WHAT IS DRUG ADDICTION?
Drug addiction is a complex, chronic, and treatable disease. The path to drug addiction begins when an individual makes a conscious choice to use drugs, but addiction is not just "a lot of drug use." Recent scientific research provides overwhelming evidence that not only do drugs interfere with normal brain functioning creating powerful feelings of pleasure, but they also have long-term effects on brain metabolism and activity. At some point, changes occur in the brain that can turn drug abuse into addiction, a chronic, relapsing illness.
Those addicted to drugs suffer from compulsive drug craving and usage and cannot quit by themselves. Treatment is necessary to end this compulsive behavior. Over time, a person's ability to choose not to take drugs is compromised. This in large part is a result of the effects of prolonged drug use on brain functioning, and thus on behavior. Addiction, therefore, is characterized by compulsive drug craving, seeking, and use that persists even in the face of negative consequences.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND SUBSTANCE DEPENDENCE?
The American Psychiatric Association has developed strict criteria for the clinical diagnosis of abuse and dependence. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (DSM-IV) defines both categories.
Substance abuse: A maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one (or more) of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:
The particular signs and symptoms of drug abuse and dependence vary depending on the type of drug. Addiction to any drug may include these general characteristics:
Many people view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem. Parents, teens, older adults, and other members of the community tend to characterize people who take drugs as morally weak or as having criminal tendencies. They believe that drug abusers and addicts should be able to stop taking drugs if they are willing to change their behavior. These myths have not only stereotyped those with drug-related problems, but also their families, their communities, and the health care professionals who work with them. Drug abuse and addiction comprise a public health problem that affects many people and has wide-ranging social consequences.
CAN DRUG ADDICTION BE TREATED?
Research shows that addiction is clearly treatable. A variety of approaches are used in treatment programs to help patients deal with these cravings and possibly avoid drug relapse. Through treatment that is tailored to individual needs, patients can learn to control their condition and live relatively normal lives. Treatment can have a profound effect not only on drug abusers, but on society as a whole by significantly improving social and psychological functioning.
Drug addiction can be effectively treated with behavior-based therapies and, for some drugs, such as heroin or nicotine, with medications. Additionally, treatment reduces the risk of infections and can improve the prospects for employment.
Drug Addiction: Signs and Symptoms. (Oct. 5, 1995). Retrieved on July 24, 2006, from The Mayo Clinic:
DSM-IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, ed. 4. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association (AMA). 1994.
NIDA InfoFacts: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction. (n.d.) Retrieved on June 22, 2006, from the National Institute of Drug Abuse:
NAP POZULP, PH.D.
MICHAEL FIELDS, PH.D.
MANNY SILVERMAN, PH.D.
MICHAEL KAVEN, M.A.
CICELY JOHNSON, LCSW
CHRISTINA SAMYCIA, PSY.D.
SUZANA FLORES, PSY.D.