Addiction & Substance Abuse
Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person's brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you're addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes.
As part of a drug treatment program, I can counsel an individual, family, or group. I can:
• Help you develop ways to cope with your drug cravings
• Suggest strategies to avoid drugs and prevent relapse
• Offer suggestions on how to deal with a relapse if it occurs
• Talk about issues regarding your job, legal problems, and relationships with family and friends
• Include family members to help them develop better communication skills and be supportive
Marijuana, hashish and other cannabis-containing substances
People use cannabis by smoking, eating, or inhaling a vaporized form of the drug. Cannabis often precedes or is used with other substances, such as alcohol or illegal drugs, and is often the first drug tried.
K2, Spice, and bath salts
Two groups of synthetic drugs — synthetic cannabinoids and substituted or synthetic cathinones — are illegal in most states. The effects of these drugs can be dangerous and unpredictable, as there is no quality control, and some ingredients may not be known. Synthetic cannabinoids, also called K2 or Spice, are sprayed on dried herbs and then smoked, but can be prepared as an herbal tea. Despite manufacturer claims, these are chemical compounds rather than "natural" or harmless products. These drugs can produce a "high" similar to marijuana and have become a popular but dangerous alternative.
Barbiturates, benzodiazepines and hypnotics
Barbiturates, benzodiazepines and hypnotics are prescription central nervous system depressants. They're often used and misused in search for a sense of relaxation or a desire to "switch off" or forget stress-related thoughts or feelings.
Barbiturates. Examples include phenobarbital and secobarbital (Seconal).
Benzodiazepines. Examples include sedatives, such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium).
Hypnotics. Examples include prescription sleeping medications such as zolpidem (Ambien, Intermezzo, others) and zaleplon (Sonata).
Meth, cocaine and other stimulants
Stimulants include amphetamines, meth (methamphetamine), cocaine, methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, others) and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR, others). They are often used and misused in search of a "high," or to boost energy, to improve performance at work or school, or to lose weight or control appetite.
Club drugs are commonly used at clubs, concerts and parties. Examples include ecstasy or molly (MDMA), gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), flunitrazepam (Rohypnol ― a brand used outside the U.S. ― also called roofie) and ketamine. These drugs are not all in the same category, but they share some similar effects and dangers, including long-term harmful effects.
Because GHB and flunitrazepam can cause sedation, muscle relaxation, confusion and memory loss, the potential for sexual misconduct or sexual assault is associated with the use of these drugs.
Use of hallucinogens can produce different signs and symptoms, depending on the drug. The most common hallucinogens are lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and phencyclidine (PCP).
Signs and symptoms of inhalant use vary, depending on the substance. Some commonly inhaled substances include glue, paint thinners, correction fluid, felt tip marker fluid, gasoline, cleaning fluids and household aerosol products. Due to the toxic nature of these substances, users may develop brain damage or sudden death.
Opioids are narcotic, painkilling drugs produced from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes, among others, heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone and oxycodone.
Sometimes called the "opioid epidemic," addiction to opioid prescription pain medications has reached an alarming rate across the United States. Some people who've been using opioids over a long period of time may need physician-prescribed temporary or long-term drug substitution during treatment.
Staging an intervention
People struggling with addiction usually deny that their drug use is problematic and are reluctant to seek treatment. An intervention presents a loved one with a structured opportunity to make changes before things get even worse and can motivate someone to seek or accept help.
An intervention should be carefully planned and may be done by family and friends in consultation with a professional like myself. It involves family and friends and sometimes co-workers, clergy or others who care about the person struggling with addiction.
During the intervention, these people gather together to have a direct, heart-to-heart conversation with the person about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment.
Drug use can have significant and damaging short-term and long-term effects. Taking some drugs can be particularly risky, especially if you take high doses or combine them with other drugs or alcohol. Here are some examples:
Methamphetamine, opiates and cocaine are highly addictive and cause multiple short-term and long-term health consequences, including psychotic behavior, seizures or death due to overdose.
GHB and flunitrazepam may cause sedation, confusion and memory loss. These so-called "date rape drugs" are known to impair the ability to resist unwanted contact and recollection of the event. At high doses, they can cause seizures, coma and death. The danger increases when these drugs are taken with alcohol.
Ecstasy or molly (MDMA) can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and complications that can include seizures. Long-term, MDMA can damage the brain.
One particular danger of club drugs is that the liquid, pill or powder forms of these drugs available on the street often contain unknown substances that can be harmful, including other illegally manufactured or pharmaceutical drugs.
Due to the toxic nature of inhalants, users may develop brain damage of different levels of severity.
Other life-changing complications
Dependence on drugs can create a number of dangerous and damaging complications, including:
Getting a communicable disease. People who are addicted to a drug are more likely to get an infectious disease, such as HIV, either through unsafe sex or by sharing needles.
Other health problems. Drug addiction can lead to a range of both short-term and long-term mental and physical health problems. These depend on what drug is taken.
Accidents. People who are addicted to drugs are more likely to drive or do other dangerous activities while under the influence.
Suicide. People who are addicted to drugs die by suicide more often than people who aren't addicted.
Family problems. Behavioral changes may cause marital or family conflict and custody issues.
Work issues. Drug use can cause declining performance at work, absenteeism and eventual loss of employment.
Problems at school. Drug use can negatively affect academic performance and motivation to excel in school.
Legal issues. Legal problems are common for drug users and can stem from buying or possessing illegal drugs, stealing to support the drug addiction, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or disputes over child custody.
Financial problems. Spending money to support drug use takes away money from other needs, could lead to debt, and can lead to illegal or unethical behaviors.
Mayo Clinic.(2021) Drug addiction, also called substance use Disorder. .Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112