What Is It Called When You Can’t Stop Taking Drugs?
November 11, 2021
Taking drugs recreationally has dire consequences. One of them is not being able to stop your use of drugs. In the medical field, this is called substance use disorder, or what is more commonly known as drug addiction.
You may become addicted to any kind of drug — both illegal drugs and prescription drugs. It’s not just street drugs that are addictive. Misusing drugs that your doctor recommended to you can also lead to substance use disorders.
If you happen to have this condition, all hope is not lost. There are many drug addiction treatment options that can help you live a sober life again.
Read on to find out more about substance use disorder and the treatments available to you.
How does substance use disorder begin?
Drug addiction may begin through experimentation. Let’s say some of your peers invite you to take a recreational drug “just for fun,” and you take some. You then get a pleasurable high — a feeling unlike anything you’ve felt before, and it feels that good. When the high wears off, you would want more.
With that, you take more of the drug, and you get high again. This continues until your drug use becomes more frequent. As you keep taking the drug often, your body will become used to its effects. Then, your body will crave for the drug so much that you can’t resist it. These drug cravings and drug-seeking behavior are signs that you have become addicted.
In other cases, addiction can happen even with medications your doctor would give you. Though prescription medications are generally safe, they must be used as prescribed to prevent any addictive effects. If you do not follow your prescription, you have a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder.
Addiction to prescription drugs often starts when you take a higher dose than what’s on your prescription. If your doctor tells you to take a higher dose, it’s okay, but if you increase your dose on your own, it becomes dangerous.
How soon you develop a substance use disorder depends on the drug you’re using. Things like opioids have a high potential for abuse, and you can get addicted to them much faster than other drugs. It also takes less of those drugs to get addicted.
What are the signs of a substance use disorder?
Addiction can drastically change your behavior, and in turn, your lifestyle. Changes in your behavior include the following:
- Intense drug cravings that distract you from more important things like work, studies, or family responsibilities
- The feeling that you need to take drugs every day (or worse, several times a day)
- Spending money to get drugs even if you can’t afford it
- Needing to take higher doses of drugs to get the same effects as before
- Needing to have a constant supply of drugs close by
- Ditching work or school often to make more time to use drugs
- Spending less time with family and friends to make more time for drugs
- Stopping activities you normally enjoy, like sports or hobbies, in favor of drug use
- Getting involved in crimes, like theft, because of drug use
- Continuing drug use even if you’re aware of the harmful consequences
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit using drugs
- Several failed attempts to quit drugs
- Being unable to function normally without taking drugs
There are also physical manifestations, such as red eyes, weight gain or loss, and lack of energy. Also, if you become addicted to drugs, it’s common to care less about hygiene, grooming, and appearance.
What are withdrawal symptoms and why do they make quitting drugs harder?
Withdrawal symptoms occur when you try to suddenly stop taking drugs that you’ve been using for a long time. If you abruptly quit, your body has to adapt to the sudden absence of drug molecules in your system. Withdrawal symptoms are signs of your body struggling to adjust.
Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the drug you’ve been using. They can range from mild to extremely uncomfortable. When it does get uncomfortable, this is what makes quitting hard. Your only recourse could be taking drugs again just to make the withdrawal symptoms go away.
Here are some examples of withdrawal symptoms associated with drugs:
- Mood swings
- Muscle pain
- Trouble sleeping
Because of the risk of withdrawal symptoms, the best way to quit drugs is through carefully reducing your dose over time. This is best done with medical supervision, as you may need medications to help manage the withdrawal symptoms. This process is known as medically assisted detox, and it’s a common first step in many drug addiction treatments.
What are the treatments for substance use disorder?
When you are afflicted with drug addiction, the first thing you must do is talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. He will ascertain your condition and formulate a treatment plan that will work best for your needs.
Usually, the first phase of treatment involves medically assisted detox. The goal of this procedure is to remove all traces of drugs from your body. Often, this is done through carefully reducing your dose over time, otherwise known as “tapering off.” When you taper off your dose, withdrawal symptoms become more manageable and tolerable than when you quit “cold turkey.”
In fact, quitting cold turkey can lead to serious side effects in some drugs. In the case of alcohol, quitting cold turkey can lead to a condition known as delirium tremens, which can quickly lead to heart failure. In the case of opioids, it can lead to respiratory failure and aspiration pneumonia when you accidentally vomit and inhale it back.
After detox, you will need to go through a few behavioral therapies. These will help train your brain to develop new habits and overcome drug-seeking behavior. Examples include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Contingency management
Each therapy has its advantages, and a mental health professional will help you find out which one will work best for your case.