and use, increasing amounts of one or more substances. Drug abuse is a generic term for the abuse of any drug, including alcohol and cigarettes. Anyone and everyone is capable of drug abuse. There is no specific age, group, or ethnicity that is more vulnerable than the other to it. Drug abuse is not a characteristic of an individual, but a medical condition. Specialists do not know why one person obtains drug abuse and the other does not, but they do know that drug abuse is not hereditary. If one family member is known to have it that does not mean it will get passed on to generations after. Although, it is not guaranteed to not ever happen to family members after, it is just not passed on through genes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates the following risk factors for developing drug abuse problems, which is typically seen in adolescents.

  • Unstable home environment, often due to drug abuse or mental illness of the parent
  • Poor relationship with parents
  • Inadequate supervision over adolescent’s activities
  • Use of drugs by friends / peers
  • Permissive attitude towards their own drug use and the drug use of the adolescent
  • Behavioral problems combined with poor parenting
  • Poor achievement in school
  • Apparent ambivalence or approval of drug use in the school, peer group or community
  • Availability of drugs in the community, peer group or home

What drugs are abused?

Drug abuse can be abuse of any chemical substance, which includes; cigarettes, inhalants, alcohol, and others. Drug abuse can be the use of legal and illegal drugs, so basically any drug can be used as abuse.

Categories of drugs commonly seen in drug abuse cases include:

  • Legal, over-the-counter – Includes drugs like alcohol and cigarettes
  • Legal, prescription – includes drugs like methadone, oxycodone and Zolpidem
  • Chemical – includes drugs like inhalants
  • Illegal – includes drugs like marijuana, opiates (like heroin), stimulants (like methamphetamines and cocaine) and hallucinogens (like acid)

What is the cause of drug abuse?

There is not just one single cause of drug abuse, there are numerous different reasons as to why people result into substance abuse.

  • The most common reason why people abuse drugs is to “get high.” Adolescents and preadolescents can become involved in experimenting with drugs. However, only a small percentage of people who experiment with drugs become drug abusers. The desire to get high may be from an underlying psychological disease such as depression or anxiety. Other risk factors for drug use also include the pressures of coping with school, work, or family tensions.
  • Drug abuse by pregnant women results in the developing baby being exposed to these same drugs. The baby may develop birth defects. The baby may be born with an addiction and go into withdrawal. The baby may also be born with a disease associated with drug abuse such as HIV/AIDS.
  • People with current or a history of specific medical conditions, such as chronic pain from cancer, can become dependent on certain drugs. Many psychiatric diseases can be complicated by substance abuse. Similarly, drug abuse may be a sign of a more serious mental health problem. Individuals who fit the diagnostic criteria for both a substance abuse and other mental health disorders are often referred to as having a dual diagnosis.
  • Athletes have abused a variety of agents, such as steroids, to enhance muscle mass or improve athletic ability. Athletes have also abused amphetamines to make them feel more powerful and to mask pain so they can continue to play even with injuries. Drug testing programs have reduced this problem to some extent, but drug use among athletes is still an issue around the world.

Drug addiction

Drug addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the drug addict and those around them. Relapse meaning that an individual may be able to stop, but it is common that they will eventually result back into drugs. Drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Although the individual did have the willpower to begin taking the drugs, as time progresses and you keep taking the drugs, your brain becomes so used to it that it becomes almost impossible for you to stop. Repeated drug abuse can impair a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, and at the same time create an intense impulse to take drugs.

The first step into drug addiction is the act of voluntarily taking drugs. As time progresses, the ability for a person to stop is compromised. Taking the drug and looking for it becomes a force of habit. This is due to the fact that the individual was exposed to the effects of long term drug exposure on brain function. Addiction affects parts of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior.

Many people view drug abuse and addiction as a social problem and view those people as morally weak. One belief is that drug abusers should only stop taking drugs if they are willing to change their behavior.

People do not understand how complex drug addiction really is. It affects more than just the outside of a person, it affects their insides as well. It affects their brains and causes chemical imbalances which is the cause of behavior changes. Putting all of this into consideration, stopping drug addiction is not an easy task and it is more than just a matter of willpower. Drug addiction can be successfully treated to people who want to get back to living a normal life and stop their drug use.

Treatment

Due to these changes in the brain, it is a challenge for a person to stop abusing drugs. It is not at all impossible to treat this disease, there are indeed treatments that can help counteract the abuse that the drugs had done to your brain and make it well functional again. The combination of medical treatments and behavioral therapy is the best way to take charge in defeating this disease.

Considering that this is a chronic disease, an individual cannot just stop using drugs for a couple days and then be cured. Most patients need long term and repeated care in order to stop their addiction and recover their lives. The addiction treatment must help the person to; stop using drugs, stay drug free, and be productive in family, work, and in society.

For an effective drug treatment it must form the basis of:

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  • No single treatment is right for everyone.
  • People need to have quick access to treatment.
  • Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug use.
  • Staying in treatment long enough is critical.
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment.
  • Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.
  • Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
  • Treatment should address other possible mental disorders.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.
  • Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously.
  • Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as teach them about steps they can take to reduce their risk of these illnesses.

Drug addiction is treated by detoxification, which is the process by which the body rids itself of a drug, behavioral counseling, medication (for opioid, tobacco, or alcohol addiction), evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and long term follow ups to prevent relapse. Follow ups and the care during the treatment is crucial to a successful recovery. The treatment should also include mental and medical services as well. To get an individual’s family involved, follow up care could also be recommended for community or family based recovery support systems.

Medications can be used to treat withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat co-occurring conditions. In the withdrawal process, medications help subdue withdrawal symptoms during detoxification. Detoxification is not in itself “treatment,” but instead it is the first step in the process. Patients who do not receive any further treatment after detoxification usually fall back into the habit of their drug use. To prevent relapse prevention, patients can use medications to help re-establish normal brain function and decrease cravings. Medications are available for treatment of opioid, which includes heroin, prescription pain relievers, tobacco, which is nicotine, and alcohol addiction. Scientists are developing other medications to treat stimulants, which include cocaine and methamphetamine, and cannabis, which is marijuana, addiction. People who use more than one drug, which is very common in cases nowadays, need treatment for all of the substances they use. Which means that they need multiple treatments instead of just one.

Behavioral therapies are used to treat drug addiction as well. These therapies help patients modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, increase healthy life skills, and persist with other forms of treatment, such as medication for example. Patients are able to receive different type of treatment and seek help differently as well.

Outpatient behavioral treatment includes a wide variety of programs for patients who visit a behavioral health counselor on a daily basis. Most of the programs involve individual or group drug counseling, or sometimes both. These programs typically offer forms of behavioral therapy such as:

Cognitive-this is a behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs.

Multidimensional family therapy—which was developed for adolescents with drug abuse problems as well as their families—which addresses a range of influences on their drug abuse patterns and is designed to improve overall family functioning.

Motivational interviewing, which makes the most of people’s readiness to change their behavior and enter treatment.

Motivational incentives, which is also known as contingency management, uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from drugs.

Treatment is sometimes severe at first, where patients attend multiple outpatient sessions each week. After completing intensive treatment, patients transition to regular outpatient treatment, which meets less often and for fewer hours per week to help sustain their recovery. The point of rehabilitation is to be able to function in society on your own without the help of any drugs or alcohol. Also, an individual should not become dependent on the therapy sessions and treatment being done during their rehabilitation process.

Inpatient or residential treatment can also be very effective, especially for those with more severe problems which also includes co-occurring disorders. Licensed residential treatment facilities offer 24-hour structured and intensive care, including safe housing and medical attention. Residential treatment facilities may use a variety of therapeutic approaches, and they are generally aimed at helping the patient live a drug-free, crime-free lifestyle after treatment. Examples of residential treatment settings include:

  • Therapeutic communities, which are highly structured programs in which patients remain at a residence, typically for 6 to 12 months. The entire community, including treatment staff and those in recovery, act as key agents of change, influencing the patient’s attitudes, understanding, and behaviors associated with drug use.
  • Shorter-term residential treatment, which typically focuses on detoxification as well as providing initial intensive counseling and preparation for treatment in a community-based setting.
  • Recovery housing, which provides supervised, short-term housing for patients, often following other types of inpatient or residential treatment. Recovery housing can help people make the transition to an independent life—for example, helping them learn how to manage finances or seek employment, as well as connecting them to support services in the community.

What is drug dependence?

Substance dependence also known as drug dependence is an adaptive state that develops from repeated drug administration, and which results in withdrawal upon cessation of drug use. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. With repeated use of heroin, dependence also occurs. Dependence develops when the neurons adapt to the repeated drug exposure and only function normally in the presence of the drug. When the drug is withdrawn, several physiological reactions occur. These can be mild or even life threatening. This is known as the withdrawal syndrome. In the case of drugs, withdrawal can be very serious and the abuser will use the drug again to avoid the withdrawal syndrome. The signs and symptoms depend on what drugs the individual was using/on and abusing. A person who has not abused drugs extensively may experience unpleasant symptoms and may seek help from family members and friends.

  • Most agents cause a change in level of consciousness — usually a decrease in responsiveness. A person using drugs may be hard to awaken or may act bizarrely.
  • Suppression of brain activity can be so intense that the person may stop breathing, which can obviously cause death.
  • Backing up, the person may be agitated, angry, anxious, and unable to sleep. Hallucinations are possible as well.
  • Abnormal vital signs (temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure) are possible and can be life threatening too. Vital sign readings can be increased, decreased, or absent completely.
  • Sleepiness, confusion, and comas are common. Because of this decline in alertness, the drug abuser is at risk for assault or rape, robbery, and accidental death.
  • Skin can be cool and sweaty or hot and dry.
  • Chest pain is possible and can be caused by heart or lung damage from drug abuse.
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are possible. Vomiting blood, or blood in bowel movements, can be life threatening.
  • Withdrawal syndromes are variable depending on the agent but can be life threatening.
  • People with drug dependency often develop a tolerance to their drug of choice in that it takes more of the substance over time to achieve the desired effect.
  • Sharing IV needles among people can transmit infectious diseases, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and hepatitis types B and C.
  • Many common household drugs and chemicals can be abused. Gasoline and other hydrocarbons are frequently abused by adolescents and preadolescents as inhalants. Over-the-counter drugs, such as cold medications, are commonly taken in excessive doses by adolescents and young adults to get high. Prescription medications are additional examples of drugs that are abused and that can be obtained illegally (without a prescription).
  • Amphetamines and cocaine cause impotence in men. Sildenafil, which is Viagra, has been used by users of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other and amphetamines to counteract impotence. Because Viagra is generally prescribed for middle-aged and older men, a younger person must be questioned as to why he thinks he has a need for Viagra.

Understanding addiction

Addiction involves craving for something in a great manner, loss of control over time of usage, and continuing to be involved with it despite the consequences that follow with it. It changes the brain, first by changing how an individual registers pleasure, and then it affects the way that person learns and motivates themselves.
Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. Addiction can hijack your brain and make a person do things they would not normally do without the substance they are addicted to at that moment in time.

A lot of people choose not to understand addiction because it is too much to properly understand. Instead, they judge stereotypes and they are more than likely incorrect with their accusations. What most people do not know is that it takes more than just good intentions and strong will to stop an addiction for a substance.

There is also confusion on how one person can get addicted while another cannot get addicted. There is not a way to tell if one individual is going to get addicted or not. The risk of addiction is affected by a number of factors in which include individual biology, social environment, and age or stage of development. The more risk factors an individual has the more likely they are to get addicted to drugs or alcohol.

  • In biology, the genes that people are born with—in combination with environmental influences—account for about half of their addiction vulnerability. Additionally, gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may influence risk for drug abuse and addiction.
  • Within their environment, a person’s environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to socioeconomic status and quality of life in general. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, stress, and quality of parenting can greatly influence the occurrence of drug abuse and the escalation to addiction in a person’s life.
  • In development, genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction vulnerability. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to more serious abuse, which poses a special challenge to adolescents. Because areas in their brains that govern decision making, judgment, and self-control are still developing, adolescents may be especially prone to risk-taking behaviors, including trying drugs of abuse.

Insights

  • Nearly 23 million Americans—almost one in 10—are addicted to alcohol or other drugs.
  • More than two-thirds of people with addiction abuse alcohol.
  • The top three drugs causing addiction are marijuana, opioid (narcotic) pain relievers, and cocaine

In 2013, an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older—9.4 percent of the population—had used an illicit drug in the past month. This number is up from 8.3 percent in 2002. The increase mostly reflects a recent rise in use of marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug.

Marijuana use has increased since 2007. In 2013, there were 19.8 million current users—about 7.5 percent of people aged 12 or older—up from 14.5 million (5.8 percent) in 2007.

Use of most drugs other than marijuana has stabilized over the past decade or has declined. In 2013, 6.5 million Americans aged 12 or older (or 2.5 percent) had used prescription drugs non-medically in the past month. Prescription drugs include pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. And 1.3 million Americans (0.5 percent) had used hallucinogens (a category that includes ecstasy and LSD) in the past month.

Cocaine use has gone down in the last few years. In 2013, the number of current users aged 12 or older was 1.5 million. This number is lower than in 2002 to 2007 (ranging from 2.0 million to 2.4 million).

Methamphetamine use was higher in 2013, with 595,000 current users, compared with 353,000 users in 2010.

Putting aside the consequences drug and alcohol addiction can bring to an individual, it also impacts society at large. Estimated facts of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United States, including productivity and health- and crime-related costs, exceed $600 billion each year. This includes approximately $193 billion for illicit drugs, $193 billion for tobacco, and $235 billion for alcohol. As confounding as these numbers are, they do not fully describe the breadth of destructive public health and safety implications of drug abuse and addiction, such as family disintegration, loss of employment, failure in school, domestic violence, and child abuse. Taking this into consideration, an individual who is in search of help and rehabilitation from drug and alcohol abuse is not only helping themselves rise, but also helping society in the process.

How to get help

Drug or alcohol addiction, or even addiction to both drugs and alcohol, can be treated. Medical and psychological research has determined new ways to help addicts who have the will to recover, get clean and sober, and stay that way.

Getting addiction help usually begins when an addict faces up to his or her addiction problem and realizes that assistance is necessary to fight it. However, even addicts who are forced into getting sober, such as teenagers compelled to enter rehabilitation by their parents or educators, or drug abusers with sentences for drug-related crimes that include addiction treatment, find that they are able to get clean and sober.

Rehabilitation treatment, which can include medical support for overcoming physical addiction and other physical effects of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as counseling to overcome the root cause of an addiction disorder, is the key to getting sober and rebuilding a healthy, drug-free life. Realizing that you or someone you care about needs addiction help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength, and we are here to help you find the help you need to get clean and sober.

Although it may seem impossible at times, addiction, no matter what substance an individual is addicted to, is a preventable disease. The most effective programs that have been reported by prior addicts have involved families, schools, communities, and the media all of which being able to effectively reduce drug abuse. Nowadays, there are many social events and trends that affect the way individuals view drugs, meaning that youths do not see the harmful and dangerous side of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Education is a perfect start in teaching the youth and general public the dangers and consequences that follow with drug and alcohol abuse.

Why is addiction help necessary?

Substance addiction is a brain disorder that responds to treatment at a manner that can help fix it. Once an individual realizes that the use of mind altering substances is more harmful to the body than it is enjoyable, than they can start their journey into a clean and sober lifestyle. But a patient needs to overcome both the causes and effects of substance abuse.

Addiction should be treated as quickly as possible. An addict does not have to experience any disastrous personal, social, financial, or health-related shocks from his or her addiction in order for treatment to succeed. In fact, treatment is often more successful when it is started at earlier stages of addiction.

Some of the signs that recreational substance use or abuse has developed into addiction are as follows:

  1. Real or imagined inability to cope with daily life without use of an addictive substance
  2. Using mind-altering substances in dangerous situations, such as before driving a car or operating potentially dangerous work or home equipment
  3. Inability to achieve the same mind-altering effects without increasing the intake of an addictive substance
  4. Claiming the ability to get clean and sober when in reality an addiction disorder is becoming more severe
  5. Lying or committing crimes, including stealing, fraud, and attempting to obtain unlawful prescriptions, in order to get hold of an addictive and mind-altering drug
  6. Developing acute or chronic health problems, such as liver damage from excessive alcohol use
  7. Altering the form or chemistry of addictive substances to obtain a faster or longer-lasting effect. For example, crushing pills into powder for snorting or injection is a popular technique.
  8. Using substances in risky ways, such as using drugs or alcohol that may be contaminated or injecting drugs with unsterilized needles

Treatment programs

The basic premises of addiction treatment programs are the same, regardless of the specific substance addiction that needs to be treated or whether the treatment is conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Impatient recovery, which is when the patient is receiving treatment/help within the treatment center, is usually the method that is preferred for serious cases of addiction. These centers consists of trained medical personnel that specialize in the treatment of physical addiction. The first step of the residential rehabilitation process is often known as detox or detoxification. Detoxification is actually a misnomer, as medical treatment for physical addiction does not rid the body of toxins. Instead, it aims to lessen the impact of withdrawal symptoms. It helps the patient to get clean and sober by tackling the physical effects of substance addiction.

Medical detoxification therefore consists of administering safer and less addictive medications that are similar to the effects of highly addictive substances on the balance of brain chemicals. These substances, which can include certain sedatives and even a medication usually used for treating high blood pressure, treat the need that the body has developed for high levels of mood-altering natural brain chemicals. Once this need has been mitigated as much as possible, the focus of residential treatment turns to behavior modification therapy and counseling. The medication help re-intact your brain to normal and also balance back out your chemicals in your brain that were altered during the intake of drugs and alcohol.

The behavioral and psychological phase of rehabilitation treatment begins with an assessment, in which professional therapists at the rehabilitation center discuss with the patient the personal, social, and psychological factors behind his or her addiction disorder. Once the addiction counselors understand what led the patient to develop an addiction disorder, they work with the patient to develop healthy strategies to help cope in order to deal with these personal and environmental problems. This is often done using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT), an effective technique that allows patients to observe and understand their thoughts and feelings and how they impact their behavior.

Residential treatment programs also include sports, art, music, meditation and other self-realization techniques that help patients get clean and sober. This helps them to get their mind off what they had obsessed over for so long. While research shows that a 90-day stay is ideal for a residential rehabilitation program, patients who cannot participate in full-time treatment for this recommended length of time can benefit from outpatient addiction help. Outpatient treatment can be useful either as a follow-up to a stay of any length in a residential treatment center, or as an alternative to inpatient treatment for milder cases of addiction.

Although impatient therapy is recommended, there are some cases where they give out outpatient therapy. When outpatient therapy is given instead of residential rehabilitation, it usually starts with medical treatment for physical addiction that is administered in an office or clinic. Physicians who operate such practices must obtain special licenses so that they can administer medications such as buprenorphine, which lessen the impact of withdrawal symptoms, in their offices or clinics. Outpatient counseling is usually started as soon as possible, even if medical treatment must continue along with counseling in order to make sure that the patient is indeed able to get clean and sober without being tempted to return to drug use. Outpatients are not able to be closely monitored due to the fact that they are not in the rehabilitation facility. They need to work with their counselors and themselves in order to rehabilitate themselves.

Drug intervention

A drug intervention is a structured and solution oriented process which is to convince the patient to seek help about their drug and alcohol problem and overcoming it. Usually, an interventionist is called in to guide the patients before, during, and after the process.

An intervention normally in the following;

  • Make a plan. A family member or friend proposes an intervention and forms a planning group.
  • Gather information.
  • Form the intervention team.
  • Decide on specific consequences.
  • Make notes on what to say.
  • Hold the intervention meeting.
  • Follow up

Partial Hospitalization Programs

A Partial Hospitalization Program, also known as a Day and/or Night Substance Abuse Program, offers useful services to people who are suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction. Partial hospitalization programs offer intense treatment in a less structured environment than a residential inpatient program, and more structure than an intensive outpatient program. The goal overall of a PHP or Day and/or Night program is to allow recovery from drugs and alcohol to take place in an environment that allows the most effective transition back into an addict’s or alcoholic’s community. Its main goal is to properly and effectively prepare the patient to function well in society on their own. Understanding how a partial hospitalization program works is critical to know if this plan or something more or less intense is required when seeking help for addiction.

PHP also includes treatment therapies of different sorts.

  • Individual therapy: Private sessions with an expert addiction counselor seek to allow the patient to explore underlying causes and triggers of drug abuse or alcoholism and works to arrest denial that may be occurring about the extent of the addiction, the prognosis, or the patient’s own abilities to achieve a lifetime of recovery.
  • Group Therapy: These sessions involve a professional addiction treatment facilitator and a group of people in various stages of recovery. Individuals are encouraged to enter into group discussions about experiences, feelings, aspirations, coping skills, or anything else related to the treatment of addiction or alcoholism. These group sessions help to form the foundation of a strong support network that will be essential for continued recovery after the person leaves the PHP program. These group sessions normally consist of individuals that have similar problems with addiction like the others in their group.
  • Family therapy: It can be very difficult to evaluate oneself- even when being completely honest. This is one reason why including family members in the therapy process is so critical. Additionally, family members can sometimes be the cause of or enabling factor in a person’s addictions and so addressing this in a therapeutic environment is critical.

A partial hospitalization program is recommended for people who have already been through and completed a residential inpatient program and need transitional living before being able to fully live on their own in their community. PHP is also a good choice for someone who needs more structure and supervision than what an intensive outpatient can provide, but less than what a residential impatient provides.

Intensive outpatient

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (also known as IOP for “Intensive Outpatient Program”) is a primary treatment program recommended in some circumstances by a clinical and medical assessment. IOP may be recommended for those who do not need medically-supervised detox. IOP can also enable people in recovery to continue their recovery therapies following successful detox, on a part-time yet intensive schedule, designed to accommodate work and family life.

There are different areas that are covered during this program:

  • Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Or PAWS
  • Relapse Prevention Skills
  • How to Manage Urges and Cravings
  • Understanding the Brain Chemistry of Addiction
  • Progression of the Disease of Addiction
  • Introduction To the Twelve Steps
  • Spirituality
  • Stages of Change
  • Focus On Co-Occurring Disorders and the Effects On Addiction and Recovery
  • the Family Education Program

How long does it last?

Clients are assigned to a counselor that will check in with them throughout their time in IOP. Typically, a client will start Intensive Outpatient Program 5 days per week and then taper down to 3 days per week. Total length of treatment varies, but usually is around 6 – 8 weeks. It all depends on an individual’s preferences on what they decide to go through with, whether it be the inpatient program or outpatient program.

The difference between IOP and OP

Intensive outpatient program normally lies between inpatient and outpatient treatments. The main difference between intensive outpatient and outpatient is the amount of time spent in treatment and related activities each week. Most intensive outpatient programs require 12 hours a week of related activities and treatments.

Intensive outpatient programs are a great source for people who need a higher level of care than a non-intensive outpatient program can provide, but whose conditions are not quite severe enough to require an inpatient program. They are also a good source for those who are transitioning from the inpatient program to independent living

IOP vs PHP

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) are two options for people who have either completed residential, which is inpatient, treatment or for various reasons, others who personally or professionally, require an outpatient setting.

Unlike residential or inpatient treatment where patients spend 30 days or more at the facility, individuals in an outpatient program are not required to spend the night. Treatment sessions in both PHP and IOP are administered during the day, with the difference being the number of hours and days spent at the facility.

A Partial Hospitalization Program is good for individuals leaving residential treatment who understand that while they have more work to do in addiction recovery, a 24-hour setting is no longer necessary.

It is quite common for patients to step down to PHP after inpatient treatment and sometimes again to IOP. For others, PHP might be a needed resource after a relapse of symptoms that bring the disease of addiction out of remission. Though programs vary, PHP is generally 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.

In an Intensive Outpatient Program, therapy sessions are typically 3 hours a day, 3 days per week. While IOP can involve one on one counseling, there is a focus on group therapy.

These sessions aim to help patients develop relapse prevention skills, as well as learn techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy or dialectical behavior therapy, depending on each person’s needs. The lengths of IOP programs differ from person to person as they start to manage a successful recovery from addiction.

In both PHP and IOP, patients sometimes have individual treatment plans tailored to their specific needs. Treatment is administered by physicians, psychologists, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Both PHP and IOP programs are more cost effective than a residential recovery program, but they all share the same goal of sobriety and relapse prevention. Not all people who misuse substances or alcohol are considered addicted, but they may be at risk of becoming addicted. Outpatient programs can help them before it’s too late.

Sober living homes

Sober living homes are group homes for people who are recovering from addiction issues. People who live in sober homes have to follow certain rules and contribute to the home by doing chores. Most importantly, residents must stay sober throughout their stay in the home. Most of these homes are privately owned, although some group homes are owned by businesses and sometimes even charity organizations. The homes are normally located in a quiet area to help ensure that the patients have a peaceful environment in order for their recovery process to be made a little easier. Sober living homes are different from rehab centers. While in rehab centers, patients have less freedom and have a more intensive recovery experience. Individuals in sober living homes can normally go as they please but as long as they follow certain rules. For example, some homes require their patients to have a curfew or they may even require them to get a job and work during the day. They are also subject to random drug tests to ensure that they have remained sober during this time. People who live in this type of facility are expected to look after and take care of themselves, which is a step forward into living on their own after they are done living in the home. This is an important step into recovery for sober living homes because addiction causes people to act in irresponsible ways, and the friends and families of addicts often enable them by supporting them. People living in sober homes normally have to pay their own rent, buy their own food, and do the same things they would do for themselves if they lived in a regular home. But on top of that, need to follow rules and agree to random drug tests. There is no restriction on who may live there, although most of their patients have already gone through a rehab program before going to sober living. Residents must be able to remain sober in order to live in a sober living home. So, those who have already been subjected to tips and techniques on how to remain sober are more likely to benefit from this program than someone who is still having difficulty staying sober. This is not a requirement to live in a sober living home, but it is said to be the best technique and the next step in living a sober life on their own.

Aftercare

When you are finished with rehab, there is still more work to do after being able to live independently. The time after rehab is complete, individuals are still at risk of relapse. Having a co-occurring disorder, a mental health condition that occurs along with a substance use disorder, increases the risk of falling back into addictive behaviors and self-destructive patterns. Aftercare programs help to lower that risk of relapse and keep moving forward to the continuance of a drug free lifestyle.

The quality of the aftercare that you receive can affect your experience afterwards. It can affect the chances of you staying sober or not. From the time you enroll in rehab to treat alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, bipolar or obsessive-compulsive disorder, your treatment team should help prepare you for the days following your graduation. With the right kind of assistance and therapeutic support, you can maintain your hard-won sobriety and build a solid foundation for recovery.

Relapse prevention

Relapse is a symptom of addiction. It is when an individual quits resulting to a substance after being addicted to it for a period of time and then ends up going back to it/resuming the use of a particular substance. If an individual has a pre-occurring condition like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, it is more likely for them to relapse because they believe it will help them cope with their condition.

Effective relapse program

  • Learning about your triggers. There are a lot of environmental, social and psychological factors that can trigger substance abuse. An episode of depression, a flashback to an abusive situation, a conflict in your marriage or a stressful public event may drive you to turn back to drugs or alcohol. As part of relapse prevention, you should learn how to identify these stressors.
  • Coping with stressors and cravings. After graduating from rehab, you will be faced with a lot of situations that you may not have considered during treatment. Getting a new job, starting a new relationship or moving to a new home may leave you in an emotionally vulnerable state. Counseling sessions and support groups can help you cope with these high-risk situations.
  • Thinking through the outcome of a relapse. Many recovering addicts go back to drugs or alcohol with the expectations that these chemicals will make them feel better. In fact, drinking and drugging usually result in unpleasant or dangerous outcomes, such as an overdose, emergent medical treatment, loss of a relationship or incarceration. A relapse prevention plan teaches participants to evaluate the potential outcome of a slip before taking that first drink or picking up drugs.
  • Keeping a lapse from turning into a relapse. A minor slip does not have to turn into a major relapse if you seek help immediately and take steps to get back to your program. Because the chances of relapse are so high, it is important to learn how to cope with the occasional slip if it does occur.

Aftercare treatment

Recovery from drug abuse and addiction doesn’t stop when a treatment period ends. At its core, aftercare should be considered a type of continued treatment, which immediately follows a relatively shorter period of addiction treatment care, such as inpatient rehab or intensive outpatient treatment.

Aftercare plan

A quality inpatient program will help their patients to develop a set of aftercare requirements and goals for each patient based on specific patient needs and which program the patient had went through.

Examples of some of the factors leading up to and involving many after plans:

  • Relapse prevention strategy drawn up and rehearsed prior to the end of initial treatment
  • Prescription for consistent participation in addiction support / self-help groups (frequently 12-step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous)
  • Regularly scheduled outpatient follow-up appointments with a clinician / counselor for continued therapy
  • When needed, arrangements for a controlled living environment post-treatment – halfway houses, sober living, etc.
  • Recommended or required drug testing
  • Monitoring: can be done during scheduled appointments, on the phone or email. The information age has ushered in a variety of newer methods for continued patient care, including video appointments, text message check-ins and various other support and tracking apps.

Recovery is not easy

It is very important to find a supportive environment to continue to assist the individual in avoiding the temptation. This involves the members of the support system removing any mind-altering substances from the home, avoiding using intoxicating substances in front of the recovering individual, and encouraging full compliance with the aftercare plan.

Recovery never ends

Recovery is a lifelong process and does not end upon completing therapy or rehab. To continue getting the help you need, continue it by getting involved in an aftercare program. If the individual were to stop going to therapy and taking the medication they need, they could and most likely will resume their addiction back up and the recovery process will have to start back up again, but this time it will be harder and longer. The process will restart if a relapse occurs.

 

By | 2017-11-11T21:31:35+00:00 November 11th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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