Drug Addiction: What It Is and What Are the Treatment Options? 


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Drug addiction or substance use disorder (SUD), is a progressive disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior that results in an inability to control the use of prescribed or illegal drugs. In the addiction world, substances such as alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana are considered drugs. Those who suffer from drug addiction, continue to use the drug in spite of the harm that it is causing them. Drug addiction can be caused by many factors, including genetics, environment, and social situations. 


In most cases, this addiction may start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and then it escalates in amount and frequency. With opioids, the addiction begins with exposure to prescribed medications. The duration taken for someone to become addicted depends on the drug that is used. For example, opioids have a higher risk and cause addiction more quickly than others.

With time, larger doses or quantities of the drug are needed to get high. It then progresses to needing the drug to feel good and finding it increasingly difficult to go without it. Any attempts to stop the use may cause intense cravings and cause withdrawal symptoms that are physical. Help from a doctor, family, friends, support groups, or an organized treatment program is necessary to overcome the drug addiction and stay drug-free. In the United States, nearly 4 million people are suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder are the major causes of preventable illness and early death. 1 in 9 Americans uses illicit drugs (about 11% of the population) and the most commonly misused drugs are marijuana and prescription medications. This is a very high number which means there are a lot of people who need some form of drug addiction treatment.

What Are the Typical Drugs That Lead to Addiction?

Drug abuse is a very serious problem in the United States. This is not surprising since there are many people who use illegal drugs or alcohol daily. Some of them have been using these substances for years and they have become dependent on them. The drugs that are commonly misused are:

  • Adderall 
  • aerosol sprays
  • alcohol
  • Ambien 
  • amphetamine
  • anxiolytics
  • Ayahuasca
  • benzodiazepine
  • cocaine
  • codeine
  • cold medicines
  • crack
  • Dilaudid 
  • D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • DMT
  • ecstasy
  • fentanyl
  • Fioricet 
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Gasses
  • GHB
  • heroin 
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hypnotics
  • ketamine
  • Kratom 
  • Lortab 
  • Lunesta
  • marijuana
  • meth
  • morphine
  • Narcan 
  • nicotine 
  • nitrites (poppers)
  • Norco
  • Oxymorphone
  • Percocet 
  • Percodan 
  • peyote (mescaline)
  • phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Ritalin 
  • sedatives
  • solvents
  • Steroids (anabolic)
  • Suboxone 
  • Subutex 
  • Synthetic cannabinoids
  • Synthetic cathinones
  • Tramadol 
  • Trazodone 
  • Ultram 

Although these drugs are very different from each other, each one strongly activates the addiction center of the brain, making them habit-forming.

What Makes a Person With SUD Need Increasingly More Drugs Over Time?

When someone with a substance use disorder takes the substances, they feel euphoria and the feeling of intoxication. With time, the brain becomes desensitized to that drug and so a larger quantity of that drug must be used to produce the same effect.

Soon, the consumption and the need for the drug take over the person’s life, and gradually they may stop enjoying other aspects of life. Social, family, and work obligations are ignored. The person also feels there is something wrong when they are not under the influence of the substance and become consumed with the need to recapture that original euphoric feeling.

Who Are the People at Risk for Substance Use Disorder?

A substance use disorder can affect anyone and there are no single criteria. that can predict whether a person may develop an addiction or not. However, a person is more likely to suffer from drug use due to:

  • Genetic makeup,  ethnicity, gender, and mental health issues – 66% of those in addiction treatment are men and certain ethnicities are of higher risk.
  • Environmental factors such as stress, peer pressure, trauma, physical or sexual abuse as well as exposure to drugs at an early age can increase the risk.
  • Age, particularly those in their teens who start taking drugs as the parts of the brain that control judgment, decisions, and self-control are not fully developed.

Most people with SUD also have mental health conditions and these mental illnesses are present prior to the addiction. In some cases, the addiction triggers or worsens a mental health disorder. In these situations, effective and long-term recovery can happen when both conditions are treated properly at the same time. 

Why Do People Start Taking Drugs?

Several reasons account for the start of people’s use of drugs such as enjoying the pleasurable experience it gives them and the euphoric feeling. They may also want to change or blunt their unpleasant feelings or improve their performance at work, school, or even in athletics. Furthermore, curiosity, peer pressure, and escaping situations are other reasons people indulge in drug use.

The Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Some of the  typical symptoms of drug addiction may include:

  • Weight loss.
  • Issues with money.
  • Inability to reduce or control drug use.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, despite knowing the negative consequences.
  • Difficulty completing tasks at home, work, or school.
  • Craving drugs.
  • Changes in physical appearances, such as having a poor complexion or looking ungroomed and haggard.
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
  • Bloodshot eyes and looking tired.

How Is Drug Addiction Diagnosed and What Are the Treatment Options?

The initial step to a drug addiction diagnosis is recognizing there is a problem and looking for help. This first step could start with an intervention from family, friends, or loved ones. The next steps include:

  • Complete clinical assessment by a healthcare provider.
  • An individualized or personalized treatment plan which could either be inpatient or outpatient.

Several treatment options exist for substance use disorder, even for severe cases. Some of the treatment modules include:

  • Detoxification allows the body to be rid of the drugs and generally needs healthcare supervision to administer safely.
  • Medication-assisted therapies, especially during detox to help control cravings and relieve any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
  • Behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy or other psychotherapy that help deal with the causes of the addiction, build self-esteem, avoid triggers and learn healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Therapeutic communities or sober houses that are tightly controlled, drug-free environments to aid in recovery.
  • Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can help the person suffering from addiction as well as family members, including Al-Anon and Nar-Anon Family Groups. 
drug addiction treatment options

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cure for substance use disorder?

There is no real cure for drug addiction but it can be managed and treated. There is always a risk that the addiction will return and so managing substance use disorder is an ongoing undertaking. Addiction is a lifelong disease, but people can recover and lead full lives. Getting help is essential to recovery and ongoing therapy with self-help groups is very helpful. 

What are the long-term effects of drug addiction?

The brain structures and functions can change within long term misuse of drugs and will alter:

  • Behavior.
  • Dealing with stress.
  • Learning.
  • Making judgments and decisions.
  • Retaining memories.

What exactly is outpatient drug addiction treatment?

Outpatient treatment is appropriate for those who do not have an addiction to illegal drugs, or who want a less intensive or rigorous form of therapy. It does not entail staying in a residential treatment facility. This treatment option suits people with families and careers who cannot take time away from their responsibilities. It is also recommended for those who have had prior success with outpatient therapy, or for people in recovery from substance abuse.

Is detox necessary?

Most people who suffer from drug addiction will need to undergo some sort of detoxification where the body rids itself of all traces of the drug in its system. A medically assisted detox is recommended so that any issues can be overseen by a medical practitioner but there are instances it can be self-done at home.

Does Insurance or Medicare cover addiction treatment?

In the United States, most insurance plans do not cover drug addiction treatment. The main reason for this lack of coverage is the fact that drug addiction and alcoholism are still classified as “behavioral” disorders. Medicare, however,  pays for drug addiction treatment if the individual is covered under both Medicare Part A and Part B, which most people over 65 are. The person must also be a permanent resident of the United States.

Is There On-Going Support/After Treatment Available?

There are a number of support groups and organizations that offer help to recovering addicts. Narcotics Anonymous is one such organization, which offers peer-to-peer support for those who wish to remain clean. They also offer 12-step programs designed to help addicts stay clean. There are many other support groups available for recovering drug addicts, such as SMART Recovery and Secular Organizations for Sobriety

What accreditations should I look for when considering a treatment center?

One of the most important things you can do when selecting a treatment center is to make sure it is accredited by an accreditation body that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These include:

  • Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
  •  The Council on ACC
  • CARF International

The best drug treatment centers offer patients several different levels of care, including detoxification, residential programs, and aftercare support. 

Are you or a loved one suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol? If so, you might be considering drug rehabilitation centers in your area. However, with so many different choices available, how do you know which one is right for you? Our Drug Addiction Treatment at West Valley Detox may be the program you are looking for and we are just a phone call away. Our experienced and professional staff will be happy to assist you in any way to provide you with the best treatment options available for you or your loved one.

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