Drug Addiction

Medically reviewed by:

What Is Drug Addiction?

A drug addiction or substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic but treatable disease that affects your brain and behavior.

If you have a substance use disorder you are unable to control your use of a legal, illegal or prescription drug. If you have a dependency on a substance, you won’t be able to stop taking it even if it is causing negative effects on your life.

If you try to stop using a substance, you will experience uncomfortable and distressing withdrawal symptoms that affect your physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning.

Drug Addiction Symptoms

If you are concerned about a loved one’s potential addiction, some of the signs to look out for include:

Physical symptoms

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in weight
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Pinpoint or dilated pupils
  • Needle marks or changes in the skin

Behavioral changes and symptoms may include

  • Poor performance at school or work including absenteeism, poor decision making, conflict
  • Obsessive behavior
  • Disregard of consequences or reckless behavior
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Involuntary eye movement
  • Changes in social circles or activities
  • Secretive behavior including dishonesty, lying and stealing
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Financial problems

Psychological symptoms may be more difficult to identify in a loved one but may include

  • A negative self-image
  • Loss of motivation
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of self confidence
  • Apathy
  • Paranoia

If you have concerns over your own substance use, some of the signs of a dependency include

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using a substance
  • An inability to control your use of a substance
  • Cravings or strong urges to the use the drug
  • Obsessive thinking about the substance that interferes with your daily life
  • Using an increasing the amount of the substance
    Continuing to spend money on a drug even though you can’t afford to
  • Doing things that you wouldn’t do if you weren’t using the substance

Being aware of the eventual consequences to our bodies, minds and emotions will help us manage our curiosity and decline peer pressure. But are drugs really that easy to give up, just by saying “No, thanks”?

Depending on the type of drug, it is sometimes impossible to control the intake. Examples include prescribed medications, which are used during severe interventions or as pain-relievers for chronic illnesses.

The following section will give you more information on what types of substances are observed and what characteristics allow some of them to continue to riddle our society with the devastation that is addiction.

Defining Drugs

Drugs can be defined as any chemical substance that changes the way your mind or body works. A substance that changes the way you feel, behave or think would be classified as a drug. Some drugs are derived from natural sources like plants (cocaine, heroin, cannabis) while others are manufactured synthetically (amphetamines, LSD, benzodiazepines). Examples of drugs include:

  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Prescription medication
  • Illegal substances
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine (tobacco products)
  • Caffeine
  • Anabolic steroids

Substances that cause physiological and psychological changes

Drug addiction changes how you look, act and feel. It is marked by physical, behavioral and psychological symptoms that vary depending on the drug being abused.

Substances that cause tolerance

The more you use a substance, the more you will need to take to experience the same effects. This is known as a ‘tolerance’.

Substances that cause addiction

Repeated use of a drug changes your brain chemistry and leads to the development of an addiction. Drug addiction is considered a ‘relapsing disease’ and patients in recovery are at risk of relapse.

The Dangers of Drug Addiction & Abuse

Abusing drugs is associated with a range of risks and dangers. Some of the physical dangers that can occur include high blood pressure, an irregular heart rate, seizures, and damage to your internal organs.

Over time, you will develop a tolerance so you use more of the substance to achieve the same feeling. This has financial implications and can put you under financial strain. Financial problems may lead to other problems like stealing.

If you have a drug dependency you are more likely to engage in inappropriate behaviors like sharing needles, putting yourself and others at risk of diseases like hepatitis C or HIV. You may take sexual risks that could result in STDs or unwanted pregnancy.

Impaired coordination while under the influence may cause accidental or self-inflicted injuries.

What Is the Difference between Drug Addiction and Abuse?

‘Drug abuse’ is defined as using a substance in ways that you aren’t supposed to. You might:

  • Start using someone else’s prescription
  • Decide to use a bigger dose of a drug that has been prescribed for you
  • Use the substance in a different way to how it was prescribed, like crushing and smoking a pill that should be ingested
  • Use a substance to escape your day-to-day reality, manage stress or just feel better about your life.

Do You Need Help?

We can help you get better. Together, we can build up your confidence and you can regain control over your life!
Contact us now to ask about our addiction and abuse treatment programs now!

How Drugs Affect Us

Drug use results in short and long-term effects on the body, some of which can be permanent even after you stop taking the substance. The way you take a substance can influence how it affects you. Even if you consider yourself to be an occasional user, substances can affect your mental and physical wellbeing.

Depressants like alcohol, GHB, opiates and benzodiazepines slow down your central nervous system. Stimulants like nicotine, amphetamines, caffeine and cocaine speed up your central nervous system. Hallucinogens like LSD, ketamine and magic mushrooms give you a distorted sense of reality.

Physiological effects

Drug use is likely to cause cardiovascular disease, lung disease and diseases of the liver and kidneys, as your organs work harder and faster as a result of metabolizing the substance. You may be more susceptible to infections and experience respiratory problems if you smoke drugs or use substances that depress your respiratory system.

Loss of appetite is a common effect of many drugs, and this can lead to weight loss and impaired functioning of your brain and vital organs. Insomnia, sleep disturbances and vivid dreams and nightmares are common physical effects of drug use.

Psychological effects

When you use drugs they affect your brain, flooding it with dopamine and producing a ‘high’. Over time and with use, the effects of the substance interfere with the way your brain works, leading to cravings in the absence of the drug.

Drugs cause damage to:

  • Your prefrontal cortex which is responsible for social behavior and decision making
  • Your extended amygdala which is responsible for emotional processing. This results in anxiety and stress being triggered during drug withdrawal
  • Your basal ganglia, which means that you struggle to experience pleasure from anything other than your substance of choice.

Crime-related statistics

  • Data from the San Diego Association of Governments reveals that in 2016, 75% of adult males and 74% of adult females who were arrested that year had been under the influence of at least one illegal substance.
  • A research study carried out by SANDAG’s Criminal Justice Research Division found that crystal meth was the drug detected most frequently in offenders, with 55% of arrested males and 58% of arrested females testing positive for it.
  • In 2017, two thirds of people arrested had been under the influence of at least one drug.
  • In 2020, 1 155 610 arrests were made for violation of drug laws nationwide, with 86.7% of arrests made for possession of a controlled substance.

How Does Drug Addiction Affect My Family?

Drug addiction affects different family members in different ways but none of them are positive. Children who grow up in addicted households are statistically more likely to develop substance use disorders themselves.Drug addiction affects different family members in different ways but none of them are positive. Children who grow up in addicted households are statistically more likely to develop substance use disorders themselves.

Drug addiction causes economic and financial hardship for a family, as unemployment and the expense of maintaining a drug habit takes a hold. Legal issues are common if drug use results in criminality and brushes with the law.

Drug addiction causes emotional distress that affects family members differently. The addicted person may feel guilty, ashamed or resentful or may lash out at other members of the family. Family members will worry about the addicted person, increasing stress levels in the household. Conflict is common as different people may have different views on substance abuse and try to impose their ideals.

Family relations become strained when people take sides, defend the person with the dependency or isolate themselves in order to cope.

Learn More About Our Residential Rehab Program

Drug Overdose

Overdose as a result of taking too much of a drug or mixing a substance with other drugs or alcohol can kill you. When you go through withdrawal and stop using a drug, your tolerance lowers. If you start using the drug again, your risk of overdose is very high.

About Our Drug Addiction Treatment Center

Our drug addiction treatment center has been designed to treat substance use disorders on as many levels as possible. We provide holistic therapies and interventions that have been proven to yield the best long term results for patients in recovery. We offer you a customized drug addiction treatment experience to address your level of substance use, in order to meet your recovery goals.

Our 12-step facility includes:

  • Medically supported detox programs
  • Residential rehab programs in a luxurious environment
    Flexible outpatient programs
  • Individual and group therapies to address the causes of your addiction
  • Extended care such as support groups and alumni programs

Why Choose United Recovery CA for Drug Addiction and Abuse Treatment?

Our center has been designed for comfort and safety. We enable our patients to retreat into a luxurious and non-judgmental space where you receive 24-hour medical supervision and clinical interventions to help you forge your long-term recovery path. Once your drug detox is complete you can enroll for in-patient or out-patient rehab in a familiar setting as you learn the tools and coping skills required to address the underlying triggers that resulted in your drug addiction. Aftercare, support groups and sober living homes provide you with extended care programs that facilitate long term sobriety in an understanding community.

Leaders in
Addiction Treatment

Recover in a
Luxury Environment

Aftercare &
Lifetime Support

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are all drugs dangerous?

Not all drugs are dangerous but misusing or abusing drugs is dangerous. Many drugs are beneficial when they are used as prescribed and for their intended purpose, for the appropriate period of time. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are drugs that can be helpful for treatments.

Is there help for drug addiction?

Yes, drug addiction is a chronic but treatable disease. Believing in yourself and believing in the capability of medical professionals can help you to get through the most difficult parts of an addiction. Being transparent and honest throughout your recovery empowers professionals to help you.

Can I quit alone?

Some substances can be quit without intervention but if you have been using a substance for a long time, have a dual diagnosis, or a history of unsuccessful withdrawal, your risk of relapse is high. Your chance of successful rehabilitation is elevated when you reach out for professional help and follow an evidence-based process.

Are all narcotics addictive?

The term ‘narcotic’ refers to opiates, which can be highly addictive. They are prescribed for the management of pain and sleep disorders and can be habit-forming if they are abused.

How to help if someone is overdosing?

If someone is overdosing you must call 911 immediately. If the person has stopped breathing, try to administer CPR. If possible, find the substance to hand over to emergency responders.

Do You Need Help?

You can get better with the right support. Don’t hesitate to contact us now so that we can discuss the next steps.