Addiction Education Resource

Addiction is a complex and relapsing condition that not only exerts a powerful influence over the brain, but changes it. And contrary to what many believe – it takes more than willpower and good intentions to overcome. Following is a comprehensive addiction education resource.


Addiction is a lot like other diseases, such as heart disease. Both conditions disrupt the normal, healthy functioning of the underlying organ, have serious harmful consequences, and are preventable and treatable –  but if left untreated, can last for a lifetime. People with an addiction harbor very little control over what they are doing, taking or using – even if their addiction reaches a point where it becomes life-threatening. Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs.

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For many years, experts believed that only alcohol and powerful drugs could cause addiction. But thanks to recent research and improved technology, the science and medical community has also shown that certain “pleasurable” and seemingly harmless activities – such as gambling, shopping and sex – can also hijack the brain in the same way. 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 .

 ANATOMY OF THE ADDICTED BRAIN

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The word “addiction” is derived from the Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Addiction manifests in the brain in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. Experts believed for many years that addiction resulted from the use of alcohol and powerful drugs. As a result of ongoing research and nueroimaging, it has also shown that certain pleasurable activities can also include such activities as gambling, shopping, and sex, can also divert the brain.

THE COST OF ADDICTION

Cost-of-Addiction

Addiction is most known for the impact it has on an individual’s health and relationships. However, while these losses feature a more prominent role on addiction, they only tell part of the story. Typically, addicts and their families also pay a heavy financial cost, both in terms of the money spent on the substance or activity in question and in terms of lost wages and job opportunities. You can even consider the cost that society also pays due to factors such as lost productivity, health care expenses for indigent addicts, drug treatment programs, drug-related law enforcement efforts, and the housing of drug offenders in jails and prisons.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS & SYMPTOMS?

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When a person is addicted to drugs, alcohol or nicotine, they are not able to consume that substance in a recommended dosage. They continue taking it, even though it may cause harm and, most of the time, are not even aware of it. Substance dependence can cause powerful side effects. The addict may find it extremely difficult to quit without extensive help. The signs and symptoms of substance dependence vary according to the individual, the substance they are addicted to, their family history (genetics), and personal consumption preferences.

RISK FACTORS

risky-behavior-addiction

Some people are more prone to addiction than others. Addiction doesn’t discriminate based on race, ethnicity, education, height, weight, or social status. Trying to pinpoint the cause of addiction is not easy. There are many risk factors that may increase the risk of addiction, regardless of a person’s upbringing or moral code. Risk factors for a drug addiction may differ from, other addictions; but, many factors can combine to increase overall chances of addiction. One person and not another turning social use into an addiction is a combination of these factors.

SUBSTANCE / DRUG ADDICTION & COMMON MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS

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Whether they are illegal drugs or prescription drugs, alcohol, or tobacco is one of the nation’s most pressing public health issues. Drug abuse occurs when people willingly consume illegal substances or legal, prescription drugs for the purpose of altering their mood, or getting “high”. Regular drug abuse may lead to drug addiction or other bodily harm. Drug abuse usually involves selling, buying or abusing these substances, which can lead to arrest, criminal charges, and imprisonment.

SUBSTANCES

Substance addiction, also known as drug addiction or dependence is a state that develops from consistent drug administration that results in withdrawal when ceased. A gene transcription factor, is known to be a critical factor in the development of all forms of drug addictions.

ALCOHOL ADDICTION

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Alcohol Addiction – habitual intoxication; prolonged and excessive intake of alcoholic drinks leading to a breakdown in health and an addiction to alcohol, especially involving compulsive, excessive consumption. It is also a disease characterized by addiction to alcoholic beverages, often resulting in impaired social functioning and in damage to the liver, heart, and nervous system.

STREET DRUGS

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A street drug is a drug that is taken for nonmedicinal reasons (usually for mind-altering effects). Slang names include acid (lysergic acid diethylamide), angel dust (phencyclidine), coke (cocaine), downers (barbiturates), grass (marijuana), hash (concentrated tetrahydrocannibinol), magic mushrooms (psilocybin), and speed (amphetamines). During the 1980s, a new class of “designer drugs” also known as  street drugs arose, theses were mainly  psychoactive substances intended to escape regulation. Additionally, crack cocaine, a potent, smokable form of cocaine, emerged. In the U.S., illicit use of drugs (cocaine, marijuana, and heroin) recurres in cycles.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

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There are plenty of medications that have mind and mood-altering properties. Because of this, they are often abused in hopes of achieving similar highs that would result from street drug use. Prescription drug abuse occurs when someone takes them in amounts and/or in ways that are not as intended by a doctor, or when they are taken by someone other than who the medication was meant for – both actions which occur in epidemic proportions. Because of this, prescription and OTC drugs are the most commonly abused substance across the nation, right on the heels of marijuana and alcohol.

DUAL DIAGNOSIS

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Dual diagnosis is the term used to describe patients with both severe mental illness (mainly psychotic disorders) and problematic drug and/or alcohol use. Personality disorder may also co-exist with psychiatric illness and/or substance misuse. The term originated from the USA in the 1980s and has been adopted in the UK more recently. The nature of the relationship between the two conditions is well established and may be genetically linked.

  • A primary psychiatric illness may precipitate or lead to substance misuse. Patients may feel anxious, lonely, bored, have difficulty sleeping or may want to ‘block out’ symptoms or medication side-effects.
  • Substance misuse may worsen or alter the path of a psychiatric illness.
  • Intoxication and/or substance dependence may lead to psychological symptoms.
  • Substance misuse and/or withdrawal may lead to psychiatric symptoms or illness. It may act as a trigger in those who are predisposed.

BEHAVIORAL

Behavioral addictions can result in many of the same negative effects as substance addictions and can be as difficult to overcome. They are usually associated with impulse control, causing an individual to engage in behaviors compulsively beyond the point at which said behaviors have led to negative personal consequences. Like addiction to drugs and alcohol, behavioral addiction is directly connected to the “rush” or “high” one experiences when engaging in a particular behavior.

SEXUAL ADDICTION

keyboard with a 'SEX' key

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Sexual addiction is a serious problem in which one engages in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite increasing negative consequences to one’s self or others. These behaviors continue despite sincere and persistent efforts to stop. Some might not think sex can be addictive because there are no chemicals involved. However, the body produces many hormones and neurotransmitters during sex that produce the same chemical “high” as drugs or alcohol. Because of the denial and shame associated with sexual behaviors, it is only recently that the reality of sexual addiction has been acknowledged by those caught in its grasp or by treatment professionals. Since this problem was first addressed in 1983, some have argued that sexual addiction does not exist or is exaggerated. Nevertheless, acknowledgment of compulsive sexuality is growing, and more help is available today than ever before. –http://www.everydayhealth.com

RISKY BEHAVIOR ADDICTION

RISKY BEHAVIOR ADDICTION

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Thrill seekers get a rush from skydiving or rock climbing, but after a while, they seek out even more dangerous adventures to feel that same level of excitement. And studies show that these “thrills” release the same flood of brain chemicals released by addictive drugs. Not all behavioral addictions meet the classic definition of physical addiction, but they do share many of the psychological and social hallmarks — they will respond well to traditional types of addiction treatment. –http://www.everydayhealth.com

EATING ADDICTION

EATING ADDICTION

Can food obsessions can actually be food addictions — or whether this “disorder” ?. In truth, binge eating disorder is a real problem that affects about 3 percent of adults in the United States. Symptoms include eating to ease emotions, overdoing it on food. But while food can seem like a drug for people with eating disorders, experts’ last word is that this is not a true addiction. The cause of eating disorders is not known, but it is probably linked more to depression than addiction. –http://www.everydayhealth.com

GAMBLING ADDICTION

GAMBLING ADDICTION

An addiction to gambling is the one that most closely resembles drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has reclassified gambling disorder from an impulse control disorder to an addictive disorder. Studies show that gambling addictions light up the same areas of the brain as drug addictions — and treatment for gambling disorder is usually included in the same type of therapy settings as drug and alcohol abuse. –http://www.everydayhealth.com.

MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS

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Mental illness, like physical illnesses, is on a continuum of severity ranging from mild to moderate to severe.  More than 60 million Americans have a mental illness in any given year.  Mental illness affects one in four adults and one in five children.  Very few people, however actually seek treatment for mental illness.  The stigma associated with mental illness is still the biggest barrier that prevents people from getting treatment or retaining their treatment. A mental illness is a disease of the brain that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.  There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are:  clinical depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia — and anxiety disorders.  Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal. – triadmentalhealth.org disturbance in physical or mental health or functions; malady or dysfunction – http://dictionary.reference.com.

STRESS & ANXIETY

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is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. – https://www.nlm.nih.gov    

DEPRESSION

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is a state of feeling sad : a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendenciesc (1) :  a reduction in activity, amount, quality, or force (2) :  a lowering of vitality or functional activity – www.merriam-webster.com

PANIC DISORDER

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An anxiety disorder that is characterized by sudden attacks of fear and panic. Panic attacks may occur without a known reason, but more frequently they are triggered by fear-producing events or thoughts, such as taking an elevator or driving. Symptoms of panic attacks include rapid heartbeat, strange chest sensations, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling, and anxiousness. Hyperventilation, agitation, and withdrawal are common results. Panic disorder is believed to be due to an abnormal activation of the body’s hormonal system, causing a sudden ‘fight or flight’ response. Treatment involves cognitive behavioral therapy, using exposure to effect symptom reduction, and use of medication. – www.medicinenet.com

OCD

OCD-LOGO

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. A person’s level of OCD can be anywhere from mild to severe, but if severe and left untreated, it can destroy a person’s capacity to function at work, at school or even to lead a comfortable existence in the home. – www.psychologytoday.com

Bipolar Disorder

OCD-LOGO

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Bipolar Disorder is a complex disorder that likely stems from a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors. The mood episodes associated with it involve clinical depression or mania (extreme elation and high energy) with periods of normal mood and energy in between episodes. The severity of mood episodes can range from very mild to extreme, and they can happen gradually or suddenly within a timeframe of days to weeks. When discrete mood episodes happen four or more times per year, the process is called rapid cycling. Rapid cycling should not be confused with very frequent moment-to-moment changes in mood, which can sometimes occur in people with bipolar disorder or other conditions such as borderline personality disorder. – www.webmd.com

PTSD

PTSD

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Is a disorder that develops in some people who have seen or lived through a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger. – www.nimh.nih.gov

ADHD

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A disorder in which a person is unable to control behavior due to difficulty in processing neural stimuli, accompanied by an extremely high level of motor activity. Abbreviated ADHD. ADHD can affect children and adults, but it is easiest to perceive during schooling. A child with ADHD may be extremely distractible, unable to remain still, and very talkative. ADHD is diagnosed by using a combination of parent and/or patient interview, observation of the patient, and sometimes use of standardized screening instruments. Treatments include making adjustments to the environment to accommodate the disorder, behavior modification, and the use of medications. Stimulants are the most common drugs used, although certain other medications can be effective. – www.medicinenet.com

ADDICTION

tatood man sitting outside against wall

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Whether they are illegal drugs or prescription drugs, alcohol, or tobacco is one of the nation’s most pressing public health issues. Drug abuse occurs when people willingly consume illegal substances or legal, prescription drugs for the purpose of altering their mood, or getting “high”. Regular drug abuse may lead to drug addiction or other bodily harm. Drug abuse usually involves selling, buying or abusing these substances, which can lead to arrest, criminal charges, and imprisonment.

WOMAN-&-ADDICTION

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Drugs and alcohol are equal-opportunity destroyers that can wreak havoc of any cross-section of the population, but the confluence of biology and social expectations means that addiction can play out differently in women’s lives (who represent 40 percent of nationwide addicts) versus men’s. The study of how gender influences drug addiction is relatively new. As Tammy L. Anderson, PhD, points out in Drug Use and Gender, male drug abuse set the standard for addiction studies until the 1980s.  Thankfully, recent medical research has proven that women start using, abuse a substance, progress in the disease, relapse and recover in ways that make all the difference when identifying and treating female addicts. The following factors explain the how, what, and why of women’s issues in substance abuse.

LGBT & ADDICTION

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Addiction Rates Among the LGBT Community Due to the unique pressures and challenges of being lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, the LGBT population suffers from higher incidences of substance abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. Compared to 10 percent of the rest of the nation, addiction rates among LGBT ride close to about 20 to 30 percent, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). and other studies shows that approximately 20-30 percent of those who identify with LGBT have issues with substance abuse in comparison to 9% of the general population. Homophobia, discrimination, prejudice and violence directly contribute to the substance usage rates of this group, who more often than not use drugs (READ MORE)

FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS & ADDICTION

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Drug and alcohol use is prevalent on college campuses – in fact, college students make up the largest group of substance abusers in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Out of the 13.4 million full-time university-goers across the nation  – 20 percent have used an illegal drug in the last 30 days, and 40 percent have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol. Recent statistics have also shown that half of full-time students binge drink, abuse prescription and/or illegal drugs, and that 1 in 4 college students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and dependence.

FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL, VETERANS & ADDICTION

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Drug and alcohol use is prevalent on college campuses – in fact, college students make up the largest group of substance abusers in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Out of the 13.4 million full-time university-goers across the nation  – 20 percent have used an illegal drug in the last 30 days, and 40 percent have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol. Recent statistics have also shown that half of full-time students binge drink, abuse prescription and/or illegal drugs, and that 1 in 4 college students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and dependence.

WHAT ELSE WE TREAT

a circle of many peoples hands
  • The ‘Complex Client’
  • Anger Management
  • Eating Disorders
Individuals who have substance use issues – as well as long-term psychiatric conditions – are diagnosed as having a co-occurring disorder(s), and it’s not uncommon for those who are battling depression, anxiety or compulsive behaviors to also struggle with drug and/or alcohol problems as a coping mechanism. While either illness on it own can affect a person’s life for the worse, the interaction between the two can cause a dangerous interchange that makes an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan much more difficult than either issue on its own. (Read More)
Anger – a powerful emotional state that ranges in intensity from mild irritation to intense rage – usually occurs in response to an internal or external event that we perceive as a threat, a violation or an injustice. They can have both external and internal causes; a specific person (such as an argument with a co-worker or family member) or an event (such as a traffic jam) are a couple of typical examples that can cause anger, though memories of a traumatic or emotionally-heavy time or event can also trigger angry feelings.  (Read More)
Eating disorders are a group of conditions that are marked by an unhealthy relationship with food and one’s body image. The disturbances in eating behavior and weight regulation usually involve an extreme focus on weight, body shape and food, which can significantly impact the body’s ability to get adequate nutrition while also involving a wide range of other physical (as well as psychological and social) consequences.

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