Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and behavioral addiction are complex subjects that involve a sometimes bewildering array of issues, information, and approaches. When you or someone you love may be addicted to a substance or behavior, it can be challenging to locate people and resources to provide help.
What you need are options, answers, and understanding. You may need guidance in sorting through the vast amount of alternatives so that you can make the best possible choices for your unique situation. The alcohol and drug abuse resources in this section provide a way to narrow your focus, helping you find the specific information that addresses your concerns.
Addictions begin with a single action, which gradually or quickly escalates into abuse, as the individual must take more and more of the substance to produce the desired effect. Subsequent changes in the chemistry of the brain and other systems in the body make the individual so dependent on the drug that a host of symptoms occur when the drug is stopped.
The specific path that a given drug abuser follows to addiction depends on many factors, including family history, general physical and mental health, age, gender, social support system, and genetics. A treatment program must address each individual’s unique combination of background, challenges, readiness, and willingness to change if it is to be affective in breaking the addiction cycle.
We suggest that you use these addiction resources not only to inform yourself about the issues you or your loved one is facing but also to create the foundation from which to move toward a lasting recovery.
Drugs, Alcohol, and Behavioral Health Q&A
The Q&A (Questions and Answers) is one of the drug abuse resources that can provide helpful information about addiction. It includes questions that are commonly asked by those dealing with drug and alcohol abuse and behavioral addictions. The answers offer you a place to start and help eliminate some of the confusion that often surrounds the issues that may be affecting you and your family.
As is the case with any widespread societal issue, the topic of substance abuse and addiction has generated some potentially dangerous misconceptions. If someone has relapsed after treatment, is going through treatment again a lost cause? Is addiction a personality defect that only affects those with low will power? How bad are the withdrawal symptoms if I stop taking the drug?
Not knowing the answers to these questions can lead a substance abuser to avoid treatment, believing that recovery and a return to wellness is a hopeless prospect. It can also cause an addict’s family members and friends to withhold much-needed support in the mistaken belief that the addict can and should simply stop using.
The Q&A addresses these questions and several others, providing a balanced overview of the disease of substance abuse, offering hope for recovery and a starting point for finding help. If you have questions that are not addressed in the Q&A, please take a look at our other drug abuse resources or call our hotline for additional information.
Any in-depth discussion about alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or behavioral addiction involves terms that may not be familiar to the average person. Much of the terminology comes from the medical and scientific communities. Medical terms such as dopamine, opioid, and glutamate are used to explain the mechanisms or effects of addiction. Even the names of the substances that are likely to be abused can lead to confusion. The addiction glossary is one of our addiction resources that can help clarify and demystify the information that may be presented to an addict and those in an addict’s life when treatment is sought. Having a better understanding of the information can make the process of selecting an effective treatment simpler and less stressful.
A wide variety of research studies demonstrate just how prevalent and serious the issue of substance abuse and behavioral addictions has become. Those studies also highlight the areas that most need to be addressed. Some of the statistics that are available in the drug abuse resources include:
- The number of deaths that have been attributed to alcohol and illegal drugs
- Comparisons of the relapse rates between drug addiction and chronic illnesses that involve physiological and behavioral aspects, including diabetes, hypertension, and asthma
- The percentage of AIDS deaths that are related to drug abuse
- The numbers of people who use and abuse specific substances
- The prevalence of alcohol use and abuse by age
- The percentage of video gamers who are addicted to the activity
Statistics can help substance abusers, behavioral addicts, and their families and friends feel less alone. Knowing that others are experiencing addictions and achieving recovery can offer hope for a better future. In addition, learning about the potential dangers of continuing to abuse substances or engage in risky behaviors may provide the needed motivation for an addict to seek treatment.
Alcohol and Drug Rehab Hotlines
Drug Rehab CentersDrug rehab centers offer individuals suffering from a drug- or alcohol-related dependency and withdrawal symptoms a place to get help and regain control of their lives. There are many types of rehabilitation centers, each offering specialized treatment and different rehabilitation programs. Read More
The attraction of alcohol and drug abuse is often difficult for non-addicts to understand. Family members and friends may become judgmental and critical because they view substance abuse as an issue of will power. Drug abuse resources can help the people in an addict’s life better understand the mechanism of addiction and the powerful hold that it comes to have on an addict. When they realize that drugs stimulate the centers of the brain that are responsible for motivation, emotion, and feelings of pleasure, it becomes possible to see addiction as a drug-induced amplification of a natural process that all humans experience. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for many feel-good experiences, is released by drugs at two to ten times the amount produced by stimulants such as food, sex, and music. This increased amount of stimulation creates a sense of euphoria, which can become a powerful motivator that leads to a desire to repeat the experience.
Recovering from alcohol and drug abuse is a challenge that is best approached on an individual basis. Drug abuse resources and alcohol abuse resources share many components; however, there are important differences in the treatment needs of individuals who abuse those substances. Obtaining the best results requires careful matching of interventions, treatment processes, and even rehab settings to each person’s situation. Rehab hotlines help substance abusers and the important people in their lives determine which treatment facilities and modalities will best serve their purposes. The goal in providing drug abuse resources is always to help substance abusers cope with their addiction and return to healthy functioning in all areas of their lives, including relationships, work, and personal/spiritual fulfillment.
The decision to seek treatment is a fragile thing that is subject to timing and circumstances. Many substance abusers are fearful about entering a treatment program because they know that abstaining from a drug that they have come to see as essential will be required. If treatment is not readily available when the addict is ready to take that important first step toward recovery, the opportunity may be lost. While another opportunity may arise in the future, the earlier in the addiction process that treatment can be instituted, the better. As the addiction progresses, alterations in the body and brain become more pronounced and more entrenched. The addict’s health and well-being may decline as self-care becomes less important than the never-ending search for that next fix. As judgment becomes more impaired, the addict may put himself or herself in increasingly dangerous situations without realizing or caring about the potential threat. Obtaining help at the earliest possible point in the addiction can slow or even halt the progression of the disease, as treatment turns the substance abuser toward ultimate recovery. Drug abuse resources and alcohol abuse resources provide an abundance of information for helping you or a loved one make the life-affirming decision to seek treatment.
Alcohol and drug abuse therapy is not a one-size-fits-all prospect. It can also change over time. As the substance abuser progresses through a program, his or her needs may become different than they were at the beginning. For that reason, ongoing assessment is usually a valuable part of any treatment for substance abuse. It’s important to determine the needs of the individual as each milestone in recovery is reached, as additional issues can reveal themselves at any point. A new program, new therapy, or new setting may become appropriate.
Drug addiction can lead to numerous medical problems, including stroke, cancer, hepatitis B and C, and cardiovascular disease. Drug abuse resources provide information about the specific types of medical issues that can result from abusing certain substances. The following are examples of medical complications related to the abuse of specific drugs:
- Alcohol abuse can damage the brain, leading to impairment of problem-solving and decision-making abilities, memory loss, decreased learning ability, and problems with coordination.
- Marijuana abuse can adversely affect the ability to focus and may lead to memory problems and poor coordination. An increased heart rate and lung damage are additional side effects.
- Cocaine abuse can seriously damage the cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, and digestive systems.
- Heroin and other opioid drugs inhibit breathing and increase the likelihood of succumbing to infectious diseases.
- Amphetamines increase body temperature and can cause seizures and heart malfunctions.
- Ecstasy increases blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, and it has the potential to damage nerve cells.
These and other consequences of drug abuse are far reaching, affecting not only the addict but family members, friends, employers, and coworkers. In addition, addicts who become pregnant expose their unborn children to the potential for developmental problems and health issues. Some drug abuse resources indicate that substance abusers who use drugs in the presence of their children increase the likelihood that their children will succumb to addiction.
Complete strangers are often impacted by the behaviors of substance abusers. Driving while under the influence of alcohol can put the lives of those in other vehicles at risk. Sharing needles with other heroin users can spread HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Shoplifting and burglarizing to fund a drug habit impacts the livelihood of shop owners and potentially exposes customers to violence. Addiction resources are available that provide information about the societal impact of drug abuse.
Behavioral Health Hotlines
While it’s more common to hear of people being addicted to a chemical substance such as alcohol or methamphetamine, they can also become addicted to behaviors. The mechanism of addiction is similar for substance and behavioral abuse, as both produce dopamines, which stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain.
Sex AddictionSex is a natural part of life. It facilitates procreation and can enhance intimacy between romantic partners. Like many other things in life, however, it can harm a person’s health and well-being when taken to an extreme. Sex addiction is a condition where a person develops an unhealthy fixation on having sex. This condition also encompasses hypersexuality, where the person experiences frequent or increased sexual urges or activity. Read More
Common behavioral addictions include eating disorders, gambling, shopping, love, pornography, sex, video games, and the Internet. Addiction resources reveal that two million adults in the United States are pathological gamblers, with another four to eight million considered problem gamblers. According to a study conducted by Stanford University researchers, approximately one in 20 Americans is a compulsive shopper. Sexual addiction affects 16 million people in the United States, two-thirds of which are men. It’s clear that behavior addictions are widespread. Fortunately, most behavioral addicts can benefit from treatment and achieve a lasting recovery.
An addiction to video games is considered an impulse control disorder, and it’s similar to a gambling addiction. Both disorders involve contests and an overwhelming desire to win. With both gambling and video game addictions, the Internet offers easy access and multiple opportunities to respond to the addict’s craving for another high. Role-playing games and multi-user domain games become a ready fix for individuals with a compulsion to engage in fantasy combat, winning missions, and competing for higher scores. The virtual world can become a way to avoid problems in daily life and face-to-face relationships. Addiction resources provide information about the warning signs and effects of video game addiction. They also offer descriptions of the options for treatment of the disorder.
Compulsive spending and compulsive shopping are behaviors that are similar to food addictions. They often begin as a way to cope with depression, loneliness, anger, or anxiety. The desired sense of power, excitement, and control that the behavior creates doesn’t last long, and the shopping addict may feel even more depressed or anxious. The addiction cycle prompts the shopaholic to shop more and spend more to deal with an increasing sense of shame, fear, and isolation as she attempts to hide purchases and mounting credit card debt. Treatment usually involves counseling, support groups, and behavior changes.
Love addictions involve an obsession with a romantic relationship. Whether the relationship exists in real life or is a one-sided attraction, the (love object) becomes the primary or sole focus. The love addict neglects other relationships and obligations, devoting all of his or her energy to that one all-important connection. If the obsessive relationship ends, the addict may experience intense feelings of confusion, depression, and anxiety. Treatment can help the love addict develop better self-esteem and more balanced relationships.
Addictions to sex and pornography are related disorders. Sex addicts have a compulsion to engage in sexual activity, whether that activity involves masturbation or having sex with another person. When they’re not having sex, sexual addicts are often thinking about it. Their exploits may provide a sense of excitement or conquest, or they can serve as an escape from a sense of anxiety or low self-esteem. Sexual addicts may place themselves in dangerous situations to feed their escalating need to feed the addiction.
Pornography may provide the means of arousal for a sex addict, but it is not the primary focus of the addiction. For porn addicts, on the other hand, reading or watching pornography drives the compulsion. While some porn addicts engage in compulsive masturbation, others have less interest in sexual activity. Addictions to sex and pornography are progressive and can lead to damaged relationships, loss of employment, and isolation.
Gambling Addiction TreatmentGambling addiction is commonly considered a hidden problem. A gambling addict does not display the obvious physical signs and symptoms of a drug or alcohol addict. Loved ones are often blindsided by the consequences of a gambling addiction, realizing the problem only after the person has spent huge sums of money and incurred significant debts. Recognizing and exposing a gambling problem as early as possible is the key to mitigating the effects on the gambler and the people who love and depend upon him or her. Read More
An addiction to gambling is an impulse-control issue that involves a wide variety of games of chance. There are numerous opportunities for gamblers to feed an addiction, including roulette and slot machines, buying lottery tickets, playing bingo, and betting on sports or card games. The Internet has provided compulsive gamblers with easy access to gambling venues. Addiction resources offer information about the changing face of gambling, including the greater incidence of gambling addictions among women.
Several eating disorders have been identified and labeled as behavioral addictions, all of which share an obsession with food. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an extreme fear or gaining weight and a distorted body image. Those suffering from the disorder become obsessed with how much they eat and how much they weigh. They control their weight either by eating very little; exercising excessively; vomiting; or overusing laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Anorexic individuals are typically very thin and exhibit signs of poor health, such as brittle hair and nails, constipation, low blood pressure, low body temperature, fatigue, and infertility. Untreated, anorexia nervosa can lead to brain damage, cardiovascular disorders, and multi-organ failure.
Binge eating disorders involve a loss of control over eating behaviors. Binge eaters are typically overweight, which can result in high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Like binge eating, bulimia nervosa is marked by episodes during which an individual eats large amounts of food. However, unlike typical binge eaters, the bulimic individual engages in behaviors to compensate for eating so much. Those behaviors can include using laxatives or diuretics, self-induced vomiting, fasting, or an obsession with exercise. Unlike those suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulemics tend to be at a normal weight or slightly overweight.
When evidence of an eating disorder exists, but it does not fit one of the established diagnoses, the disorder is termed EDNOS (Eating Disorder not Otherwise Specified). Treatment for eating disorders is customized for each individual and usually includes group or individual counseling, nutritional counseling, and/or medication. When an individual is being treated for anorexia nervosa, hospitalization may be required if the disease has caused damage to the organs. A primary goal is to gradually return the patient to a normal body weight while treating underlying physical and emotional issues.
Whether you or a loved one is concerned about substance abuse or a behavioral addiction, our drug abuse resources and addiction resources are readily available online. Those resources offer detailed information about specific types of addictions, as well as general information about the addiction process, treatment alternatives, and prospects for recovery. To obtain personalized assistance, please contact our help line.