In the UK, around 10% of adults aged 16 to 59 reported using illicit drugs last year. While some people can use drugs recreationally without getting addicted, sadly, that isn’t the case for many others.
Drug addiction is a real problem worldwide; the drug statistics in the UK are just a small glimpse of the issue. Maybe you’re dealing with it yourself or know a loved one who has a dependence on illicit substances.
Either way, you’re wondering about drug addiction, such as “what is drug abuse,” “how does a person get addicted to drugs,” and “why do addicts become addicts?”
In this article, we’ll give you in-depth information about substance addiction, so you’re better informed on this subject.
About Drug Addiction
First, you’ll want to know about the drug addiction definition. Drug addiction actually consists of 2 components: mental and physical.
For instance, whenever you feel stressed out, you may go for a smoke break. You can easily develop a mental dependence because your brain associates cigarettes with relaxation.
But as you may already know, cigarettes have nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance. This means your body will also develop a dependence on cigarettes just because of your biochemistry and physiological makeup.
Addiction is essentially the point where you can’t control your usage of the substance anymore. You may feel compelled to keep using it, plus you won’t get as much of a “high” out of it anymore. However, the withdrawal symptoms will be so bad that you’ll need to keep using the substance to feel “normal,” not even high.
So what is an addict? It’s someone who has either a mental or physical dependence on a substance; they’re people who abuse drugs. It can be either legal (such as prescription drugs) or illegal (such as heroin).
Neurochemistry of Drug Addiction
In the above section, we mentioned addiction in both a mental and physiological manner. Let’s delve deeper into the latter.
Your brain is responsible for coordinating many functions within your body. It achieves this by sending messages through neurotransmitters, which come from your brain’s neurons. Neurotransmitters travel through synapses and then bind to another neuron, which then successfully transmits that message.
Basically, when you start using substances, they can interfere with this whole process. Not only do they disrupt the messages, but they also “replace” them. This is because they imitate your brain’s natural chemicals but don’t perform the same functions.
Other drugs might stimulate your brain to release too many neurotransmitters. For example, MDMA causes your brain to release a flood of serotonin, which makes you feel euphoric. However, you’ll have a “crash” afterwards because you have a massive lack of that neurotransmitter.
Difference Between Drug Use and Drug Abuse
There’s actually a difference between drug use and drug abuse.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, some people can use drugs recreationally without any serious and adverse side effects. For example, they may be able to party hard on a Saturday, then resume normal life and work by Monday.
However, some get into the territory of drug abuse. This is when they use drugs frequently and in large doses. It’s definitely considered drug abuse when their normal life is interrupted, such as missing work or failing out of classes.
You can have drug use without abuse, but you can’t have drug abuse without use.
Risk Factors for Drug Abuse
Some people will be more prone to drug abuse than others. This is because they have a genetic predisposition for it. If you have a family history of addicts, you may be more likely to fall into addiction if you try illicit substances.
In addition, if you live in a poor environment, have a traumatic past, and/or are dealing with a lot of stress, these are all risk factors for drug abuse. Any of these can be the right trigger for falling into drug and alcohol addiction.
Many young adults may be particularly at risk as well. Drug addiction in youth is common, especially with the desire to look cool and give in to peer pressure.
The Stages of Drug Use and Abuse
There are 3 main stages of drug use abuse: experimentation, regular use, and dependence/addiction.
You may start curious about a particular drug. You try it out and use it infrequently. This is experimentation.
Once you get a feel for things, you may decide you like this particular drug and fall into regular use. You wouldn’t necessarily use the substance every day but may develop a regular habit for it.
When you reach the dependence/addiction stage, it’s a problem. You have to use more and more of the drug to get high; sometimes, you won’t even achieve that. You’ll need to use the drug to function “normally”.
The dependence and addiction can get so bad that you’ll do anything to satisfy your cravings. This can include stealing from and lying to loved ones to fund your habit.
Mental Health Issues & Drug Addiction
Unfortunately, mental illness is usually associated with drug addiction. For example, depression is often linked to alcoholism.
Often, mental health issues drive people to drugs. Whether they know they have mental health issues or not, many decide to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. However, this usually backfires and makes problems worse.
This is why it’s important to address the physical side of addiction and the mental one.
How Drug Abuse Changes the Brain
Remember how drugs alter the brain’s way of communicating with the rest of the body? It should then come as no surprise that drug abuse can change your brain chemistry.
Your brain was wired a certain way before drug usage. Each time you use drugs, it slowly rewires your brain until, in the end, the circuit (especially for reward and pleasure) is completely different. As a result, it becomes more difficult to enjoy regular things in life.
Even if you get into recovery, it can take a long period of time for your brain to reset.
Different Types of Drugs
There are many different drugs people abuse. Here is a list of illicit drugs addicts partake in:
- MDMA (Ecstasy)
- Hallucinogens (such as LSD or magic mushrooms)
- Opiates And Opioids
Not all of these are classified in the same way. You can find drugs and their classes in the UK to see which ones carry more weight when it comes to crimes committed.
Consequences and Health Damage Caused by Drug Addiction
As you may have guessed, drug addiction can take a heavy toll on someone’s life.
First of all, addiction can ruin relationships. It can cause people to fight and drift away from one another. It may even cause romantic relationships to fall apart.
In addition, addiction can severely impact your vital organs, such as your brain, stomach, liver, and heart. For some addictions, it can increase your chances of developing cancer.
Helping Someone Who Is Taking Drugs
Unfortunately, you can’t force an addict to get help unless they want it. In fact, the more you push them, the more they’ll be resistant to the idea.
Instead, you should try and be their support system and give them encouraging words. That way, they know they can trust you and will open up to you when they’re finally ready for sobriety.
Depending on the substance, addict, and other circumstances, staging an intervention may be necessary.
Getting Help for Drug Addiction
The best way to get help for drug addiction is to check into a rehabilitation centre. Some experts know how to address your addiction and help you live a sober life in these centres.
While it’s certainly possible to kick a drug addiction on your own, the chances of success aren’t very high, and it’s highly recommended you get professional help instead.
Types of Drug Addiction Treatment
When you seek professional drug abuse help, there are several types of treatment you can go through. Below are some of the most common programmes you’ll find for substance abuse in the UK.
Before you can really get started on the road to recovery, you have to rid your body of traces of illicit drugs. However, it would be best if you didn’t do this alone.
Many people try to detox by themselves, but the withdrawal symptoms can be so bad, they turn back to substances to ease the discomfort. In addition, it can be dangerous to detox off of certain drugs without professional help. For example, if you go cold turkey with heavy alcohol addiction, you can experience seizures.
For this reason, you should consider detoxing under a medical professional’s guidance. This is especially true if you’re addicted to strong illegal drugs.
At a professional rehab centre, their staff will be able to monitor your detox and withdrawal symptoms. If needed, they can also prescribe medications to ease the symptoms and make detox safer and easier.
Once you’ve rid your body of the last traces of drugs and have completed withdrawal, the next step is to receive rehab care. Inpatient treatment means you stay at the facility 24/7, living your life there for the time being.
As you can imagine, this immerses you in recovery, which means it gives you the best chance at staying sober. However, it’s also expensive, since you’ll have to live, eat, and sleep there. So for some, it may not be feasible.
At an inpatient rehab, you’ll work with professionals such as therapists and nutritionists to help you lead the most wholesome life. You’ll discuss triggers for your addiction and how to handle them constructively. You’ll also get to the root of what caused your dependence in the first place, such as a traumatic event in your life.
There may also be alternative therapies, such as art and music therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Plus, there will be activities that soothe your mind, such as yoga, meditation, and massage.
Outpatient treatment is essentially the same as inpatient rehab, except you don’t live at the facility. Instead, you book appointments to do things such as taking medication or speak with a therapist.
You’ll get to enjoy all the benefits of inpatient rehabilitation, with some small differences. You won’t have to spend all your time there, which means you can still take care of everyday responsibilities, such as work, school, and family. Since you don’t have to live there, you won’t have to pay as high a fee.
This makes outpatient treatment a good alternative for those who can’t get out of obligations and/or can’t afford inpatient treatment. However, you must have a good support system to maximise your chance of recovery. If your home environment involves other people who use illicit drugs, you have a much higher chance of relapsing.
Aftercare involves much of the same things you’d find in rehab treatment, such as therapy, including alternative ones. In addition, you’ll get to attend group counselling sessions where you’ll become friends with other people who are going through recovery, just as you are.
In aftercare, you’ll have the opportunity to build a strong support system. This can be extremely beneficial if you don’t have anyone to rely on or feel like your family and friends don’t understand the process you’re going through.
Get Professional Help With Drug Addiction
Drug addiction can be a tough thing to battle with. However, even if things feel hopeless, know that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. With some proper drug abuse help, you’ll turn your life around and live a happy and healthy lifestyle.
Never try to get off drugs on your own. You’ll need the right support system, especially professionals, in some cases.
Seeking out addiction help may difficult, but in the end, it’ll be worth it when you can be free of your drug problem. So if you’re looking for a substance abuse helpline in the UK, Detox Plus is here for you.
Do you or someone you love need drug addiction help in the UK? Then feel free to get in touch with us now. We’ll be more than happy to give you some free advice and direction.