Drug addiction devastates both the addict and those who love him. After abusing drugs for a period of time, the user becomes both physically and emotionally dependent upon the drug. Understanding the differences between drug abuse and drug dependence, and how the two relate to one another, is vital in helping the addict recover from this devastating disease.
* Understanding Drug Abuse
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, provides definitions and criteria for making diagnostic judgments relating to the use of drugs and alcohol.
According to the DSM-IV, the essential features of substance abuse are a "maladaptive pattern of substance use manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences related to the repeated use of substances."
Drug addiction occurs when a person uses any form of drug for a purpose or in a way other than for what it was created. Most commonly, drug abuse is associated with illicit, or illegal, drugs, however, Drug addiction can also take place with over-the-counter and prescription drugs as well.
Illicit drugs such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine are commonly abused drugs. Others such as nicotine and alcohol, though legal, are also drugs that get abused. In addition, some people abuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs that are meant to help people in some way, such as oxycontin and even cough syrup. In this case, the drug addict does not actually need the drug for its intended purpose. Instead, the abuser chooses to use it in order to get high.
* Understanding Drug Dependency
The DSM-IV describes addiction as follows: "The essential feature of substance dependence is a cluster of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms indicating that the individual continues use of the substance despite significant substance related problems."
A person who abuses drugs is not necessarily dependent upon the drug, they will however, ultimately develop a dependency for the substance. The amount of time it takes for person to become dependent on a drug depends on the individual and the type of drug that is abused. For some people, abusing a drug just one time can lead to dependency. For others, it may take several incidents of abuse for a dependency to develop. In addition, drugs such as alcohol and codeine often need to be abused several times before dependency occurs. On the other hand, a person may become addicted to heroin or cocaine after just one use.
A person who is dependent on the drug is considered to be addicted. This is because the person feels the need to abuse the drug in order to feel "normal." This dependence can be either physical or psychological, or both. For example, a person who is dependent upon cigarettes may be physically dependent on the nicotine but also psychologically addicted to having something in their mouth. They may also be psychologically addicted to the feeling they gets after smoking a cigarette. Therefore, a person trying to overcome nicotine addiction needs to overcome both forms of dependency in order to fully recover.
* Drug Tolerance
Building a tolerance for a drug exacerbates both drug abuse and dependency. After using a drug for a period of time, a drug addict requires more of the drug in order to achieve a high - or even to feel normal. As a result, they need to abuse more of the drug in order to satisfy the dependency. This vicious cycle is what often leads to an overdose, or taking more of the drug than the body can safely handle.
Unfortunately, addicts who overdose often do not receive the medical help they need. They may be so addicted to the drug that they cannot face the prospect of being forced to stop abusing the it. It can also be because they are physically unable to reach help or because they refuse to seek help. Many will not seek help because they are afraid of getting into legal trouble for drug abuse.
Sadly, failure to seek help often results in death for the addict. Even those who do receive prompt medical attention may not live past the overdose.
When an addict seeks help for drug addiction, they will have to endure a detoxification period. During this time, the addict is not allowed the drug any longer. Because the addict is dependent upon the drug, withdrawal can very painful both physically and psychologically.
Physically, the addict's body has become used to the effects of the drug. As a result, his body reacts adversely when it is denied more of the substance. Physical withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and according to the type of drug abused. Common physical withdrawal symptoms, however, include severe headaches, vomiting, shaking, and increased blood pressure and heart rate.
Psychologically, an addict has come to depend on the drug to cause a certain effect. This effect can be to relieve pain or to bring about feelings of pleasure and the addict does not believe it is possible to achieve these same feelings without using the drug. This causes severe cravings and many addicts feel a great deal of stress while going through withdrawal. That's why drug rehab centers provide close observation of addicts during their abandonment.