Individuals who are drug dependent often feel out of control. Their life is focused on the chemical highs they receive from the drugs and the emotional lows they experience without the drugs. Many who are caught in the trap of substance dependence do not realize the extent of their problem until they experience some extreme form of social feedback (e.g., job loss, relationship ending, legal issues).
Recent research indicates that the following substances are the most abused in the United States today:
Symptoms associated with drug addiction often depend on the drug, but there are some symptoms common to many drug addictions. These include:
- Tolerance to the drug (e.g., need for increased amounts to achieve desired effect)
- Drug used more than intended
- Inability to control or cut down substance use
- Significant amount of time and effort expended to obtain the drug
- Important activities replaced by substance use
- Continued drug use despite knowledge of a persistent physical or psychological problem
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), a person having three or more of these symptoms qualifies as substance dependent.
Traditional treatments for drug dependency include 12-step groups, inpatient and intense outpatient treatment programs, and individual counseling. Recent developments have significantly increased the number of options available for treatment. Unlike treatments of 30 years ago, individuals can now take medications that are FDA approved to reduce cravings and help individuals remain clean. For example, individuals who are heroin dependent can be given methadone. Methadone stabilizes the brain's reward pathway and reduces the craving for heroin.
Did You Know
According to research 32% of individuals who use nicotine become dependent upon it. The next highest rate of dependency is for heroin, at 23%.
There are new medications available that can reduce cravings and have limited side effects. Such medications include naltrexone, naltrexone long-acting, and acamprosate. These medications are FDA approved and have been found to be very effective in treating individuals who are drug dependent.
Fortunately, the treatment options are increasing and professionals are getting better at understanding how to help individuals who struggle with drug addictions. Individuals who are substance dependent are finding success in participating in 12-step groups, attending individual counseling, and taking medication. Combined, these methods can lead to a life free of addiction.
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