What does addiction mean?

Addiction is a clinical syndrome that is usually associated with compulsive drug and alcohol use. People who are addicted to drugs will have formed a habit of using such drugs frequently, which will negatively impact the user’s health and wellbeing.

Those who have become addicts rely heavily on drugs or other substances to get through their daily lives, and some addicts will not be able to function during the day unless they have had a ‘hit’ from their addiction.

At Arrow Health, we work with addicts and their families to rehabilitate individuals who have fallen victim to drug addiction. This means we have a wealth of knowledge on drug addiction and those who are addicted.

What does addiction mean?

Addiction is the inability to stop taking a particular drug or substance. But addiction doesn’t just apply to drugs, it can also apply to certain activities, such as gambling, eating, or working. This type of addiction is known as a ‘behavioral addiction’.

Addiction can also occur in prescribed opioid painkillers. Opioids are the number one drug group linked to overdose in Australia, although this can sometimes be accidental.

When a person becomes addicted to a drug, they can not control when they take the substance, and they will become dependent on it to cope with everyday life. So, although most people first engage with drug use voluntarily, addiction can take over and reduce self-control.

It is estimated that drug use costs the Australian economy over $8.2 billion every year. This cost comes from drug use encouraging crime, increasing health care, and reducing productivity in the workforce.

what does addiction mean

Symptoms of addiction

Drug addiction symptoms or behaviors include:

  • Regularly seeking drugs and using daily or several times a day
  • Constantly thinking about the drug and being unable to focus on anything else
  • Over time, taking more of the drug to try and feel like you did the first time you used
  • Taking more of the drug each time you use it
  • Making sure you always have possession of the drug
  • Spending a lot of money on the drug, even if you can’t afford it
  • Becoming unproductive at work and disregarding responsibility
  • Stopping social activities with friends and family
  • Continuing to use the drug even though you know its causing physical or psychological harm
  • Becoming so dependent on the drug you are willing to do anything to get them, such as stealing
  • Driving or going to work whilst under the influence of the drug
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

what is addiction

How to recognise addiction in family members or friends?

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognise drug addiction in friends or family, as they could become very good at hiding their addiction. However, possible indications that your friends or family member are using drugs include:

  • Problems at school or work, such as missing lessons or not turning up to the office, or a drop in productivity or grades
  • Physical health issues, such as lacking motivations, weight loss or weight gain, or red eyes
  • Neglected appearance and lack of interest in self-care
  • Changes in behavior, such as becoming hostile to family members and friends
  • Money issues and sudden requests for help without reasonable explanation

Signs and symptoms of drug use may vary depending on the drug being taken, and some addicts will be used to concealing their addictions over fears of being ‘found out’.

Recognising the signs of drug use:

If you are taking drugs, or you fear someone you are in the presence of is on drugs, these are some signs to look out for:

  • A sense of euphoria or feeling high
  • A heightened sense of smell and taste
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased coordination.
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Bad odors on clothes
  • Yellow fingers tips
  • Exaggerated cravings for certain foods at strange times

Possible long-term effects of drug use:

The long-term effects of drug abuse will vary from substance to substance, and from person to person, but below are some of the most common long-term effects you might see in drug addicts:

  • Decreased mental sharpness and difficulty concentrating
  • Poor performance at school or at work
  • Reduced number of friends
  • No interest in recreational activities
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Panic attacks
  • Delirium
  • Psychotic and violent behavior
  • Feeling exhilarated or overconfident
  • Increased alertness
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Increased aggression

The difference between addiction and drug misuse:

It’s important to recognise that not everyone that misuses a substance has a drug addiction. Addiction is the long-term inability to moderate or stop intake, whereas misuse is the one-off use of drugs that provide body and mind-altering effects.

People who misuse drugs on a one-off may be put off by taking the drug again, as the harmful side effects of substance abuse become apparent. For example, vomiting or increased blood pressure would deter someone from taking drugs again or even alcohol.

what does addiction mean

When to seek help for a drug addiction

If you find that your drug use is out of control, and is negatively affecting your everyday life, then you need to seek help from a professional.

The sooner you seek help, the quicker you can get on the road to recovery. With the right help and rehabilitation program, drug addiction is treatable, and recovery is achievable.

Like diabetes, asthma, and other chronic diseases, addiction can be treated and managed. Addiction is a complex disease, and it takes more than good intentions and a strong will to break the addiction.

At Arrow Health there are many treatment options available for drug addiction, such as a 28-day detox, inpatient rehab, outpatient program, forensic service, and counseling.

For more information on how Arrow Health could help you or a family member overcome drug addiction, please get in touch.

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