The illness that is addiction is one that is commonly misunderstood. Many people do not even see it as an illness but instead view it as something that happens to those who make poor decisions. They believe that those who are affected by addiction have a choice. This article will attempt to explain why drug addiction is not a choice.
What Is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is an illness of the brain. Despite what many believe, it is something that can affect anyone regardless of how old they are, their gender, or where they come from. It is not something that anyone chooses and those who are affected are usually unable to stop taking drugs even if they desperately want to.
Most people assume that drug addiction affects only those who use illegal substances such as alcohol or drugs, but this is only half the tale. The reality is that there are many mood-altering substances that can cause addiction. These include:
- illegal drugs (such as heroin, crystal meth and cocaine)
- over-the-counter medication (such as painkillers containing codeine)
- prescription medication (such as opiate painkillers and sedatives)
- former legal highs (such as Black Mamba, Spice, and Clockwork Orange).
It is hard to believe that those who take medication prescribed by a medical professional could end up struggling with a drug addiction, but this is a reality for many individuals around the UK. Prescription medication is typically intended for short-term use, but in some circumstances the benefits may outweigh the consequences and it can be prescribed for long-term use.
However, it should be noted that prescription medication can be highly addictive and dangerous if it is abused. Taking more of this medication than advised to do so by a medical professional is classed as abuse and can quickly lead to an increased tolerance and physical dependence.
How Does Drug Addiction Occur?
For most, drug addiction begins with experimentation. This is the stage at which the individual has a choice over his or her use. But it is important to point out that just because a person chooses to use drugs does not mean that he or she is choosing to become an addict; nobody chooses to be affected by drug addiction. There are many people who use drugs and never ever end up struggling with addiction. Unfortunately, some get hooked after just one use.
When a person uses drugs and likes the experience, he or she may choose to use them again. Many individuals can continue using drugs recreationally without developing a physical dependence. Nevertheless, if they develop an increased tolerance to the substances, they may be tempted to use more drugs while chasing the high achieved with the initial uses. The more the person uses the drug, the more the body adapts and that first elusive high is something they will find hard to replicate; although that does not stop them trying.
As time goes by and the persons tolerance increases, his or her ability to stop using will diminish. When the choice to use drugs is lost, the affected individual can be said to have an addiction. He or she will be compelled to use even when knowing doing so will cause unwanted consequences for them and their loved ones. They have no choice over their urge to use.
It is easy for those with no experience of addiction to say that addicts should just stop using drugs if they want to get better. It is actually much easier said than done most addicts know that to get better they will have to stop using drugs, but doing so is another matter entirely.
The Impact of Drug Addiction
To understand why drug addiction is not a choice, it is a good idea to have a look at the impact that it can have on the life of the individual and their loved ones. Logic would dictate that an activity that causes so much hardship and pain would be something that people would avoid at all costs. When it comes to addiction, the negative consequences are so great that it would make sense that individuals would want to stop using drugs. Nonetheless, those affected usually cannot stop at least not without professional help.
The greatest damage is done to the affected person; he or she will suffer with poor mental and physical health as well as the breakdown of relationships and poor finances. He/she will also have the threat of premature death hanging over their head, depending on the substance being abused.
Health problems such as liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and cancer can affect those who struggle with drug addiction. There are many other health problems as well, including gum disease, malnutrition, and sleep deprivation, which are common as well. It all depends on the type of drug the person is addicted to. Knowing that these consequences are possible should be enough to prevent people from abusing drugs, but once the brain structure changes, the individual is no longer able to think clearly or make logical decisions.
However, it is not just the affected individual that suffers; those who live with addicts often pay a heavy price for their loved ones illness. In most cases, everything else comes second place to the addicts need for drugs. This includes responsibilities such as working, paying bills, and even relationships with children, spouses, parents, and siblings. Everything but the drug will pale into insignificance.
For those who have never been affected by addiction, it is hard to understand why anyone would put their loved ones through unnecessary heartache. Even addicts would have been of this opinion before they became addicted. But once in the grip of addiction, everything changes.
How to Overcome a Drug Addiction
Overcoming any type of addiction is never easy. Continued abuse of mood-altering substances changes the way the brain functions so it takes time to unlearn addictive behaviours. Most affected people will require a physical detox before starting a programme of rehabilitation.
A detox is the process that will allow the individual to separate him or herself from the substance to which they are addicted. It is a good idea for most to detox under careful supervision in a dedicated facility. This will ensure both comfort and safety at all times.
The process of rehabilitation can begin as soon as the person has completed his or her detox and is clean. Trying to complete a programme of rehabilitation without finishing a detox is virtually impossible.
Rehab programmes are provided by various organisations and are mostly inpatient or outpatient based. Residential programmes are typically provided by private clinics and are the most intensive and time-consuming way to approach addiction recovery.
Patients are removed from their everyday lives and are placed in a distraction-free environment where they are encouraged to concentrate on overcoming their addiction for good. The programme of care they are provided with will typically be tailored to their individual requirements and circumstances and will include a combination of traditional therapies and holistic alternatives to ensure that the whole person is treated.
With an outpatient programme, the entire approach tends to be at a slower pace in order to allow the individual to continue with everyday life while also tackling recovery. Outpatient programmes do not incorporate an overnight stay and the number of treatment hours the patient has each week will vary from one provider to another.
UK Rehab Can Help You Defeat Addiction
If you require treatment for a drug addiction, we can help. UK Rehab helps affected people across the UK to access suitable detox and rehabilitation programmes. We work with providers in both the public and private sectors, including the NHS, private clinics, charities, local support groups and local counsellors. It is our mission to ensure that no matter what a persons circumstances, he or she can access the help needed to overcome addiction once and for all.
For more information about our service and how we can help you or someone you love, call our dedicated helpline now. Alternatively, contact us via our online contact page and we will call you.