Some folks are able to take recreational or prescription drugs without ever experiencing harmful consequences or addiction. For so many other people, using drugs prescription or otherwise can cause problems at your job, your home life, school, and in relationships, leaving you feeling remote, powerless, or ashamed.
If you are concerned about a friend or family member's drug use, it is imperative to know that help is accessible. Learning about the origin of drug abuse and addiction-how it develops, what it looks like, and why it can have such a powerful hold-will give you a better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it.
People experiment with drugs for all sorts of reasons. Many first try drugs out of inquisitiveness, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, or in an effort to improve athletic performance or ease another problem, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Use does not automatically lead to abuse, and there is no specific level at which drug use moves from casual to problematic. It varies by individual. Drug abuse and addiction is less about the amount of substance consumed or the frequency, and more to do with the consequences of drug use. No matter how often or how little you're consuming, if your drug use is causing problems in your life-at work, school, home, or in your relationships-you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem.
Many people do not understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. It is often mistakenly assumed that drug abusers lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behavior. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. In fact, because drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse, quitting is difficult, even for those who are ready to do so. Through scientific advances, we know more about how drugs work in the brain than ever, and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and lead productive lives.
Drug abuse and addiction have negative consequences for individuals and for society. Estimates of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United States, including productivity and health- and crime-related costs, exceed $600 billion annually. This includes approximately $193 billion for illicit drugs,1 $193 billion for tobacco,2 and $235 billion for alcohol.3 As staggering as these numbers are, they do not fully describe the breadth of destructive public health and safety implications of drug abuse and addiction, such as family disintegration, loss of employment, failure in school, domestic violence, and child abuse.
Fortunately, treatments are available to help people counter addiction's powerful disruptive effects. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients. Treatment approaches that are tailored to each patient's drug abuse patterns and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a life without drug abuse.
Similar to other chronic, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, drug addiction can be managed successfully. And as with other chronic diseases, it is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin abusing drugs again. Relapse, however, does not signal treatment failure-rather, it indicates that treatment should be reinstated or adjusted or that an alternative treatment is needed to help the individual regain control and recover.
If you think that someone you love is addicted to drugs, it's important that you handle the situation carefully. It's common to be afraid to approach you loved one about drug use, because you don't know how he or she will react. However, the important thing is finding the substance abuse help he or she needs.
Before you talk to your loved one about treatment options, you need to approach him or her about the drug problem. It's important that you don't confront a drug abuser in a way that will cause an argument. Drug abusers tend to get angry easily, so you need to approach the situation with care.