What is Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing, brain disease. It is considered a brain disease because of how alcohol and other drugs can change the brain. Drugs can change the brain’s structure and how it works. Addiction is a progressive disease process characterized by loss of control over use, obsession with use, continued use despite adverse consequences, denial that there are problems, and a powerful tendency to relapse.
Myths About Addiction:
- Addiction is a moral failure
- All people who use drugs are addicted
- People who abuse drugs
- stop using drugs any time they want to
- cannot be productive members of society
- are bad people who deserve to be punished
- are usually homeless and/or have a criminal history
- Treatment doesn’t work
- Relapse equals failure
Why do people start using drugs?
People begin taking drugs for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the primary reasons that drugs are initiated:
- Poor self-esteem
- Partner substance use
- Sensation seeking
- Eating disorders
- Mood disorders
Substance Use Spectrum
Not all people who use alcohol or other drugs are addicted
Categories of substances:
- Opioids (Oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, codeine, heroin)
- Stimulants (Cocaine, Methamphetamines)
- Depressants (Alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines)
- Hallucinogens (LSD, mushrooms, mescaline)
- Inhalants (Glues, paint thinner, gasoline, aerosol sprays)
- Cannabinoids (Marijuana, hashish)
What are behavioral signs of drug use?
Behavioral signs of use that are general and apply to all substances: change in personality, changes in friends and activities, drop in grades and/or tardiness at school, unexplained need for money, difficult paying attention or forgetfulness, stealing money or other items, paranoia, change in physical hygiene, defensive behavior, emotional highs and lows, short-tempered, weight changes.
Drug addiction is a treatable disease. With the help of behavioral health treatment, a person can recover. Treatment helps people to change destructive behaviors, avoid relapse, and minimize the medical and social complications of drug use.
What does good treatment look like?
- No single treatment is appropriate for everyone. Individualized treatment plans based upon a person’s particular problems and needs is critical to their success.
- Treatment addresses multiple needs of the person, not just their drug abuse. This can include addressing a person’s medical, social, legal, and/or vocational problems.
- Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical. The length of treatment depends on the type and degree of the person’s problems and needs. Recovery is a long-term process and requires additional treatment episodes.
- Behavioral therapies include individual, family and/or group counseling. Behavioral therapies address a person’s motivation to change, provides incentives to stop using, replaces drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding activities, and improves problem-solving and relationship-building skills.
- Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, when combined with behavioral therapies. Medications may be useful to stop drug abuse, stay in treatment, and avoid relapse.
- A person’s treatment must be continually assessed and modified to ensure it meets their changing needs.
NIDA Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
NIDA Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/treatmentbrochure_web.pdf
Additional Addiction Information
National Addiction Resources:
Colorado Addiction Resources:
Children, Youth, and Family Resources