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From an Addiction Specialist: What Is Addiction?

Home » Our Blog » From an Addiction Specialist: What Is Addiction?

Clinically Reviewed by:
Lindsey Rae Ackerman, LMFT

Written by:
Alex Salman, MPH on March 7, 2024

Addiction is a serious problem that can have life-altering consequences for individuals and their families. It’s important to understand the types of addiction, causes of addiction, signs, and symptoms, as well as all of the treatment options. Knowing these facts can help those affected by an addict gain insight into how to better support them on their journey towards recovery and avoid harmful consequences.

What is Addiction?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-5), addiction is defined as a chronic brain disorder characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behaviors despite negative consequences. It can involve the misuse of drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, food, and other activities. People with addiction often have difficulty controlling their impulses and are unable to stop using even when it causes harm to themselves or others.

Types of Addiction

There are many different types of addictions including alcohol addiction, drug addiction (including opioids), nicotine dependence (smoking), gambling addiction, and behavioral addictions such as internet gaming disorder or shopping addiction. Each type has its own unique set of symptoms which may include:

  • cravings for the substance/activity
  • loss of control over how much/often you engage in it
  • withdrawal symptoms if you try to quit
  • tolerance where more needs to be taken/done for the same or increased effect
  • neglecting responsibilities due to abuse
  • relationship problems due to excessive use

Causes of Addiction

The exact cause(s) behind why someone develops an addictive behavior remains unknown, but there are several factors that can contribute include:

  • genetics (family history)
  • environmental factors (exposure)
  • mental disorders such as depression or anxiety, and trauma from childhood experiences that can trigger addiction

Other risk factors include having easy access to substances/activities like drugs at home or being around people who already have an addictive behavior pattern.

Impact of Addiction

The physical effects of addiction can be devastating. Long-term alcohol or drug abuse can lead to a wide range of health problems, including liver and kidney damage, heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases. Substance use also increases the risk of accidental injury or death due to overdose or impaired driving.

Mental health disorders as a result of addiction are just as serious as physical ones. Addiction can cause changes in brain chemistry that result in anxiety, depression, and even psychosis. People with addictions often experience memory loss and difficulty concentrating on tasks at work or school. They may also have trouble managing their emotions or making decisions related to their addiction.

The social effects of addiction are far-reaching and can affect relationships with family members, friends, and co-workers. People who struggle with substance abuse often become isolated from those they care about most due to feelings of shame or embarrassment caused by their behavior when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This isolation can lead to loneliness which further perpetuates the cycle of addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

The signs and symptoms of alcohol or drug addiction can be difficult to identify, but they are important to recognize in order to seek help. There are three main categories of signs and symptoms: behavioral, emotional, and physical.

Behavioral signs and symptoms include changes in behavior such as increased secrecy or lying, a decrease in motivation for activities that were once enjoyed, an increase in risk-taking behaviors such as drug use or reckless driving, neglecting responsibilities at home or work, withdrawing from family members or friends, and frequent absences from school or work without explanation.

Emotional Signs and Symptoms may include feelings of guilt or shame about their addiction, depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, difficulty concentrating on tasks, and lack of interest in hobbies that were once enjoyable. They may also become defensive when confronted about their substance use.

Physical signs can vary depending on the type of substance being used but may include weight loss or gain due to decreased appetite or increased cravings for food while using substances, bloodshot eyes with dilated pupils (in some cases), fatigue due to lack of sleep caused by substance use binges, tremors or shaking hands which could indicate withdrawal symptoms when not using substances.

Understanding the Impact on Family and Friends

Families and friends of addicts often experience a range of emotions, including guilt, shame, anger, fear, and confusion. These feelings can be overwhelming and it’s important to understand that you are not alone in your struggles. It is also essential to recognize the importance of seeking help for yourself as well as your loved one who is struggling with addiction.

Coping Mechanisms for Families and Friends

It can be difficult to cope with the effects of an addict’s behavior on family members or close friends. Some helpful coping mechanisms include setting boundaries around what behaviors will no longer be tolerated; finding support from other families or individuals who have gone through similar experiences; practicing self-care such as taking time away from the situation when needed; participating in counseling sessions either individually or together with the addict; attending 12-step meetings such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon which provide support specifically designed for those affected by someone else’s addiction; utilizing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or meditation, and maintaining healthy communication between all parties involved in order to express needs without blame or judgment.

Benefits of Treatment for Addicts and Their Loved Ones

Alcohol and drug addiction treatment can provide a wide range of benefits for individuals struggling with substance use. It can help individuals to understand the underlying causes of their addiction, identify addictive behaviors, develop coping mechanisms to manage triggers and cravings, and gain the skills and support needed to maintain long-term recovery. Additionally, addiction treatment can improve overall physical and mental health, reduce the risk of negative consequences such as job loss or legal problems, and improve relationships with loved ones. Overall, treatment can greatly improve the quality of life for those who are struggling with a substance use disorder.

Additionally, family members gain insight into their own roles within the dynamic so they can better understand their loved one’s struggle while providing effective support throughout the recovery process instead of enabling addictive behaviors further down the line.

Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Options

Inpatient Rehabilitation Programs

These types of programs involve a stay in a residential facility where the individual can receive around-the-clock care and support from medical professionals. During their stay, individuals will participate in group therapy sessions as well as individual counseling to help them understand their addiction and learn how to cope with cravings and triggers. They may also be prescribed medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs to help manage withdrawal symptoms.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatment is an option for those who cannot commit to an inpatient program due to work or family obligations but still need professional assistance managing their addiction. This level of care involves meeting with therapists in an individual and group setting between 3-5 days a week for several hours per day. These counselors or therapists provide guidance on how best to manage cravings and triggers while providing emotional support during recovery. Additionally, some outpatient facilities offer medication management services if needed by the client.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Programs

MAT is a type of treatment that combines behavioral therapies with medications like buprenorphine or naltrexone. This method has been proven effective at reducing cravings associated with opioid use disorder when taken correctly under the supervision of a doctor or healthcare provider. Studies have shown that MAT can reduce relapse rates among patients who take part in this type of program compared to other forms of traditional drug rehabs without medication assistance involved.

Sober Living

Sober living homes provide a safe and supportive environment to help individuals maintain their sobriety in early recovery. Individuals would typically transition to a sober living home once the residential treatment phase is complete. It involves living in a structured home-like setting with other individuals in various stages of recovery, where each client is held accountable for their actions and behaviors. This helps them stay on track with their recovery goals while providing emotional support from peers who understand what they are going through. Sober living also encourages individuals to take part in self-improvement activities such as job training, education, or volunteering which can help keep them motivated and focused on long-term sobriety. Some sober livings provide access to outpatient addiction treatment to maintain clinical support and reinforce important life skills to achieve a successful transition back to independent living.

Get Started on Your Journey to Recovery Today at Clear Behavioral Health

Addiction is a serious issue that can have devastating effects on individuals and their families. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of addiction so that they can be addressed as soon as possible. Addiction treatment options are available and should be explored in order to find the best path forward for recovery. With proper support from family, friends, and professionals, those struggling with addiction can make progress toward sobriety and improved mental health. Addiction does not have to define someone’s life; instead, it can become an opportunity for growth and transformation.

It is time to take action and create solutions for those struggling with a substance use disorder. Clear Behavioral Health offers one of the best rehabs in Los Angeles, and, when paired with our premier outpatient care, provides a comprehensive approach to lasting recovery from addiction.

Our programs are evidence-based, ensuring the highest quality of care for each client and their family. We provide individual therapy, group counseling, medication management, family support services, and more to ensure lasting sobriety. Call us today to learn more about our treatment options for a substance use disorder and mental health.

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