Verify Insurance

What Does Drug Addiction Mean?

Addiction means dependence on a drug. Risk factors of drug addiction include brain chemistry, genetics, and drug exposure.

Drug addiction is a neurological condition requiring holistic care for the mind, body, and soul. Because drugs alter the structure and function of the brain, drug abuse is a mental illness. 

There are many reasons why someone may develop an addiction to drugs. When taking prescribed painkillers, addictions like opioid addiction can develop. 

In fact, after marijuana, prescription painkillers are the most common narcotic abused in the United States. Opioid drug overdoses claim more lives daily than fatal car crashes and gunfire combined.

Read on to explore more about drug or alcohol addiction.

Key Takeaways

Despite negative consequences, people who abuse substances may develop a drug or alcohol addiction. Several factors contribute to its development. 

The blog post will cover the following key points:

  • Drug addiction is an illness that encourages addictive behaviors if someone uses addictive substances.
  • Millions of people are affected by drug addiction.
  • People use drugs for pleasure and to manage the stress of family or business affairs.
  • Signs of drug addiction include continual use of drugs and changes in behaviors that affect daily life tasks.
  • Risk factors of drug addiction include brain chemistry, genetics, and drug exposure. Still, it is treatable if you start detoxing today.

If you have a drug addiction, visit The Haven Detox-New England. Contact us at (844) 933-4145 to learn more about our care options.

Drug Addiction Explained

Drug abuse, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is an illness that affects a person’s brain and behavior. It causes them to lose control over their drug use. 

The drugs in question do not have to be illegal to qualify as an addiction. Alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine are substances people use as drugs.

As time passes, you might require larger doses to feel high. You might need the drugs to complete everyday tasks. You could find it harder to abstain as your drug use rises. 

You could have severe cravings and physical illnesses when you try to stop using drugs. We refer to these as withdrawal symptoms.

You can get help to overcome your drug addiction and stay clean from your doctor, family, friends, support groups, or an organized rehab plan.

Drug Addiction Facts

Most drug-abusing people prefer to keep their disease quiet and avoid speaking out about it. However, a large number of Americans experience the same problem. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.7 million Americans 12 and older struggle with SUD.

  • In 2017, about 74 percent of those adults battled an alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • In 2017, almost 38 percent of individuals suffered an illness related to illegal drug usage
  • One in eight individuals experienced both SUD and AUD in the same calendar year
  • In 2017, 5 million adults in the US had either co-occurring mental health issues or SUD
  • Drug abuse costs the US economy $740 billion annually

Addiction vs. Abuse and Tolerance

Drugs are abused when you use them in ways you should not, whether legal or illicit. You might exceed the optional dosage or use a prescription written for someone else. 

Addiction is the inability to stop drug use. Even if you wish to stop, the desire to obtain and use drugs can grow stronger every minute of the day.

Tolerance or physical reliance is not the same as addiction. When you abruptly cease using a drug in cases of physical dependence, withdrawal takes place. Tolerance occurs as a dose of medicine loses its efficacy over time.

For example, if you use opioids for pain for a long time, you might become physically dependent and acquire tolerance. It does not indicate addiction. In general, only a tiny fraction of people develop an addiction when using drugs under medical care.

Why People Take Drugs

Generally, there are a few reasons why people use drugs.

Drugs or alcohol have the power to elicit intense pleasure. Several effects follow this initial euphoria, depending on the medication used—for example, the high from stimulants like cocaine results in feelings of power. Opioids like heroin, however, generate euphoria, followed by feelings of relaxation.

People who experience stress, sadness, and social anxiety start using drugs to feel better. In people with addiction, stress can impact initiating and keeping drug use and returning to drug use.

Some people feel pressure to sharpen their focus in their job, school, or sports. It may impact whether someone tries or keeps using drugs like cocaine or prescription stimulants.

Teenagers are especially at risk since peer pressure can be very intense. Drug use can start throughout the evolving stage of adolescence if risk factors, like the presence of drug-using peers, are present.

Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Some signs of drug addiction are:

  • Having the feeling that you must use the drug often, such as every day or multiple times a day
  • Having intense drug cravings that keep all other thoughts at bay
  • Gradually need more drugs to have the same result
  • Using the drug in greater doses or for longer than you expected
  • Ensuring you keep a supply of the drugs on hand
  • Spending money on the drug while not being able to
  • Cutting back on social activities due to drug usage or failing to fulfill duties and work tasks
  • Using the drug despite being aware that doing so is harming your health
  • Taking actions to obtain the drugs that you ordinarily wouldn’t, like stealing
  • Investing a lot of time in getting the drugs, using them, or dealing with their side effects
  • Failing to quit using the drugs despite your best efforts
  • Feeling the effects of withdrawal when you try to stop taking drugs

Signs of recent drug use may include:

  • Redness in eyes
  • A sense of euphoria or joy
  • Sharp reasoning for visual, auditory, and taste perception
  • High blood pressure and irregular heart rate
  • Difficulty focusing or memory
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Anxiety or fearful thinking
  • Odor on clothes or yellow fingertips
  • Dry mouth

How Drug Addiction Develops

The development of drug addiction often follows this pattern:

  • Experimental use of drugs
  • Occasional use or using drugs not as directed
  • Heavy use
  • Drug addiction

The development is complex, and several risk factors contribute to the growth of drug addiction, including:

  • The effect of drugs on your brain chemistry
  • Genetics or family history
  • Other mental health issues
  • Access and exposure to the drug
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

Brain Chemistry

Drugs impact your brain, mainly the reward center.

The desire for rewards is natural in humans. The benefits often result from positive actions. Your body releases a dopamine-producing chemical when you have a wonderful meal or spend time with a loved one. It turns into a loop where you seek out these feelings because they make you happy.

Your brain also experiences significant dopamine surges as a result of drugs. But such high dopamine levels can result in adverse changes that affect your thoughts, feelings, and behavior rather than motivating you to accomplish what you need to do to survive.

It may lead to a harmful desire to seek more drug-related pleasure at the expense of more positive feelings. You get insensitive to the effects of the drugs as your brain chemistry changes over time. Hence, you require more to create the same result.

The withdrawal signs from some medications, such as opioids, are so bad that they strongly encourage users to keep using them.


According to studies, 40-60 percent of drug use is caused by genetic factors. You are more prone to develop drug abuse if you have a first-degree relative (a biological sibling or parent) who already has it.

Scientists are trying to identify genes that might be involved in this risk group. For example, they’ve exposed that cannabis use disorder is linked to changes in the CHRNA2 gene on chromosome 8.

Mental Health

Drug addiction will occur in about 50 percent of people with a mental health illness, and vice versa. More than 17 million US adults had a co-occurring mental health illness and drug addiction in 2020.

Overlapping causes, including genetic biases and issues with related brain regions, affect SUDs and other mental health diseases. According to a study, SUD can contribute to developing a mental disorder, while mental illness can contribute to SUD.

Any of the following mental health issues can increase your risk of developing SUD:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Access and Exposure

A critical risk factor is access to drugs. The following factors increase the extent of exposure and the risk of drug use:

  • Drug abuse by a family member
  • The use of medications by your close friends
  • Being prescribed a drug, such as painkillers

Because of exposure, teens are prone to acquiring SUD. Early drug use among teens raises the risk of SUD. Around 70 percent of those who started using at 13 had a SUD, compared to 27 percent of those who started at 17.

Also, it’s more likely that someone will use substances that are accepted or easily accessible, like alcohol and tobacco. It raises the risk of developing into harmful use. Another illustration of this is the availability and volume of prescription opioids, which make them simpler to obtain.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are unpleasant or stressful events that occur while a child. They may consist of the following:

  • Abuse and neglect of children
  • Family dysfunction
  • Seeing domestic abuse
  • Having relatives that suffer from SUD
  • Parental imprisonment

ACEs correlate to the rise of various health issues, including SUD, over a person’s lifetime. Teens are more likely to acquire SUD later in life with more ACEs.

Impact of Drug Addiction on Your Brain

Your brain makes you desire to repeat positive events. You’re inspired to perform them constantly as a result. The reward system in your brain is the target of potentially addictive drugs. They saturate your brain with the drug dopamine. It causes a strong sense of joy.

To maintain that high, you keep using drugs.

Your brain adjusts to the extra dopamine over time. You might need to consume more drugs to have the same high. 

Prolonged drug use can also alter other brain chemical pathways and systems. They could harm your:

  • Judgment
  • Decision-making
  • Memory
  • Ability to learn

These mental changes may cause you to seek out and use drugs in ways out of your control.

Drug Addiction Diagnosis

A drug addiction diagnosis needs a thorough assessment, which often entails an evaluation by a psychiatrist or certified alcohol and drug counselor. Drug usage is assessed by blood, urine, or other lab tests. But, these tests do not serve as an addiction diagnostic tool.

These tests could, however, help keep tabs on therapy and healing.

Most mental health experts use the criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose drug use disorders.

SUD exists in a range of severity:

  • Two to three signs indicate a mild SUD
  • Four or five signs indicate a moderate SUD
  • Six or more symptoms indicate a severe SUD

Drug Addiction Treatment

There are effective therapies for substance abuse. People may need different rehab options at different periods because treatment is highly customized. Since SUD is a chronic disease with a chance of recovery and relapse, rehab often needs ongoing care.

It is often better to treat co-occurring mental health issues and SUD than treat them separately. The three primary types of rehab are as follows:

  • Detox
  • Cognitive and behavioral therapies
  • Medication-assisted therapies (MAT)

There are also some other types of rehab settings, including:

  • Outpatient care
  • Intensive outpatient care
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Long-term therapeutic communities


You stop using the drugs during medical detox, allowing your body to eliminate them. The substance is tapered to decrease withdrawal effects, depending on the severity of the SUD. It’s the first step in treating SUD. Rehab centers offer detox services in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies

Treatment for SUD and other co-occurring mental health issues is possible through talk therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a goal-directed, organized form of talk therapy. During CBT, a mental health expert assists you in taking a careful look at your ideas and feelings. 

You’ll learn how your thoughts impact your behavior. You can learn to break risky thought patterns and habits using CBT and replace them with better ones.

CBT for SUD also involves educating clients about the disease, its treatment, and ways to avoid relapse.

Dialectical behavior therapy is mainly helpful for those who struggle with emotion regulation and care. DBT has shown promise in managing and treating several mental health problems, including SUD.

Unlike residential or hospital settings, assertive community treatment offers mental health care in the community. Your rehab plan will cover your assets, needs, and long-term goals.

A therapeutic community is a long-term residential care program with the primary goal of assisting people with SUD in creating new, healthier beliefs and behaviors about drug use and other co-occurring mental health issues.

By rewarding desired behaviors, contingency management promotes positive behaviors. People with SUD are frequently given something of financial worth as part of their therapy to encourage them to abstain from drug usage. For instance, you can win a reward or gift card if your drug test results are negative.

Joining self-help groups, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can also play a vital part in SUD therapy.

These groups promote behavioral change through peer and self-support. The basic tenet of these programs is that people with SUD must admit their illness is chronic and irreversible. People with SUD can maintain restraint and self-control with the help of group treatment.

How to Prevent Drug Addiction

The first step in preventing drug use and SUD is education. Education in schools and families helps people avoid abusing drugs or alcohol for the first time or misusing prescription drugs. Other measures to stop SUD include:

  • Always follow prescribed drug directions. Never take more than is recommended. For instance, opioid use disorder can develop after five days of abuse.
  • Never sell or give away your prescription drugs to a third party. Always keep it out of the reach of kids in a secure location.
  • When your treatment ends, if you still have prescription drugs (such as opioids), contact a local drug take-back program or pharmacy mail-back program to dispose of them properly.

At times of stress and change, there is a rise in the risk of drug or alcohol use. Divorce, job loss, and the loss of a loved one are all situations that can make an adult more likely to take drugs. Moving, a divorce in the family or switching schools can all increase the risk for teenagers.

At these times of change, it’s critical to use healthy coping plans, such as exercising, practicing meditation, or picking up a new interest. Consult a mental health expert if you’re having trouble controlling your stress.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the true meaning of addiction?

A chronic, recurring illness called addiction is defined by obsessive drug seeking and usage, even when doing so has adverse effects. Because it involves functional defects in brain circuitry related to reward, stress, and self-control, it is known as a brain condition.
If a person stops using drugs, the changes and effects could last very long.
Similar to other issues like heart disease, addiction is a sickness. Both affect an organ’s natural, healthy working in the body. They also have significant adverse effects and are often avoidable and treatable. They can last a lifetime and even result in death if untreated.

What are the three types of addiction?

There are three general classes of addictions, which include the following.
Many people only think of chemicals like alcohol or drugs when considering addiction. But you can develop an addiction to certain habits. Shopping, having sex, gambling, and playing video games are all everyday addictive habits.
Substance abuse may create a dependence on a chemical. People can become addicted to illegal drugs like crystal meth, heroin, or cocaine. Another sort of substance abuse is alcoholism.
Impulse addiction can result from issues of impulse control. An individual with an impulse control disorder finds regulating their feelings and behavior difficult. Someone with this disease may be more likely to steal or have angry outbursts.
A study finds that 10.5 percent of people suffer from an impulse control issue.

What are the four different forms of addiction?

Behavioral addictions can rarely strike out of nowhere. But substance addictions are the most often stated types when it comes to addiction. 
Yet, some of the more prevalent types of addiction to drug abuse include:
Alcohol addiction
Prescription drug addiction
Drug addiction
Heroin addiction
Opioid addiction
These drugs can seriously harm a person’s physical and mental health. It is critical for someone who has a drug addiction to get help as soon as they can.

Professional Addiction Help at The Haven Detox-New England

You do not have to suffer alone if you struggle with drug or alcohol abuse. A residential rehab plan can help you reduce your drug use risk. Contact The Haven Detox-New England to take the brave first step towards recovery.

We provide rehab for opioid abuse and co-occurring disorders so that you can heal your body and mind together. 

Reach out to us at (844) 933-4145 and allow us to assist you in learning how to live a happier and drug-free life.

Exit mobile version