Now regarded as a relapsing brain disease, addiction insidiously takes hold of a person and deteriorates their ability to control their actions. In spite of negative consequences and attempts to stop, an addicted person persists in their pathological behavior, resulting in a negative feedback loop and an ever greater dependence on the habit or substance.
On a larger scale, the damage done by addiction becomes apparent as a massive detriment to society. Abuse and addiction cost the United States approximately $700 billion each year and plays an instrumental role in the deaths of over 90,000 people annually. The damage done by addiction is not restricted to merely illicit street drugs either – alcohol and tobacco wreak their own brand of havoc entirely within lawful parameters.
It seems clear that legislation is not the antidote to addiction that it was intended to be. While the “War on Drugs” was arguably created to prevent widespread suffering at the hands of drugs and addiction, it has instead lead to an overflowing prison population, consisting mainly of committers of benign offenses.
Another argument against current drug laws is that they sweep many of the problems of addiction under the rug since neither potency nor sanitation of needles are regulated. This has resulted in some areas employing the use of safe injection sites, though the trend has failed to catch on nationally as of yet.
How Addiction Occurs
Many people convince themselves that they are not susceptible to addiction, which is exactly how they become ensnared by its hold. Addiction is often a subtle, gradual intrusion that may only become obvious once its effects are full-blown and severe.
In some cases, a casual indulgence like a drink or two on the weekend evolves into many drinks across more days of the week. Eventually, feelings of normalcy can only be attained after a drink, and a once casual substance becomes a necessity for “normal” functioning.
Other times, a person may endure a period of stress, such as a painful breakup or injury. During this time, they may turn to numbing substances like opioids or alcohol to alleviate the pain they are experiencing, only to realize the use of the drug has dug them deeper into despair over time.
When a person regularly uses a substance, eventually the effect they use it for becomes less pronounced, requiring an increased dose to attain the desired effect. This is known as tolerance and is a hallmark of addiction. The body always seeks to maintain equilibrium and thus will adjust its own chemistry to offset the presence of an inebriating substance. After tolerance has set in over a period of time, the addict will suffer an erosion of their ability to stop using. At this point, seeking professional help becomes the most likely chance at reversing the condition effectively.
Spotting Signs Of Addiction
While the source of addiction may vary widely, the outward manifestations of the conditions are fairly consistent from case to case. This is because all addictions act on common areas of the brain. Whether the addiction is to a drug or to a habit like internet use or gambling, the effects on the brain and its neural circuits are remarkably similar.
Often times, as a person becomes addicted, they start to feel numb towards stimuli that would typically elicit feelings of joy or excitement. This is because the brain has become numbed to ordinary sources of emotion. The end result of this is an unwillingness to partake in things like social events or once-loved hobbies.
A person suffering from an addiction may also become increasingly suspicious in their behavior, and disappear at odd or inopportune times without feasible explanation. This behavior results from their shame and simultaneous desire to hide their habit.
Another common sign of a dangerous habit is an irregular sleep schedule. Activities like binge drinking, cocaine use or gambling lend themselves to long bouts of abuse throughout the night, leaving the abuser’s circadian rhythm in disarray. Thus, they may spend a large period of the day sleeping. Other times, abuse of opioids or other sedatives may cause the user to nod off randomly or become unusually lethargic.
Physical Signs of Drug Abuse
Some signs can be observed merely by looking at a person’s body. These tend to vary from drug to drug, but can often be noticed if you are looking for them.
If the person is abusing cocaine, changes in concentration and muscle tics are common. In addition, cold-like symptoms or nosebleeds may occur. This is due to the damage and inflammation to the nasal cavity from repeated snorting of the drug.
Amphetamines like meth have their own list of physical symptoms, often including poor oral health and sores on the skin. This is because the drug causes the user to neglect their everyday hygiene and feel irritation underneath their skin, causing them to pick at it.