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Am I an Addict?

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addicted to drugs

Not everyone who uses drugs is addicted to them. However, drug abuse can cause a lot of negative symptoms and side effects. These symptoms and side effects can be emotional, behavioral, and even physical. It also includes social consequences that are not positive. In 2014, The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) states out of 27 million people who were using and abusing illicit drugs only 7 million of them actually suffered from a drug addiction that year.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is defined as a complex, chronic brain disease that involves circuitry and dysfunctional behaviors. It’s a disease that causes disruption to an individual’s physical and emotional health. This would also be including their interpersonal relationships too, involving their family and friends. It also is disruptive to their everyday life and their ability to function normally in it.

Addiction impacts society and takes a toll, costing the American people about $700 billion each year related to workplace production, crime and healthcare. This is according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates.

Luckily, addiction is a disease that is treatable. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that more than 14,000 specialty drug treatment facilities in the United States do offer many amenities along with a range of care options to help with recovery. It is important to understand addiction and how identify problematic patterns of drug abuse which are important to recovery. The more you know, the better you can be to make decisions on how to advance forward with a healthier life.

The Difference between Drug Dependence and Being an Addict


Dependence and addiction are two separate things and people often get confused. Dependence is when you have a physical and chemical drug dependence, but that doesn’t necessarily make them addicted to it. When drugs alter the mind and become introduced to the physical body, changes will occur in the brain. There are specific chemical messengers in the brain that are affected. The chemical messengers or neurotransmitters, tell the individual how to feel, which impacts their behaviors. 

An example would be, when a drug, like most drugs acts on the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. Dopamine and serotonin which are neurotransmitters are then increased. That is what produces the desired “high” effect. Inhibitions are then lowered and impaired. Sociability is increased and decision-making abilities are impaired as well.

Mind Altering Drugs

Mind-altering drugs can likely put a person into a potentially compromising and dangerous position or situation. Those positions and/or situations can be accidents, injuries or anything with adverse consequences like dangerous sexual interactions.

There are some drugs that are stimulants. These are cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription ADHD medications (Ritalin and Adderall), for instance. What these stimulants do is speed up the nervous system functions. It increases your heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. It also increases your energy levels, attention, focus, and excitement. The high created from the stimulant can be increasingly intense and could lower an individual’s appetite. It can also keep them awake for long periods of time causing insomnia. 

Drugs that are called opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers (ex, OxyContin, Vicodin, Morphine, Percocet, and Fentanyl), tranquilizers and benzodiazepine sedatives (ex, Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, etc.), and marijuana slows down nervous system functions. This makes an individual feel relaxed, sluggish, drowsy and sedated. It reduces stress and anxiety temporarily. The neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which acts like a natural tranquilizer, increases by its presence. 

The Brain on Drugs

The brain will begin to compensate once the drug is taken regularly and often. It will try to keep itself balanced and upon doing so it will stop transmitting, reabsorbing and also producing some of the neurotransmitters needed in order to function. This means regions of the brain related to mood regulation, feelings of pleasure, impulse control, memory, learning functionality, and stress management are even and negatively impacted.

The brain usually builds up a tolerance when the drug is chronically used. Regular amounts of drugs will no longer affect it and higher doses will be needed to feel its effects. While the drug amount increases, the brain starts to struggle to keep up to rebalance itself. That is when drug dependency occurs. 

Drug dependence is a chemical and physical form of chronic drug use. When an individual becomes dependent on a drug, they will begin to form cravings that can be strong. If the cravings are not met, then the withdrawal symptoms are difficult as the drug wears off. Drug withdrawal symptoms are usually the opposite of what the drug’s effects are. It occurs when the brain’s neurotransmitter levels get disrupted from regular drug abuse.

Drug dependence is present in a person who is going through addiction, though a formal diagnosis of addiction requires more than just physical attributes.

Signs of Addiction

Being that addiction is a brain disease, the primary symptom is a loss of control over the ability to be able to make choices when it comes to stopping certain actions. Even when these certain actions happen to lead to negative behavioral consequences. This proves addiction has a behavioral component to it.


The standard diagnostic tool which is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), called The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does have 11 different criteria for being able to diagnose drug addiction. This is according to the most current version of the DSM-5.

Do You Have These

At least 2 of the following must be present within a year’s time.

  1. Despite a strong desire, or even several attempts the individual has the inability to quit using drugs.
  2. Taking drugs more often or more drugs at one time than was intended.
  3. Craving the drug.
  4. An increased time is dedicated to working on ways to get the drugs, using them, and also recovering from them.
  5. Participation in social and recreational activities that were a priority before is not anymore. Instead, they are replaced with activities surrounded by drug use.
  6. Being in situations repeatedly while using drugs that are hazardous and/or physically dangerous.
  7. Continuation of drug use even though clearly has a negative impact on relationships and has negative social ramifications.
  8. Even though using drugs is causing emotional, social, and physical consequences drug use is still continued.
  9. Obligations that are important surrounding work, school, and family become non-important as a result of drug use.
  10. The lessened effect is due to increased tolerance because of regular drug use, which makes a person need more drugs in order to feel intoxicated and/or high.
  11. When the drug wears off a person experiences withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia, irregular heart rate, stomach upset, irritability, blood pressure issues, agitation, and also possibly fatigue.

Am I an Addict - Palm Beach Interventions

In order for a person who has a drug addiction to feel “normal” they will often need to keep taking drugs because of the chemical changes in the brain. Drugs take a toll on the body as a result. Health problems can develop, appetite changes can happen, including weight fluctuations, and malnutrition can also be a factor as well. These signs can often point to drug abuse. It is also not uncommon for a person to become less aware or concerned about their personal hygiene or physical appearance. 

Dealing with Side Effects

Side effects of addiction can include aggression, hostility, mood swings, and even violence. Agitation and irritability are common side effects as well. Unpredictable behaviors that can be erratic, including depressed moods, along with having trouble feeling pleasure are often results of chemical brain changes due to chronic drug use. Other behaviors can be social withdrawal, increased secrecy, and relationship problems because of drug usage. Feelings of shame, guilt, denial, and anger are common emotions as well when someone is experiencing drug addiction.

Palm Beach Interventions

If you’ve come to realize you may have a drug addiction or may have a drug dependence we can help, either way. Both are serious issues. Here at Palm Beach Interventions, we have many treatment programs and therapies to help get to the root of your drug use. We even have a medically supervised detox program. This ensures you’re completely safe when you rid your body of the toxicity, and you have the medical support needed if anything were to go wrong. 

It’s never too late or too early to get the support you need and change the direction of your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug addiction or dependence, contact us today. Find out more about our programs and treatment options and see how we can individually help you get the customized treatment you or your loved one needs.

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