A Guide to Drug & Alcohol Addiction

If you were to look up the definition of addiction, you will find varying results. The one that truly defines addiction in terms of drugs and alcohol, is “a devotion to, a dedication to, obsession with, infatuation with, passion for, love of, a mania for, enslavement to.” Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, religion, gender or socioeconomic status. The signs and symptoms of addiction can vary depending on the substance and personal situation. The reality of untreated addiction is the same for everyone though, typically jails, institutions or death. Treatment options for addiction can vary, but as of 2015, 23 million Americans fit the criteria for having a substance abuse disorder. Of those 23 million, only 10% seek treatment currently. With the number of Americans dying from drug overdoses only increasing, the need for treatment programs like the one at Pax House has never been greater.

What Exactly is Addiction?

When it comes to drug & alcohol addiction specifically, the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic disease of the brain reward, memory, and motivation. In other words, it is a physical, biological, social, psychological and spiritual disease that affects all areas of the addicted’s life. Currently, America is in the midst of its worst drug epidemic in recent history. Prior to the today, addiction was something that was highly stigmatized. It was seen as a “moral failing” and not the medical disease it is known as today. Many believed addiction only happened to a certain class of people, those who are just “weak”. Because of the stigma, treatment options were limited. Today, you can easily find a drug treatment facility, like Pax House, in every state in the country, although access to treatment may be limited due to financial restraints. As the twenty-first centuries progressed As the twenty-first centuries progressed, and the opioid epidemic began due to unregulated prescribing of opioid painkillers, the stigma of addiction finally began to shift. It became understood that regardless of your socioeconomic status you could be susceptible to becoming an addict. Thanks to the recent shift, access to treatment have finally begun to increase.

Why Does It Happen? What are the Risk Factors for Addiction?

Medical professionals and researchers have been able to identify numerous risk factors for why someone may become addicted to drugs and alcohol, although none is a definitive warning sign. There are people who may display or fit some of these risk factors, but will never become addicted to a substance. The exact cause, however, is still unknown. The most common risk factors that are agreed upon include:

  • Genetic predisposition, meaning you are genetically linked to substance abuse.
  • A family history of addiction, especially if the relative is within your immediate family.
  • Having another mental health disorder including bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD, or PTSD. Your chances of becoming addicted increase dramatically when you have a co-occurring mental disorder and even more if the illness is undiagnosed and untreated.
  • A history of childhood trauma including sexual abuse, physical abuse, being a victim of bullying, emotional distress or other traumatic events.
  • A lack of family involvement or being left unsupervised as a child could increase your likeliness of drug abuse, as well as a general lack of bonding within the family unit.
  • The substances themselves each provide various risk factors which increase depending on the addictive nature of addiction. Alcohol, benzos and opioids all have strong physical addictions, while cocaine and other amphetamines have a strong psychological addiction. The way you take the substance can also provide a risk factor when it comes to addiction.
  • Peer pressure, meaning a strong influence by friends, can increase the likeliness of addiction.
  • Starting drug or alcohol use at an early age can increase your risk of addiction. This specific factor applies to tobacco use as well.
  • Being a male can increase your risk for addiction, although studies show that addiction can progress faster in females.

These are just some of the risk factors for addiction. There are many others, and as we said before, displaying some of these risk factors is not a guarantee that a person will become addicted. Each person’s unique situation can provide other biological, psychological and environmental factors that contributed to their disease, the important thing to remember is that treatment gives you the best odds at overcoming it.

Signs & Symptoms of Drug & Alcohol Abuse

Currently, in the United States, 1 in 7 Americans are likely to experience addiction at least some point in their life. Although the rates have never been as high, it can be difficult to identify substance abuse if you are unaware of what to look for. Certain substances display more obvious signs, while others can be difficult to detect. On top of that, each person’s behaviors can vary depending on their individual situation, which is why symptoms can vary from moderate to severe. We do however have a general understanding of the physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms of addiction. Some of the physical signs of drug & alcohol addiction include:

  • Being hyper, overactive or under-active (depending on the substance).
  • Loss of sleeping or change in sleeping patterns.
  • Slurred or repetitive speech, excessive talking.
  • Dilated or constricted pupils; redness in the eyes (depending on the substance).
  • Change in eating habits; Dramatic weight loss or weight gain (depending on substance).
  • Lack of personal hygiene, worsening physical health, and unusual odors.
  • Poor coordination; Slow or sluggish walking.
  • Tremors in the hands, head or feet.
  • Excessive sniffing or a runny nose.
  • A pale or puffy face; Greyish skin tone.

There are also other behaviors that can help you identify substance abuse in you or your loved one. Some of these will vary, depending on each person’s situation, but overall the typical behaviors of someone that is addicted are:

  • Asking to borrow money frequently.
  • Change in moods and attitude. Constant irritability.
  • Poor judgment; Participating in risky or illegal activities to support their habit such as stealing.
  • Drop in performance and attendance at work or school.
  • Loss of motivation, and energy. Low self-esteem.
  • Lying and manipulation in order to obtain funds to continue their use.
  • Isolation and secretness; an unusual demand for privacy.
  • Relationship problems including marital.
  • Aggressive attitude; throwing temper tantrums when they do not get their way.
  • Legal issues including arrests, probation, and jail.
  • Financial issues; debt and owed bills due to substance use.

If you or someone you know is displaying more than two or three of these symptoms there is a high chance they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many times the addict will continue using, despite the negative impact it is having on their life. It can be difficult to confront your loved one’s addiction, but it is needed in order to overcome it. There are trained professional interventionists who can help you get your loved one the help they need in the form of an addiction treatment program like the one at Pax House.

What are the Treatment Options for Drug & Alcohol Abuse?

The are various levels of care and treatment methods that can be used to overcome addiction. What’s best for one person’s situation may not be good for another, which is why it is important to speak to a treatment advisor when seeking help for substance abuse. Whether you seek the assistance of an interventionist or reach out for help on your own it is good to know what you can expect from the treatment process and what is available.

Detox Programs

Often times the first step in the treatment process is detoxification. This is when a person is medically supervised during the withdrawal process and slowly tapered off drugs and alcohol. Each substance has their own protocols when it comes to detox, but generally, you can expect to be kept as comfortable as possible so you can stop using safely. There are two types of detox programs that most people will seek help through, inpatient and outpatient. Depending on the substances being abused, an outpatient detox program may be suggested if the user is deemed at a low risk for complications or dangers from withdrawal. Although outpatient detox programs do work, the likeliness of relapse in increased due to access to their drug of choice. This is why many times, it will be suggested that you attend an inpatient detox facility. An inpatient detox program, such as the one we offer here at Pax House, provides a safe, stable environment where the client can be monitored 24/7 by medical staff. The length of stay in the detox setting can vary depending on the drug of choice, amount used, and length of use, although on average it can last from 7-10 days. Inpatient detox also provides a foundation for inpatient treatment once the process is complete.

Intensive Outpatient/Outpatient Programs

After inpatient is completed, it will be suggested as an aftercare plan for most clients to participate in an outpatient program. There are two different types of outpatient can be offered, intensive outpatient and regular outpatient. With an intensive outpatient program, clients attend groups and therapy anywhere from 3 to 5 times a week and participate in weekly individual therapy. This is the most commonly suggested level of care after rehab and helps to strengthen clients chances of long-term recovery. In the regular outpatient level of care, the number of days a client attends is lowered based on the recommendations of the clinical staff. By this point, most clients are productive members of society again and continue to work on their own personal program of recovery.

Sober Living Homes

A sober living home, also known as a halfway house or transitional living home, is a residence where clients pay a weekly rent to live in a safe, sober environment after completing inpatient treatment. Because it is suggested to avoid places where you used to abuse drugs and alcohol, going back home can often be a dangerous place for a newly recovering addict. A sober home, like those at Pax House, provides structure and routine, which is important in avoiding relapse in early recovery. Many sober homes have rules, curfews and provide drug testing to ensure that all residences are participating in recovery. Currently, health insurance does not cover sober living, but that does not mean it is not a vital part of the treatment process. For many recovering addicts, sober homes provide a place where they can get back on their feet and avoid old people, places, and things.

Get Help for Drug & Alcohol Addiction Today at Pax House

If after reading through this guide you are ready to get help for addiction simply fill out this form or call (626) 398-3897 today to speak to one of the treatment advisors at Pax House. Our highly-trained staff can guide you through the options and get you or your loved one the help they need today. Although we don’t have a cure for addiction, it can be treated and arrested. Don’t give up hope, start your journey of recovery today!

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