Addiction, Rehab & Counseling

Addiction, Rehab & Counseling

What actually happens to make some people addicted to drugs?

Well this is a complicated question. There are multiple factors. First, there is the drug itself. We know that some drugs have more “addictive” potential than others; that is, some provide a more “reinforcing effect” than others, which could increase the likelihood that you will try it again. Second, there is the person. Each individual’s genetic make-up, family history, and personality impacts the likelihood that he or she will keep using a drug and potentially develop an addiction. Also a person’s current emotional or physical state (that is whether you are feeling anxious, depressed, in pain, etc.) is a factor too. Third, there are environmental factors, which in my opinion are what most people underestimate. For example, if a drug is easily available to you, you are likely to use it more often than if it is hard to get. So if it is always around and easy to obtain, or you have friends offering it to you, you might find yourself using it more often. Similarly, if you use and you don’t get in trouble because your parents don’t watch you closely or they are lenient about drug use, you are also more likely to use more often. Lastly, it’s important that you realize that there are multiple and varying risk factors, and because of that, everyone is at risk.
How can I get help that is confidential?

I can safely say that any help you receive from a professional psychologist, counselor, therapist, or social worker, or school counselor is going to be confidential. The behavior of these professionals is guided by very strict laws of confidentiality and codes of ethics from their professional organizations. Confidentiality is taken very seriously, as it is one of the most important factors in allowing individuals such as yourself get the help they need, without your confidence being compromised.
I have been taking Percocet and hydroquinone on a daily basis for the last year. I have decided to quit and am curious how long the withdrawal will last and how long it will take to feel good again. When will the cravings stop?

Percocet and hydrocodone are opiate medications used for pain. They are highly addictive because they are powerful drugs that, in some people, can create feelings of euphoria, calmness, sedation, and emotional numbness. If you have been taking these drugs for more than a year, it is highly probable that your body is now dependent on them. If you stop taking the medications cold-turkey you could develop signs of opiate withdrawal, which include diarrhea, anxiety, muscle aches, sweating profusely, running nose, cramping, and intense desire to take more opiates.The withdrawal from opiates is not life-threatening but it can be very difficult and uncomfortable to overcome. Left without treatment, the period of withdrawing from opiates can last anywhere from three to 10 days. Cravings for opiates are a strong sign of withdrawal and is often the last symptom to go away on its own. Most people who are addicted to opiates are so worried about the withdrawal process that they continue to use even though they know it will not help. Nowadays people should not have to go through withdrawal on their own. There are plenty of places and medications that are available to make the detoxification/withdrawal process go much smoother and without complications.

People who get into treatment will start feeling good again as soon as they get help to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. People who don’t get this help tend to continue to struggle with cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and are not able to stop taking the opiates on their own.

Can you get addicted to marijuana?

The answer is clearly “yes.” Marijuana use, like other drugs, poses multiple risks for teens. One of those risks is addiction. Addiction involves both psychological and physical components. This may mean that you find yourself often using more marijuana than you had planned, (for example, using more on a single occasion or more often than you thought you would). In other words, your use starts feeling out of control.Similarly, you may promise yourself that you won’t use anymore or that you won’t use so much or so often, and then find yourself back using at the same or greater rate than before. You may notice that the process of getting pot, using it, and being high, is taking more of your time each week, and you stop doing things you used to do like sports or other activities. You may find that you need more marijuana to get the same high, or find that the same amount doesn’t produce the same effects that it used to; this is called developing “tolerance” to a drug.

Last, if you smoke pot frequently (multiple times per week or per day), you may notice when you stop that you may feel irritable, nervous, restless, have sleep problems, less of an appetite, and maybe even feel depressed. These are withdrawal symptoms that have been associated with quitting marijuana.

You might also want to know that teens appear to be at a somewhat higher risk statistically for developing dependence on marijuana than adults because of the stage of a teen’s brain development which makes them more vulnerable. We are not sure why teens are more vulnerable, but it may have to do with the stage of a teen’s brain development, the general feelings of invincibility, rebellion, and impulsivity that are a normal part of teen development, or environmental influences such as peers or friends that get high or the struggle to fit in socially.

My brother’s back in treatment after recently relapsing. He says he’s bored so he resorts to drugs to keep him occupied. What are some safe hobbies that can keep him busy?

This is in actuality a fallacy. Drug addicts will not stay sober by staying busy with hobbies. Boredom for addicts is often a manifestation of depression. So it is important that your brother see a psychiatrist who has experience treating addicts. Not treating his depression will endanger his sobriety. He doesn’t do drugs because he is bored, however. He does drugs because he is an addict and there is something very wrong with his program of sobriety. He may need more structure, as I said above, he might need associated disorders treated, and he clearly needs to increase his meeting attendance and work more diligently with a sponsor.
Are the drug addicts that go into treatment mostly in there for hard-core drugs like heroin or meth?

No, it’s a common misconception that only people who use “hard-core” drugs, also known as “street drugs,” need treatment. Any substance, when used to excess, can become addictive or cause a person to become dependent. Treatment is available, and very often necessary, for people who abuse any substance, including alcohol, marijuana, prescription pills, over-the-counter substances, meth, heroin, etc.Drug abuse can have a significant impact on all areas of a person’s life including their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, and financial well-being. As the abuse continues, problems multiply and start a difficult downward spiral. Treatment can interrupt this negative process, help people put their lives on a positive path, and work towards improving on the losses drug abuse may have caused.

Why can’t drug addicts quit on their own?

Drug addiction is a brain disease. One of the reasons that people who are addicted to drugs just can’t stop on their own is that this disease is so powerful that it changes the way people think and behave. Imagine if someone said to you to just cut back your eating from three meals a day to just one every other day. After a while, you would get an intense hunger and the only thing you would think about is food.Drug addiction is very much like that – there is an intense hunger or craving with drugs that doesn’t just go away with willpower. Furthermore, patients with drug addiction have been shown to have abnormalities in the areas of the brain that are responsible for self-control. So, when these parts of the brain are damaged, no matter how hard someone tries to stop, he or she cannot do it without admitting the problem and getting help.

The good news is that once a patient with a drug addiction decides to quit, the success rates for treatment are actually pretty good. This is especially true when they have support from their families, friends and doctors in order to recover. Sometimes the toughest part about treating patients is just getting them motivated to start treatment.

What kind of people become addicted to drugs? Is there a “personality type,” say if someone’s from a divorced family or if a person hangs out with pot smokers a lot?

All sorts of people can become addicted to drugs from all walks of life, young and old, rich and poor, males and females. What you are pointing out is that there are several environmental risk factors that contribute to a person developing drug addiction. One of the most powerful risk factors is spending time with other people who use drugs and alcohol. It is important to note, though, that just hanging out with people who smoke pot won’t make you into a drug addict. There are a lot of other risk factors that make people become addicted, some of them genetic and some of them environmental.

For instance, research has shown that people who have a lot of stress in their lives (from dealing with a family divorce or being the victim of physical or sexual abuse) have an increased likelihood of developing a drug addiction. Another example of a major risk factor is family history. If you are related to someone with a drug addiction problem, the chances that you will develop an addiction are higher.

Nowadays, we don’t usually say that people have an “addictive personality.” Instead, we emphasize that some people are born with a higher genetic risk to develop addictions than others. For instance, people who have a positive experience the first time they take drugs are more likely to develop an addiction. We know this is partially controlled by genetics. Overall, we know that everyone exposed to drugs could become addicted, especially under certain circumstances. This is why it is so important to help young people avoid using drugs in the first place.

This is hard to admit, but I think I might have a drug addiction. Is there anything I can do other than go to a treatment center? I’m just not sure I can handle that. I guess the problem is…I don’t really trust anyone to ask for help. What can I do?

Yes, there are a variety of ways to seek help without going into a treatment center. However, you may find out that a treatment center might be most beneficial for you. To find out, I would recommend talking with someone who is educated in the field of substance abuse and addiction. A professional’s assessment can help you to determine the extent of your drug dependency. From there, you will be able to determine the appropriate course of action for you.If you are struggling to build trust, it may be helpful to talk to people who have been in a similar situation. Local support group meetings can assist you at this critical time and help you realize that you are not alone.

There will be people there who can relate to you and what you’re going through. Also, you can find help locally by calling NCADI (National Clearinghouse of Alcohol & Drug Information) at 1-800-788-2800 to be referred to a confidential hotline in your area or receive other resources.

My friend finally went into rehab and I’m supportive. Her parents say that she won’t be able to be friends with a lot of the old people we used to hang out with. I understand, but do I have to drop those friends too?

That’s good news that your friend has gotten help! Treatment is difficult, but living a clean, healthy life of recovery and sobriety after treatment is even more difficult. Rehab is often a very safe environment for a person to get clean and begin to learn the basics of recovery. Once treatment is completed, the person is challenged to put those practices to work in a less safe environment, the real world.In order to stay healthy, your friend has to avoid those people or things that encourage unhealthy behavior. It’s a good idea to avoid people that your friend used drugs with and places where they used. There is a saying that goes something like this, “if you spend enough time in a barber shop, you’re bound to get a haircut.” If your friend spends enough time after treatment associating with those people or places that lead to her unhealthy behavior, she is bound to return to that behavior eventually.

If you want to be a part of your friend’s recovery and support your friend, then yes, it’s a good idea for you to choose not to hang around the people who contributed to that unhealthy behavior.

Can you mentally fight an addiction?

Addiction is a brain disease. That means that there are physical changes in the brain that explain some of the behaviors seen in patients with addiction (such as preoccupation with drugs and loss of control over taking drugs). It also means that, sometimes, just having willpower and motivation is not enough to fight an addiction. Just like if you broke your leg or sprained your ankle, fighting it mentally would not be enough. In order to make sure that addiction is treated properly, it requires professional help.Many teens with drug problems think they are weak because they continue to use drugs. But addiction is not a matter of being strong or weak – the strongest are the ones who are able to put aside their fears, shame, and guilt, and reach out for help.

Some people are able to control their drug use through willpower, but these people are not likely to have an addiction. For people who are clearly addicted to drugs, it will require more than just willpower to stop.

How do I know if I’m addicted to a drug?

Addiction is when you crave drugs and get to a point when you often find yourself using, thinking about or seeking out drugs. These cravings are extremely difficult to control. For someone who is truly addicted there is no motivation more powerful than the drug craving, and the person’s life becomes centered around getting and using the drug.Chemical dependency, or addiction, as defined by the American Psychological Association, is seen as a pattern of drug use, where the user experiences three (or more) of the following:

  • tolerance, which means needing to use more of the same substance to get the same high;
  • withdrawal symptoms from detoxing from alcohol or drugs (such as nausea, insomnia, anxiety, sweating, trembling);
  • using more than what you intended;
  • persistent desire to use, or unsuccessful attempts to quit;
  • increasing time spent using or getting drugs;
  • giving up important life activities due to using (like not going to school or quitting a job); and
  • continuing to use despite knowledge of the problem’s impact.

One of the best ways to determine if you are addicted, or if you have a drug problem, is to talk to a trained professional and ask for a confidential assessment. From that assessment, a professional will be able to help you understand your symptoms, and to find the right level of help you might need.

This weekend my girlfriend actually blacked out from drinking too much. Is that a sign she’s an alcoholic?

It is unclear if your friend has an addiction. However, most health experts would say that drinking to the point of passing out is very dangerous and life threatening. As a friend, I would be very concerned too. There are a number of associated with drinking too much alcohol, including any number of risks such as drunk driving and physical harm. It’s not always easy to see signs and symptoms related to alcoholism. While there is no single warning sign for alcohol abuse, some signs of a possible problem include:

  • She gets drunk on a regular basis.
  • She drinks when she is alone.
  • She shows up at school drunk or she has skipped class to drink.
  • She needs alcohol to have a good time or cope with everyday life.
  • She plans for alcohol use in advance.
  • She starts hanging out with new friends who will drink with her or can score for her.
  • She lies about drinking.
  • She pressures you or others to drink.
  • She has broken plans with you, or showed up late, because she was drunk.
  • She lacks interest in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies (e.g., sports, hobbies).
  • She has driven a car while drunk or high.
  • She borrows or steals money to buy alcohol.
image of pills Privilege, Pressure & Pills
I never would have imagined motivated, bright students, with everything going for them, turning to drug use.
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