Few things are as insidious and dangerous as drugs. Often masquerading as helpful or even safe, drugs are only slightly useful in comparison to the harm they cause, and they are not entirely safe. While it is usually quite obvious to see how addiction has damaged the substance abuser’s life, one commonly overlooked factor is the other lives it destroys by association – specifically the lives of the substance abuser’s family members and friends. Many family members often find that their life is destroyed with concern and worry over the substance abuser’s deteriorating life and health, and they are often plagued with guilt or frustration over the substance abuser’s inability to recognize the problem, accept help and make the much-needed changes in their life.
Drug and alcohol addiction is not only damaging the lives of individuals and their families but according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse it is also costing the nation over $600 billion every year in crime, lost work productivity and healthcare. It is estimated that tobacco products and illicit drugs are each responsible for $193 billion of these costs, while alcohol is in charge of $235 billion. With so much apparent damage caused by drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, one may wonder why more people don’t seem to understand the danger and abstain from drug and alcohol use and abuse. As it is, drug and alcohol addiction continues to spread, epidemic-like, throughout the nation.
The Truth About Drugs and Drug Use
It is a sad fact that few people, including addicts themselves, truly understand drugs and the effects they create in the human body. Some common misconceptions or beliefs are the ideas that substance abuse and addiction occurs because an individual lacks the willpower to make a change, or that addiction is a disease that a person may never actually recover from, but can only hope to live with one day at a time. Especially when these ideas are spread or supported by medical professionals, it can be hard for an individual to understand the true nature of addiction. Drug education has proven a highly effective tool in preventing or resolving drug addiction when it provides people with the truth about drugs.
Drugs are substances that, once ingested, produce physiological changes in the body. Most drugs, both illicit and prescription, are designed to either numb an undesirable sensation or heighten a desirable sensation or both. To put it more plainly, drugs are often turned to when an individual has encountered a problem in life, either physical, mental or emotional, for which they feel they have no other solution. Even in the case of powerful prescription painkillers that can reduce the pain experienced by a cancer patient, it is important to remember that drugs do not solve the problem for which they are taken. Instead, they can make the individual temporarily feel as though the problem doesn’t exist or isn’t as important. For a brief time, drugs boost the individual to a level that is higher than the average they were previously at. Therein also lies the secret behind their abuse.
When the temporary drug effects wear off a short time after they’ve been taken, the individual does not just return to the state of normal that they were previously in, they usually revert to a new normal that is slightly lower than the previous state they had been in. Furthermore, the problem they had hoped to “handle” with drug use is still very much there, and sometimes even exacerbated by drug use. A prime example of this is the individual who uses drugs to numb the upset they feel after a fight with their spouse, only to discover that their drug use results in a new, bigger upset with their spouse. Since the individual still does not possess an alternate solution and since the drugs temporarily made him feel euphoric, happy and relieved, the person’s solution is to take more drugs. Seeing as how their starting “normal” was slightly lower than previously, their drug high is also slightly smaller than the first one. The change is so minute, however, that few individuals detect it. It is because of these ever so slight changes that a person may be suffering horribly because of drug use and yet deny that anything is wrong or that they need help.
Over time, constant drug use and abuse have depressed the individual’s “normal” condition so low that even their highest drug high fails to restore them to the normal they had enjoyed before drug use. Individuals around the substance abuser often notice marked changes in the substance abuser’s mood, appearance, and actions as a result of their drug use. The individual himself may be aware of some of the damaging effects of his drug use, but is usually unaware of all of the harmful effects that they have caused to self and others. They may felt guilty about their drug use, but after several attempts to stop on their own or even with the help of rehabilitation treatment have failed, they may have gotten it into their head that help just isn’t possible for them.
Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction
At some point during drug use, the individual’s body becomes tolerant of the drug chemicals. This means that the same amount of drug fails to produce the same desired effect, and the person must take higher doses of the drug. In some cases, this is when substance abusers seek out other more powerful, and usually more dangerous, drugs. The increased dose of drug chemicals then leads to another, a more serious condition wherein the body becomes dependent on the drug. The individual’s choice to use or not use drugs is no longer relevant, and his body now demands that he maintain a certain level of drug in his system and punishes him with uncomfortable cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Many drug addicts indicate that they think of nothing but obtaining and using more drugs from the moment they wake up in the morning until the time they fall into restless sleep at night.
The truth is that an addicted individual is not in this condition of drug dependence or addiction because he lacks the willpower to abstain from drug use, rather he is in this condition because he has no control over physical cravings. In some cases, a drug-addicted individual desperately wants to regain control over their life and achieve sobriety and freedom from drugs but does not know how to do so. This is where rehabilitation treatment comes in.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment is designed to help an individual address and resolve all the causes and effects of drug use so that they can restore a healthy sobriety and maintain it into the future. Most rehabilitation treatment programs minimally include a detoxification program, counseling, drug and life skills education and aftercare. Where an individual may not be able to detox his body on his own, or realize why he turned to drugs in the first place and how to solve future life problems without drugs, rehabilitation can give them the support, care and encouragement they need to make it through these critical phases of treatment.
In trying to confront and resolve the crisis that is drug and alcohol addiction, it is important to bear in mind that both drug education and addiction treatment are vital. There is no reason that addiction must continue to destroy families and lives long into the future, especially since the solutions for preventing and resolving addiction stand before us.
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