What is Addiction?
Addiction is a type of substance use disorder that is chronic, often relapsing, and results in brain changes that make it harder to stop use. Addictions can develop as people use alcohol or other substances over time and as a result, the brain’s structure changes. Some symptoms of addiction are loss of control over use, continued use despite negative consequences, social problems, and needing more of the substance to get the same effect.
Myths About Addiction
- Addiction is a moral failure
- All people who use alcohol or other substances are addicted
- People who abuse alcohol or other substances
- can just stop using if 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 Alcohol or Other Substances?
People begin using alcohol or other substances for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the reasons that people start using:
- Challenging relationships
- Low self-esteem
- Partner substance use
- Sensation seeking
- Eating disorders
Categories of Substances
People can misuse or become addicted to a variety of substances. Substance misuse includes not taking prescription medications as prescribed. The major categories of substances that can lead to substance use disorders including addiction are:
- 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)
Substance use disorder is treatable. With help, a person can recover. Treatment helps people to change destructive behaviors, avoid relapse, and minimize the medical and social complications of substance use.
What Does Good Treatment Look Like?
- No single approach is appropriate for everyone. Individualized treatment plans based upon a person’s particular problems and needs are critical to their success.
- Treatment addresses multiple needs of the person, not just their substance use. 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 needs. Recovery is a long-term process and may require additional treatment episodes.
- Behavioral therapies include individual, family and/or group counseling. Behavioral therapies address a person’s motivation to change, provides goals to stop using, replaces substance use activities with constructive and fulfilling activities, and improves problem-solving and relationship-building skills.
- Medications can be an important element of treatment for many patients, when combined with behavioral therapies. Medications may be useful to reduce cravings, stay in treatment, and avoid relapse.
- A person’s treatment needs must be continually assessed and treatment modified to ensure it meets their changing needs.