What Causes Addiction?
Drugs and alcohol impact various parts of the brain and body. Many of them cause the brain to release large amounts of serotonin and/or dopamine, the brain’s “feel good” chemicals. The chemical release is what causes that euphoric “high” feeling, and people begin to crave that feeling again and again. Eventually, the brain gets so used to the chemical release that it starts to rely on drugs not to feel high, but to feel normal or okay. As a result, those who regularly use drugs may feel sick or depressed if they don’t have access to drugs.
Alcohol is by far the most common addiction in the US, excluding addictions to nicotine and tobacco.
Alcohol is widely available, and people can drink alcohol in a variety of contexts. Parties and other social gatherings commonly have alcoholic beverages. While many people can have the occasional glass of wine or can of beer without developing an addiction, many others – especially those with the right genetic predispositions – develop addictions, relying on alcohol to the point of dependence.
6.2% of adults in the US have an alcohol use disorder.
The United States fell into an opioid crisis in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies claimed that opioids were not addictive. Believing this information, doctors prescribed opioids freely for patients who experienced chronic pain. Once the country collectively realized that opioids are, in fact, extremely addictive, millions of people found themselves with addictions to pain medication. Most of the time, an addiction to opioids begins with a legitimate prescription for pain medicine. Those who develop addictions might try to access drugs through illicit means such as doctor shopping or purchasing pills illegally. Sometimes, people develop an addiction without their own prescriptions. They might steal or buy medication from relatives who do have opioid prescriptions, for example.
Do you think you might have an addiction? Call 800-492-QUIT for help.
Heroin is a street drug that has a similar effect to prescription opioids. Because heroin is chemically similar to opioids, many people turn to heroin when they can no longer access prescription medication. Both opioids and heroin have painful and dangerous withdrawal processes. People with these addictions experience symptoms such as:
- Stomach problems
The list of symptoms goes on, making quitting a very difficult endeavor. Treatment, therefore, requires medication to ease the symptoms as well as consistent structure and support.
Unlike the other drugs on this list, cocaine is a stimulant instead of a depressant. While depressants create a sense of relaxation by slowing down the central nervous system, stimulants create a sense of energy by speeding it up. Cocaine is often abused in clubs and parties, although some may start to rely on cocaine to finish assignments or other types of work. Others may switch to cocaine after developing a tolerance to prescription stimulants like Adderall. While the withdrawal process for cocaine is less intense than the withdrawal process for other drugs on this list, cocaine is still highly addictive, and breaking the addiction requires focused treatment.
What to Do if You Have an Addiction
If you have an addiction to one of these or any other drugs, the first thing you should do is seek help and support. Understand that addiction is a chronic illness, and there is no more shame in getting help for addiction than there is in getting help for another chronic illness like heart disease.
If you’re addicted to a drug with a difficult withdrawal process, start by seeking out medical detox. When you detox in a medical facility, doctors can provide medication to help ease your withdrawal symptoms. Medical staff will be nearby in case of emergency, and you’ll also be kept as comfortable as possible.
After detox, inpatient or outpatient rehab can provide a fresh start, with different types of therapy to help you deal with your addiction. After rehab, you should still participate in therapies such as group therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Long-term maintenance treatment can help people with addictions achieve success.
If you know that you need help with an addiction, and you need a place to start, Rehab Info is here to help. When you start searching for rehab and other treatment, you’ll notice that you have a lot of options. How will you decide which path is the right one? What factors will you need to consider? At Rehab Info, we can answer those questions.