The Dangers of Drug Use
When it comes to illicit drugs like heroin or cocaine, no safe or acceptable level of use exists. Illegal drugs lead to a wide range of mental and physical health problems, in addition to the ever-present threats of addiction and/or overdose. Although prescriptions are legal when ordered by physicians and other medical professionals, irresponsible use of prescription pills can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than using illegal drugs.
Despite constant efforts by national organizations to reduce use and raise awareness of the dangers of abuse, illicit and prescription drugs are still wreaking havoc in America and around the world:
In 2014, there were 207,400 drug-related deaths worldwide.  During the same year, more Americans died from drug overdoses than ever before, reaching 47,055. Prescription opioids and heroin were responsible for over half of those deaths. 
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Abuse, nearly 10 percent of Americans over age 12 admitted to using illicit drugs within the past month and 4.3 million admitted to non-medical use of painkillers. 
- Every day, 44 people in the U.S. die from an overdose of prescription pills. 
- Illicit drug abuse costs the U.S. $193 billion annually in healthcare, crime and lost work productivity. 
- A drug-induced death in the U.S. occurs every 13 minutes. 
Who Is At Risk?
When it comes to drug abuse and addiction, no one is safe from its grasp. Drug addiction does not discriminate and can affect anyone from any background. However, specific demographics are more at risk for developing an addiction than others.
- 1. http://www.unodc.org/doc/wdr2016/WORLD_DRUG_REPORT_2016_web.pdf
- 2. http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/index.html
- 3. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf
- 4. http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
- 5. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics
- 6. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/Fact_Sheets/consequences_of_illicit_drug_use_-_fact_sheet_april_2014.pdf
Using drugs can be a way for people to cope with symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties.
People who have relatives with histories of addiction have a greater chance of becoming addicted themselves
Drug use and abuse is highest among people between 18 – 20-years-old.
Although wealth is not a shield from addiction, people living in extreme poverty have been shown to be highly susceptible to initiation of drug use.
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How Drug Use Becomes Drug Addiction
It is extremely unlikely that anyone has ever actively tried to become addicted to drugs. While the initial decision to use drugs is voluntary, prolonged use leads to dependence and addiction. Once an individual starts a downward spiral into addiction, his or her ability to exert self-control and make sound decisions becomes extremely compromised.
Many studies of brain imaging on people addicted to drugs have shown that drug abuse causes alterations in areas of the brain responsible for judgment, learning and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes can explain the compulsive behaviors of an addicted person. 
Drug addiction generally progresses in stages:
- 1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-abuse-addiction-basics
This is a person’s first exposure to drugs and most often it does not progress to addiction. The majority of people in this stage are teenagers or in their early-20’s.
Once a person has experimented with a drug and has decided that he or she likes it, use continues, escalates and may progress to a more problematic level. This is the first stage where some negative life consequences may start to appear.
At this point, a person’s regular use of drugs begins to lead to risky behaviors, which may include driving while intoxicated, unprotected sex, stealing, bingeing and unexplained violence.
Addiction and Dependence
When a person continues to abuse drugs despite the negative consequences it is having, he or she has progressed to addiction. This stage is characterized by constant and obsessive drug abuse and an inability to function and handle one’s responsibilities.
The Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Drug Abuse and Addiction
While each drug has its own unique set of short- and long-term effects, general drug abuse causes a host of physical, social, academic, psychological, financial, familial and legal problems. Anyone who abuses an illicit substance or misuses prescription drugs is in danger of experiencing several health complications, which could lead to overdose and even death.
Specific Dangers of Each Drug:
      
- 1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-heroin-use
- 2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
- 3. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp
- 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15762814
- 5. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/benzodiazepine-use-may-raise-risk-alzheimers-disease-201409107397
- 6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-short-term-effects-cocaine-use
- 7. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use
Heroin is immediately converted to morphine and binds to opioid receptors once it is absorbed into the brain. Initially, heroin users feel a rush accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, nausea, dry mouth and severe itching. Habitual use of heroin has been shown to impact decision-making abilities, deteriorate white matter in the brain, cause sleeping difficulties and lead to severe constipation, poor appetite, decreased sexual functioning and overall weakness. Due to the careless use of needles, heroin is also associated with HIV, hepatitis and fatal overdoses.
Taken according to doctor’s orders and for a brief period of time, prescription opioids are fairly safe remedies for pain relief. However, abuse of prescription opioids can lead to many of the same short- and long-term effects associated with heroin use. Aside from the threat of overdose, the largest danger is that for many users, this is a mere stepping stone towards heroin. People addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin than those without a prescription opioid addiction.
Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are primarily prescribed to treat anxiety and other stress-related conditions. Due to their sedative properties, benzodiazepines have a high potential for abuse, especially when combined with alcohol or opiates. Short-term effects include impaired motor function, depression, tremors, vertigo, lethargy, nausea and constipation. Regular use may lead to overdose, muscle weakness, over-sedation, cognitive impairment and dependence. Prolonged use has also been linked to an increased chance of Alzheimer’s disease.
Users feel the effects of cocaine almost instantaneously, but the effects disappear anywhere from within a few minutes to an hour. It’s this short-lived high that causes individuals to abuse large amounts of the drug in short periods of time. Immediate physiological effects include constricted blood vessels, increased body temperature and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Some users also experience feelings of paranoia, restlessness, anxiety and irritability. Long-term use leads to changes in the brain’s reward system, making it difficult for users to find pleasure without cocaine and leading to an increase in negative moods when not taking the drug. This causes users to focus on drug seeking rather than family, relationships, responsibilities, food and even hygiene.
Methamphetamine, most commonly known as crystal meth, is an extremely powerful man-made stimulant. The drug is taken orally, smoked, snorted or injected and, like cocaine, produces an immediate but short-lived high. This causes binge usage and a potential for overdose. The short-term effects of crystal meth mirror that of cocaine and other amphetamines, including increased respiration and wakefulness, an irregular heartbeat, elevated body temperature and decreased appetite. Long-term crystal meth use leads to extreme weight loss, skin sores and the development of “meth mouth,” which is characterized by severe dental problems.
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How Rehab Helps You Overcome Drug Addiction
Curiosity is often the cause of someone trying a drug or alcohol for the first time and the pleasure of the high is what brings them back to it. However, the brain’s reward system is what turns wanting a substance into needing a substance. An addiction maintains a powerful grip on the brain that typically reveals itself in four different ways:
Beating an addiction is possible but it takes time, willpower and therapy. Today, addiction is regarded as a chronic disease that drastically alters the organ it occupies, the brain.
All pleasure gets processed by the brain in the same way, whether it comes from food, money, sex, drugs, etc. No matter the source, pleasure triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens of the brain.  However, the consumption of addictive drugs causes a greater amount of dopamine to be released. Depending on how quickly, consistently, and intensely this reaction takes place, the individual is more or less likely to become addicted to the drug that he or she is consuming.
By itself, the pleasure response from drug use is not sufficient to create a powerful, long-lasting addiction. Dopamine also plays an important role in learning and memory, two functions that help to take something that is enjoyed and turn it into the subject of an addiction. Repeated exposure to a drug creates specialized pathways in the brain designed to expedite the ensuing rush of dopamine. This not only allows for a stronger dopamine response, but it also ensures that even after a lengthy period of sobriety, the brain will remember how best to process the given drug in order to make the most of the resulting dopamine release. 
- 1. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletterarticle/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain
- 2. https://www.ihs.gov/asap/information/warningsignsdrug/
The Importance of Inpatient Drug Detox
Building a cerebral infrastructure to sustain an addiction is a lengthy, time-consuming process. So, closing that infrastructure will pose an even greater challenge. The first step to beating an addiction is detoxification, which requires you to purge your system of all addictive substances. Depending on your drug of choice, this treatment can last anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks. The process can be physically challenging, emotionally draining, and if not managed properly potentially deadly.
Drug detoxification must be taken seriously and should only be attempted under the supervision of medical professionals. Patients are given medication and therapy to help deal with the pressures of detox as well as follow-up treatments after detox, which can often mean the difference between a brief sobriety and a successful, long-term recovery.
Much of the hard work that follows detox is associated with getting re-accustomed to the challenges of day-to-day life without using a substance to self-medicate. At this stage of the recovery process the patient begins their actual drug addiction treatment program.
When Is It Time to Ask for Help?
Even if you strongly suspect that a friend or loved one has become addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can be difficult to know for sure and even harder to know how best to intervene. Depending on the drug, fully giving into an addiction often comes with distinct physical, behavioral and emotional changes. Whether you’ve just noticed some odd behavior, or you’ve been concerned about someone for a while, the best time to act is now.
Here are some warning signs to look out for:
Drug or alcohol addiction affects different people in many different ways. Your friend or loved one’s reaction to your attempt to help will vary depending on what stage of the addiction that he or she is in. Substance abusers frequently exhibit at least some degree of denial that they have a problem, rationalization of their condition or outright rejection that they are using drugs at all when first confronted about their problem even though it might be obvious to outside observers.
However he reacts, know that professional treatment is likely the answer. Drug addiction is a complex condition, and the presence of an addiction indicates a failure on the part of the substance abuser to healthily address whatever caused him to turn to drugs in the first place. In this case, outside help should be sought at the very least, as the currently available support system was clearly not enough.
How to Find the Right Drug Rehab Facility
With thousands of drug addiction rehab facilities across the U.S., picking the one that’s best for you or your loved one is not that simple. Many rehab centers make baseless claims about painless detoxes and miracle addiction cures, while others promote falsified success rates and unproven practices. The addiction rehab facility you choose may end up being one of the most important decisions of your life, and it’s critical that you know what to look for and what to ask.
Having an accreditation from an organization like the Joint Commission ensures that the facility is being held to the highest standard.
Every person faces unique challenges in defeating addiction, and your rehab should address your individual needs, rather than employing a one-size-fits-all model.
Mental illness has long been linked to drug abuse. People struggling with addiction and a mental disorder need concurrent treatment for both conditions during rehab.
When it comes to withdrawal, complications are bound to happen. Having medical staff available around the clock ensures you are safely and healthily recovering.
What to Ask:
Do You Offer a Medically Supervised Drug Detox?
Any facility that does not offer a medically supervised detox should raise warning flags. Withdrawal symptoms from ceasing drug use can be painful and even life-threatening. This is not something you should try without medical professionals.
How Will My Family Be Involved?
The family members of people with drug addictions are also dealing with the impact of substance abuse. Addiction is a disease that affects the whole family, so rehab should include the whole family as well.
What Therapies and Programs do You Offer?
A complete drug rehab does not only consist of detox and a few counseling sessions. A person recovering from drug addiction not only needs help removing drugs from his or her life, but also in learning to safely cope with mental distress, build life-skills, gain confidence in social situations and mend damaged relationships.
Do You Offer Aftercare Programs and Referrals? Any reputable addiction professionals will understand that your recovery is just getting started following rehab. It’s essential to continue to keep practicing the things learned during rehab, and aftercare services help keep people in recovery focused on remaining sober.
Unity Behavioral Health Drug Rehab
At Unity Behavioral Health, our mission is to give our patients every possible tool to use in the pursuit of sobriety. We realize the tremendous effort it takes to complete rehab and remain successful in recovery. To that end, we offer our client community a wealth of resources to aid them in their journeys to sobriety:
We have doctors, nurses and mental health practitioners by your side throughout every stage of your detox and rehab.
Our patients receive lifetime aftercare services, meaning they will always have help in remaining abstinent.
The last thing we want is to be using unproven rehab strategies. Our Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval and our company values ensure that we only use proven and tested techniques.
Learning about the damage drug abuse causes, how the addiction progresses and where it originates helps our patients make better decisions in the future.
Love is one of the only things stronger than addiction. Your family’s love will help propel you forward, so their inclusion in rehab is imperative.
10 Essential Qualities of a Reputable Treatment Facility
The leading addiction treatment facilities will follow evidence-based best practices for treatment of their patients.
Substance abuse withdrawal can be painful, draining and potentially life-threatening. Attempting to navigate withdrawal symptoms without the help of medical professionals can put your health at risk.
Continuous medical supervision help patients guard against relapse and other possible health conditions. Patient safety should be the rehab's primary focus at all times.
Individuals in rehab often struggle with symptoms of depression, anxiety and general mental distress. Individual and group counseling helps guide patients through this difficult process.
Many patients find relief in holistic therapies such as acupuncture, meditation, alpha-stim treatment and many others.
A significant percentage of patients who suffer from addiction also have possible mental health issues.
Healing therapies help patients manage symptoms of addiction, build confidence, ease traumatic experiences and gain greater self-awareness.
Aside from the substance abuser, no one feels the impact of alcohol abuse more than his or her family. Because of this, it is essential that those closest to the patient be involved in their treatment to some extent.
Life skills training an essential part of a successful recovery. Patients are taught essential skills to function in everyday society without the aid of drugs and/or alcohol.
If you’re considering drug rehab for yourself or someone close to you, we invite you to explore all that Unity Behavioral Health has to offer. Without treatment, drug addiction is almost certain to continue to worsen over time. We are committed to our patients’ success. Begin the road to long-term recovery from drug addiction by contacting one of our compassionate representatives at 561-812-5500.