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Updated: Dec 4, 2022

When used as a coping strategy, drug use can develop into compulsive, harmful behaviours with very serious physical and mental health consequences. Both prescription medication and illicit drug addictions can be fatal if left unmanaged.

Drug Addiction and Abuse - Definition

When defining drug addiction, we must first consider what we mean by the term drugs. In this context, a drug is a substance that will have a psychological impact when consumed. We can drill down further into sub-categories, for example, illicit drugs, prescription drugs and medication, or legal drugs. Although alcohol can be classed as a drug, alcohol addiction or alcoholism are often viewed separately from drugs, though some of the impacts and treatment options are similar.

A very simple definition of alcohol and drug addiction is that a person develops tolerance to a drug, so they must take more of the drug to get the desired effect, that they suffer from withdrawal symptoms if they do not take the drug, and that they continue to use the drug despite a build-up of negative consequences. Negative consequences of substance abuse include an impact on physical health, an impact on mental health, and changes in behaviour. They also experience cravings and urges to use drugs.

The First Signs of Substance Abuse

Drug addiction or substance use disorders do not happen instantly or overnight. There is a build up with identifiable signposts and behavioral changes along the way that may indicate substance abuse. Family members will often become aware of the signs that something is not right with a loved one. These first signs help us to recognize when someone is using drugs.

First signs of drug addiction or drug abuse would include:

  • Losing interest in things that used to be important or that the loved one enjoyed doing Poor self-care - not looking after their appearance, not attending medical appointments, not eating well, a disrupted sleep pattern

  • build-up of effects on physical health - weight loss, or weight gain, frequent colds and health issues, drowsiness

  • Behavioral changes - becoming more isolated from friends and family, being secretive, keeping strange hours, becoming defensive or argumentative over relatively minor things or if being challenged about their behaviors

  • Spending increasing amounts of money, this might include stealing money from family, or manipulating situations to get more funds

  • Taking a prescription drug or medications outside of the prescribing guidelines of their doctor

  • Distinct changes in mental health, including mood swings, periods of depression, anxiety

  • Symptoms Drug addiction symptoms or behaviours include, among others: Feeling that you must use the drug regularly — daily or even several times a day

  • Having intense urges for the drug that block out any other thoughts

  • Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect

  • Taking larger amounts of the drug over a longer period than you intended

  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug

  • Spending money on the drug, even though you cannot afford it

  • Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use

  • Continuing to use the drug, even though you know it is causing problems in your life or causing you physical or psychological harm

  • Doing things to get the drug that you normally would not do, such as stealing

  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you are under the influence of the drug

  • Spending a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug

  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

An addict needs help Contrary to general belief, addiction of any kind is not an indulgence or bad habit. It is a medical disorder. Most people’s view of addiction is hinged on the idea that addicts have a choice. In reality, it is a chronic disorder characterised by the compulsive need to use drugs despite harmful consequences. An addict is a patient whose life is going out of control and needs professional help to recover.

Drug addiction not only affects the substance abuser but also affects families. The family members must face social consequences, mental stress and are put under a huge financial burden. This affects the entire family and often members end up helpless or depressed.

In cases where the addict is the sole breadwinner in the family and the money for the household gets spent on drugs, the family members struggle to sustain themselves.

Early Access to treatment: First Steps When a client is motivated to make some changes, it is important to search for and consider the programmes available and act quickly. When the window of opportunity opens, fast access to treatments and treatment centres can be crucial.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when considering treatment for addiction is cost. However, recent research has shown that, over time, the costs associated with rehab dwarf the costs related to continued addiction, hospitalization, and death by drugs. With the help of insurance, it is possible that your treatment could be fully covered. Professional Intervention

If your attempts to talk to your loved one have been unsuccessful then you may want to consider using professional intervention services. An Intervention is a carefully planned therapy strategy to help families to talk openly and about their feelings regarding the impact of the misuse of drugs or alcohol on themselves, on the person of concern and on the family. Trained intervention professionals will coach the participants in how to treat the person of concern with care and respect, to talk openly and honestly, seeking only to encourage change, open a pathway to treatment and recovery, and show love and kindness.

A menu of treatment programmes or options may be offered as part of the intervention. Although the intervention centres around the treatment of the addiction, family members may also need commitment to making changes, or negotiating and holding boundaries. An intervention can be a starting point for open communication and change. Treatment and Rehabilitation for Drug Abuse Treatment for addiction should include a full continuum of care. This approach allows experts to guide clients through various levels of care, depending on their needs. Treatment may start with intensive inpatient treatment and detox before transitioning clients to outpatient treatment and aftercare support. Generally, a rehab center screens clients to determine where they should begin their journey to recovery. Once that determination is made, a client can be admitted. It is essential that you choose a rehab center that offers a continuum of care and uses evidence-based treatment. This means the course of treatment used in the center is based on scientific research and study. Research has proven that a combination of medication-assisted treatment and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is most effective when treating individuals with addiction.

Medical issues, family therapy, education, social skills, nutrition and underlying causes are also important. Long-term recovery is a systemic process that encompasses many different areas of life. Very important for you There is a cliche often used about the emergency oxygen masks in aircraft. We are instructed during the announcements that if the masks come down, we should put our own masks on before helping others. This also applies to family and friends of people with substance use disorders. You must look after yourself. Make sure you are taking care of your own physical and emotional health. Get as much help for yourself as possible. Talk, share and allow yourself to be supported. Seek out professional help if required. You need to remain healthy, balanced and stable. The road ahead will have many bumps to negotiate. And remember, sometimes just engaging in your own self-care can be something that inspires the person of concern to notice and begin their own process of change.

The uncomfortable truth that people die from drug addiction or its effects is often overlooked. This allows people to not take it seriously which means addiction wins. Facing up to uncomfortable truths is where recovery begins. Why Choose Xanadu Healthcare As an internationally known and respected treatment provider of mental and behavioural health & de-addiction services, Xanadu Healthcare is pleased to offer state-of-the-art treatment for a wide range of mental & behavioural health concerns. We pride ourselves on being a leading provider of evidence-based practices and integrative therapies that are effective in treating addictions and other mental health problems. Holistic and individualized treatment is the cornerstone of care offered at Xanadu Healthcare, and is provided by the best staff of qualified and experienced psychiatrists, licensed psychologists and clinical professionals. At Xanadu Healthcare, a premier rehab center for substance abuse, our primary goal is to deliver services in such a manner that all who come to us for treatment will enjoy a healthy and productive lifestyle.

If you or a loved one needs help from your addiction and you need more information on our drug rehab programs, please contact our admissions specialists at

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