What is drug addiction?
How quickly can I become addicted to
How do I know if someone is addicted
What is the difference between drug
addiction and drug abuse?
Is addiction hereditary?
What is Drug Addiction Treatment?
What is detoxification, or "detox"?
What is withdrawal? How long does it
Why Can't Drug Addicts Quit on Their
Where Do 12-Step or Self-Help
Programs Fit Into Treatment?
How Can Families Make a Difference
for Someone Needing Treatment?
How do I begin a treatment program
at Addiction Recovery Resources of
What is drug addiction?
Drug addiction is a complex brain
disease. It is characterized by drug
craving, seeking, and use that can
persist even in the face of
extremely negative consequences.
Drug-seeking may become compulsive
in large part as a result of the
effects of prolonged drug use on
brain functioning and, thus, on
behavior. For many people, relapses
are possible even after long periods
can I become addicted to a drug?
There is no easy answer to this. If
and how quickly you might become
addicted to a drug depends on many
factors including the biology of
your body. All drugs are potentially
harmful and may have
associated with their abuse. There
are also vast differences among
individuals in sensitivity to
various drugs. While one person may
use a drug one or many times and
suffer no ill effects, another
person may be particularly
vulnerable and overdose with first
use. There is no way of knowing in
advance how someone may react.
How do I know if
someone is addicted to drugs?
of Drug Use)
If a person is compulsively seeking
and using a drug despite negative
consequences, such as loss of job,
debt, physical problems brought on
by drug abuse, or family problems,
then he or she is probably addicted.
Seek professional help to determine
if this is the case and, if so, the
What is the
difference between drug addiction
and drug abuse?
The easiest way of defining drug abuse is observing that a
person uses a drug for something
other than a medically prescribed
purpose. That is, they have a habit
of taking a drug to “get high” or
“feel better.” They take more than
prescribed amounts. They take the
drugs for recreation.
Some “drugs” that are used for recreation may not be
prescription meds, or
over-the-counter medications, or
even street drugs. They can be
common, everyday chemicals. For
example, people inhale glue or
solvents to get high. People want to
have a mood change, to feel good.
Professional drug counselors will tell you that any use of
illegal drugs is drug abuse. Those
drugs are illegal because they are
potentially very addictive and
harmful to a person’s health. That
broadens our definition of drug
abuse even more. Therefore, any
illegal drug use, or any use of
prescription or non-prescription
medication use beyond what is
prescribed by a medical
professional, or any use of a
chemical to get high, is drug abuse.
Almost any substance can be abused and abuse or addiction is
possible. Cigarettes, caffeine and
other common, legal substances are
abused by people every day.
Sometimes the line between use and
abuse is fuzzy.
For example, people might go to the tavern after work and
have a couple of drinks with their
friends. Is that abuse? Some might
argue that it becomes abuse when it
becomes a regular, daily occurrence.
Too many cigarettes, too much
coffee, too many diet sodas. The
line is determined by the person.
There is plenty of evidence for a
connection between genetic endowment
and addiction to alcohol and drugs.
By analyzing patterns of
inheritance, researchers have
learned that heredity accounts for
about half of the risk that a person
will develop an addiction. Addiction
is a medical illness and develops in
the same way as many other
What is Drug
There are many addictive drugs, and treatments for specific
drugs can differ. Treatment also
varies depending on the
characteristics of the patient.
Problems associated with an
individual's drug addiction can vary
significantly. People who are
addicted to drugs come from all
walks of life. Many suffer from
mental health, occupational, health,
or social problems that make their
addictive disorders much more
difficult to treat. Even if there
are few associated problems, the
severity of addiction itself ranges
widely among people.
A variety of scientifically based
approaches to drug addiction
treatment exists. Drug addiction
treatment can include behavioral
therapy (such as counseling,
cognitive therapy, or
psychotherapy), medications, or
their combination. Behavioral
therapies offer people strategies
for coping with their drug cravings,
teach them ways to avoid drugs and
prevent relapse, and help them deal
with relapse if it occurs.
The best programs provide a
combination of therapies and other
services to meet the needs of the
individual patient, which are shaped
by such issues as age, race,
culture, sexual orientation, gender,
pregnancy, parenting, housing, and
employment, as well as physical and
Medications, such as
antidepressants, mood stabilizers,
or neuroleptics, may be critical for
treatment success when patients have
co-occurring mental disorders, such
as depression, anxiety disorder,
bipolar disorder, or psychosis.
Treatment can occur in a variety of
settings, in many different forms,
and for different lengths of time.
Because drug addiction is typically
a chronic disorder characterized by
occasional relapses, a short-term,
one-time treatment often is not
sufficient. For many, treatment is a
long-term process that involves
multiple interventions and attempts
detoxification, or "detox"?
Detoxification is the process of
allowing the body to rid itself of a
drug while managing the symptoms of
withdrawal. It is often the first
step in a drug treatment program and
should be followed by treatment with
a behavioral-based therapy and/or a
medication, if available. Detox
alone with no follow-up is not
What is withdrawal? How long does it
Withdrawal is the variety of
symptoms that occur after use of
some addictive drugs is reduced or
stopped. Length of withdrawal and
symptoms vary with the type of drug.
For example, physical symptoms of
heroin withdrawal may include:
restlessness, muscle and bone pain,
insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and
cold flashes. These physical
symptoms may last for several days,
but the general depression or
dysphoria (opposite of euphoria)
that often accompanies heroin
withdrawal may last for weeks. In
many cases withdrawal can be easily
treated with medications to ease the
symptoms, but treating withdrawal is
not the same as treating addiction.
Why Can't Drug
Addicts Quit on Their Own?
Nearly all addicted individuals believe in the beginning that
they can stop using drugs on their
own, and most try to stop without
treatment. However, most of these
attempts result in failure to
achieve long-term abstinence.
Research has shown that long-term
drug use results in significant
changes in brain function that
persist long after the individual
stops using drugs. These
drug-induced changes in brain
function may have many behavioral
consequences, including the
compulsion to use drugs despite
adverse consequences -- the defining
characteristic of addiction.
Understanding that addiction has
such an important biological
component may help explain an
individual's difficulty in achieving
and maintaining abstinence without
treatment. Psychological stress from
work or family problems, social cues
(such as meeting individuals from
one's drug-using past), or the
environment (such as encountering
streets, objects, or even smells
associated with drug use) can
interact with biological factors to
hinder attainment of sustained
abstinence and make relapse more
Where Do 12-Step or Self-Help Programs Fit Into
Self-help groups can complement and extend the effects of
professional treatment. The most
prominent self-help groups are those
affiliated with Alcoholics
Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and
Cocaine Anonymous, all of which are
based on the 12-step model, and
Smart Recovery and others not based
on the 12 steps.
Most drug addiction treatment
programs encourage patients to
participate in a self-help group
during and after formal treatment.
How Can Families Make a Difference for Someone Needing
Family and friends can play critical roles in motivating
individuals with drug problems to
enter and stay in treatment. Family
therapy is important, especially for
adolescents. Involvement of a family
member in an individual's treatment
program can strengthen and extend
the benefits of the program.
How do I begin a treatment program at Addiction
Recovery Resources of New Orleans?
Just call our Intake Coordinator at 866-399-HOPE or
504-780-2766, extension 113, to
schedule a free assessment that will
determine which of our programs is
right for you.