What can you tell me about Drugs and Addiction?

Drug abuse, also known as substance abuse, involves the repeated and excessive use of a drug to produce pleasure or escape reality despite its destructive effects. For many, use begins as an adolescent or young adult in the excited experimentation of teenage rebellion.  Later, an ominous shift can occur where use becomes habitual and more of as an escape from the painful and challenging realities of life.  When alcohol and other drug use becomes an even bigger problem is when usage continues despite an obvious set of harmful consequences.  Common forms of these consequences are conflict with loved ones, missing work, legal issues such as fighting or DUI, financial hardship, medical issues from overuse, and many others.  Legal substances such as caffeine and nicotine (both powerful drugs) are commonly abused along with other more damaging substances.

Options for a Healthier Lifestyle
The most common treatment for abuse, dependence, or compulsive use such as binging is abstinence or a complete cessation of use.  Many use 12-step programs such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (for narcotics), or MA (for marijuana) to achieve that goal.  The thing is that 12-step isn't for everyone.  Others prefer to think in terms of how to reduce the harm associated with their use.  This model is aptly named Harm Reduction.

Harm Reduction
The basic goal of harm reduction is simple but the process is somewhat more complicated than simply deciding to stop all together.  The idea is to start thinking about your use of alcohol or other drugs and begin modifying behaviors, circumstances, and choices with a hope that use can be brought under control safely.  The good news is that this works for many people.  The bad news is that if it does not work after awhile, it is time to start thinking about abstinence again.  Tools of harm reduction include counting drinks, deciding ahead of time how many drinks will be had, changing social circles, planning activities, budgeting, eliminating drinking and driving, agreements with spouses about acceptable behaviors.  If you are interested in learning more about harm reduction, give me a call and we can chat or check out this website. (http://www.harmreductiontherapy.org/)

Behavioral Symptoms of Drug Abuse

  •  - Angry outbursts, mood swings, irritability, manic behavior, or overall attitude change.
  •  - Talking incoherently or making inappropriate remarks.
  •  - Risky behavior, such as driving under the influence of drugs, starting a fight, or engaging in unprotected sex
  •  - Secretive or suspicious behavior: frequent trips to the restroom, basement, or other isolated areas for privacy while using drugs
  •  - Deterioration of physical appearance and grooming
  •  - Wearing sunglasses and/or long-sleeved shirts frequently or at inappropriate times
  •  - Frequent absences from work or school; drop-off in quality of work or grades
  •  - Neglect of family responsibilities
  •  - Evidence of money problems: frequent borrowing, selling possessions, or stealing items from employer, home, or school
  •  - Legal problems rooted in drug use: arrest for driving under the influence, possession of a controlled substance, disorderly conduct, or stealing
  •  - Using drugs first thing in the morning
  •  - Using increasing doses of a drug


Social Symptoms of Drug Abuse

  • Abandoning or spending less time on activities such as hobbies, sports, and socializing

  • Inability to relax or have fun without doing drugs 

  • Associating with known drug users and dropping friends who don’t use drugs
  • Talking about drugs all the time and encouraging others to use
  • Estrangement from old friends and loved ones

Physiological signs of drug abuse

  • Frequent exhaustion or weakness

  • Unexplained injuries and infections

  • Blackouts

  • Flashbacks
  • Delusions

  • Paranoia

  • Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea,
  • tremors, and sweating