Drug misuse and addiction can impact the lives of many individuals in varying circumstances. Whether a coworker, friend, family member or you are struggling with addiction, finding drug misuse treatment options is a high priority for successful recovery. With all of the treatment options available, seeking out treatment for yourself or a loved one is possible for practically any person.
Recognizing signs of drug misuse in a loved one or in yourself can be challenging at first. But researching and finding resources to help you understand the process of addiction and how people’s lives can change because of drug misuse is a significant part of finding the best treatment options.
At Gateway Foundation, we understand the complexities of having an addiction to drugs and seeking treatment. Understand those complexities yourself with the symptoms, causes, effects and common questions of addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Misuse
People can fall into addiction for various reasons. With the widespread nature of drug addiction and drug misuse in the country, it’s helpful to be aware of the symptoms of drug addiction. Knowing these signs can help you determine if a loved one is using drugs and how that impacts important aspects of their life.
Overall Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use
Some of the most common signs a person may exhibit when using drugs or experiencing addiction include:
- Having intense thoughts of taking or obtaining a drug and thinking of nothing else
- Craving the drug daily, sometimes multiple times a day
- Using the drug more times and in larger amounts over an extended period of time
- Showing or experiencing the need for more of the drug to feel the common effects of the drug
- Not being able to afford the drug but still spending money on it anyway
- Doing whatever it takes to get the drug, like stealing money or sneaking out
- Recognizing the negative effects the drug is making on your social, work and personal life, but continuing to use it anyway
- Spending a majority of time trying to get the drug, use the drug and repeat the cycle
Social and behavioral signs of a substance use disorder can include:
- Showing poor performance at work and not meeting work-related obligations
- Having a tough time completing schoolwork and seeing grades decline
- Showing changes in personal relationships
- Experiencing financial struggles, like failing to pay bills or rent
- Exploring other dangerous or risky activities while using drugs
- Changing behavior, like needing more privacy or skipping out on social events
- Becoming defensive when confronted about drug use
Physical signs of drug use can include:
- Showing a new physical appearance, like a new wardrobe or a decline or hygiene
- Having significantly less energy than before
- Showing a change in appetite or a significant amount of weight loss
- Showing symptoms of withdrawal when ending the use of the drug
- Having bloodshot eyes, looking exhausted or having a sickly skin tone
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol is one of the most commonly misused substances in the United States. With over 14 million people over the age of 12 experiencing alcohol use disorder, learning the signs of alcohol addiction is crucial to helping yourself or your loved ones recover.
The signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction can vary. People are sometimes referred to as “functioning alcoholics” and are seemingly fine on the outside. These people work hard to minimize the signs they show about their addiction, but over time, this cover-up can be difficult to continue.
Other people will exhibit more severe or noticeable signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder. Some of the widely known signs of alcohol addiction include:
- Preferring to drink alone, at unusual times or in secret
- Having little control over the amount of alcohol consumed
- Reasoning with excessive drinking, like using it to try to sleep, relax, lessen problems or improve mood
- Recognizing negative effects excessive drinking brings but continuing to drink regardless
- Experiencing regular mood swings, depression, irritability and anxiety
- Being unsuccessful in limiting alcohol consumption alone
- Feeling a strong urge to consume alcohol regularly
- Missing social, work or family events because of alcohol use
- Developing a high tolerance to alcohol and needing more to feel the common effects
- Spending a lot of time purchasing and drinking alcohol
Signs of Specific Drug Misuse
The general signs of drug use are helpful when determining whether someone is suffering from drug addiction. In addition to those symptoms and signs, some specific drugs bring out certain symptoms that can further help you see the signs of drug use in yourself or a loved one.
Here are some of the more specific signs of drug use for different types of drugs:
- Stimulants: Also called uppers, stimulants can include methamphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy and nicotine. They can be misused by snorting a powder, taking a pill, smoking or injection with a needle. Individuals using stimulants may exhibit behavior changes, rambling speech, paranoia or aggression. A person using stimulants may also have a high amount of energy, dilated pupils and fast breathing.
- Marijuana: Also known as cannabis, weed or pot, marijuana is a well-known drug that is legal in various parts of the United States. This substance can cause euphoria, impact auditory and visual perceptions, affect balance, increase appetite and make reaction times slow. Marijuana can also cause feelings of paranoia. A person using marijuana may have a calm demeanor and bloodshot eyes.
- Benzodiazepines and barbiturates: These substances are central nervous system depressants and are prescription medications that help treat sleep disorders and anxiety. Barbiturates aren’t as common in medicine, but these drugs have a high risk of overdose if used illegally. Benzodiazepines include drugs like Xanax and Valium. People using either of these drugs can appear depressed, off-balanced or dizzy, and express feelings of confusion.
- Opioids: Opioid misuse is a big problem in the United States. These drugs can include prescription pills or illegal drugs like heroin. People using opioids will show slow reaction times, mood swings, memory problems, exhaustion or sedation and have trouble concentrating.
- Hallucinogens: Hallucinogens can be classified into two categories — dissociative drugs, like PCP, and classic hallucinogens, like LSD. Individuals using hallucinogens may be tired, anxious or nauseous or exhibit mood changes.
- Club drugs: Common types of club drugs include GHB, ketamine and ecstasy. People using these drugs will often look irritated, experience dizziness, be sweating excessively, clench their teeth, have slurred speech and have poor balance.
What Causes Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is a disease that many people deal with on a daily basis — over 19.5 million Americans aged 12 and up were affected by a substance use disorder in 2017. This chronic disease is described as a compulsion for seeking and using substances despite dangerous consequences. These individuals will lack the control to cease using the drugs or substances.
The first instance of using the substance is likely voluntary. Addiction occurs when someone repeatedly uses the drug, and the brain shifts to craving the substance and trumps the urge to resist using. This is why addiction is known as a relapsing disease.
People who have been in recovery for years may still be at risk of using the substance again. Between 40%-60% of those treated for substance use disorders had relapsed. Even when relapse occurs, it doesn’t mean that treatment options for addiction don’t work. Treatment always needs to be analyzed and tailored to a person so they can be on the road to recovery. That’s why at Gateway, we offer individualized substance misuse treatment to address individual recovery needs.
What Happens to a Person’s Brain When They Take Drugs?
When a person starts using drugs, the brain’s reward system is activated because of the dopamine released. This reward system is beneficial when you’re happy from visiting with friends or enjoying delicious food, but activating it with drugs can start the unhealthy cycle of using drugs regularly.
As a person continues to misuse drugs, the brain will start getting used to the effects and reduce the response of cells in the reward system. They won’t feel the same euphoric high they once did, and they’ll begin using more of the drug until they achieve the effect they desire. This occurrence is commonly known as building a tolerance.
What Causes Someone to Become Addicted to Drugs?
There isn’t a perfect formula for determining the type of person that’s going to become addicted to drugs, but there are a few life factors that can increase a person’s chances of falling into addiction. Here are the three risk factors that can enhance someone’s chances of becoming addicted to a substance:
- Environment: Influences from a person’s environment, like friends, family, quality of life and economic status, all can make an impact on whether someone is more likely to become addicted to drugs. Other environmental factors, including early exposure to drugs, peer pressure, a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, parental guidance and stress, can all contribute to a person’s environment and possibly lead them closer to using substances.
- Biology: Genetics and biology can play a role in someone’s risk for addiction. When other family members struggle with addiction, it’s important for that person to steer away from substances or addictive activities. Other aspects like mental illnesses, ethnicity and gender can all contribute to the risk someone faces for addiction.
- Development: Your biology and environment both impact your development throughout your life. Drug addiction can occur at any point in a person’s development, but using drugs at an early age has a higher chance of leading to addiction. Addiction can be significantly problematic for adolescents. Teenagers’ brains are still developing the areas responsible for decision making, self-control and judgment, which makes them particularly more prone to trying drugs and participating in risky behavior.
Short and Long-Term Effects of Drug Addiction
Dealing with substance use disorder comes with short-term and long-term effects on overall health. The health effects a person experiences depend on the type of drug they use, how the drugs are taken, their health history and any other habits that can impact a person’s overall health and behaviors.
Short-term health effects can be noticeable after one use, while long-term effects can make themselves present months or years down the road. Learning about the possible health effects that your loved one or yourself can experience due to drug addiction is eye-opening information that can help make treatment sound more necessary.
Short-Term Effects of Drug Addiction
Any drug, illegal or prescribed, can have short-term effects on a person. Individuals who are prescribed pain-relievers, like opioids, notice a decrease in their moderate or severe pain but may also experience shallow breathing or drowsiness. A person enjoying a glass of wine may feel intoxicated after and be tired or relaxed. It’s common for short-term effects to occur, but it can be life-changing when someone is using drugs daily.
Some short-term physical health effects from substances can include:
- Slurred speech
- Drowsiness or insomnia
- Decrease or increase in appetite
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Increased heart rate
- A sense of feeling “high” or euphoric
- Impact on cognitive ability
- Feeling invincible
- Drug cravings
Other short-term effects that a person can experience impact their social and mental health. Some of these effects include:
- Problems with relationships
- Trouble keeping up with personal hygiene
- Loss of interest in previous hobbies or activities
- Decrease in school or work performance
- Not being able to stop using drugs
- Increase in risky behaviors
- Aggressive or violent outbursts
Long-Term Effects of Drug Addiction
Using drugs regularly can severely impact overall health. Some of the long-term effects that drugs can cause to the body can last for years or stick around forever.
People using drugs may not consider how these substances can impact them in the future. Handling the short-term effects may be possible, but the long-term effects of using drugs can impact nearly every organ in the body.
These long-term effects can carry from mild health concerns to life-threatening impacts to your body and your brain. Those include:
1. Risk of Infectious Disease
A serious health concern for individuals using drugs is increasing their risk of infectious disease. This risk is significantly heightened during opioid or injection drug use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drug use is connected to individuals participating in risky behaviors like sharing needles.
Using drugs and living an unhealthy lifestyle can also weaken a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infectious diseases and making it difficult to fight off illnesses.
Diseases that are common among drug users whose method is injection include hepatitis and HIV. Drugs that can be taken through injection include heroin, cocaine, prescription opioids, methamphetamine and steroids.
2. Cardiovascular Damage
Certain drugs can take a major toll on the heart. Some of the adverse effects that drugs can contribute to the cardiovascular system range from increased or decreased heart rate to a heart attack.
Stimulants can cause significant damage to the heart every time a person uses these drugs. Substances like nicotine, cocaine and methamphetamines are all stimulants that can potentially lead to heart disease or heart failure.
Drugs taken through injection needles can also cause damage to the cardiovascular system. Injections can lead to bacterial infections in blood vessels or collapsed veins from repeated use.
3. Risk of Cancer
Various forms of cancer have been linked to drug use, including tobacco, vaping, marijuana and steroids. Smoking cigarettes can lead to cancer of the lungs, stomach, mouth and neck. One of the best ways to prevent developing these forms of cancer is ceasing nicotine or tobacco smoking.
Links have also been made between marijuana and the risk for testicular cancer in adult males. This risk is increased when adolescent males begin using marijuana in their early years.
4. Respiratory System Damage
Lung and respiratory damage are linked to substances like tobacco, cocaine, heroin, inhalants, marijuana, prescription opioids, DXM and more. Numerous respiratory issues can occur when individuals smoke or inhale drugs, introducing toxins and other substances to their lungs. An example of respiratory damage due to drugs is smoking crack cocaine and seeing severe pneumonia and lung inflammation.
Other examples include cigarette smoking leading to bronchitis and emphysema or using opioids and seeing worsened asthma symptoms or slow breathing.
5. Gastrointestinal Damage
Most drugs can cause stomach damage or intestine issues. A common symptom of drug use is nausea and vomiting, which can lead to acid reflux. Cocaine use is also known to contribute to gastrointestinal damage with bowel tissue decay and stomach pains. Opioid use has been shown to cause severe constipation and acid reflux.
6. Liver Damage
Substances including prescription opioids, heroin, steroids and inhalants can all lead to liver damage when taken regularly. The damage these substances inflict on the liver can be intensified in combination with alcohol. Prolonged use of these substances can potentially lead to liver failure.
7. Kidney Damage
Some substances are known to potentially cause kidney damage or kidney failure, whether it’s directly or indirectly the reason. Kidney damage can result from the breakdown of muscle tissues, rise in body temperature and dehydration, which are all possible symptoms of substance use.
8. Musculoskeletal Damage
Drugs like steroids, PCP, inhalants and MDMA can cause damage to the musculoskeletal system. An example of this type of damage includes steroid use in early adolescence causing the body to tell the bones to stop growing because of the increase in sex hormones. In another example, PCP can cause intense muscle contractions.
9. Hormonal Effects
Hormonal effects can occur from substances like steroids, heroin and other appearance- or performance-enhancing drugs that impact the body’s ability to produce hormones. Some symptoms of hormonal changes in the body can include infertility for men and body hair growth for women.
10. Prenatal Effects
Substance use during pregnancy can cause serious health issues for both mother and baby. Drug use during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight for the baby, premature birth, miscarriage and various cognitive and behavioral development issues for the baby.
To prevent long-term health problems for the baby or the mother, a person who is pregnant should reach out for help and resources on the effects of substance use during pregnancy.
11. Neurological Effects
All addictive drugs make changes to the brain when used regularly. The neurological long-term effects of substance use can make a huge impact on the progression of addiction. Other than altering a person’s dopamine levels and furthering the disease of addiction, other neurological long-term effects include:
- Memory: Substance use can make changes to a person’s memory and learning abilities.
- Cognitive function: Neurotransmitters are affected by prolonged substance use, making it difficult for a person to think and learn new things.
- Dying brain cells: Drugs with toxins can potentially kill brain cells, leaving permanent damage.
- Brain connections: Over time, substances can alter other areas of the brain and establish new connections between brain cells and neurons.
12. Mental Health Effects
The changes in a person’s brain because of drug use can also lead to mental health problems, like depression, anxiety, paranoia and other mental illnesses. People who struggle with addiction are often diagnosed with mental illness, known as co-occurring disorders.
Drug-related overdose deaths are increasing every year. Research shows that one in four deaths can be traced back to prescription drug, alcohol, illicit drug and tobacco use.
How to Know When It’s Time for Treatment
People struggling with addiction can have a difficult time admitting they need help. If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction, it’s important to recognize the negative impact addiction is inflicting on your or their life.
People may decide against treatment because they believe they have control over their addiction or are waiting until they hit rock bottom. In reality, the best time to seek out treatment is as soon as you can, but know it’s never too late to find help.
Determining whether your or a loved one needs to seek out substance use treatment can be simple when you stop and take a closer look at behavioral health, life changes, relationships and other major substance-related signs and symptoms.
How Severe Is the Problem?
If a person is experiencing numerous negative effects to their life because of substance use disorder, it’s time to start considering treatment options. Addiction can range between mild, moderate or severe, and a person regularly using drugs may fall somewhere on this spectrum. A person can find out how severe the issue is by going over the following criteria:
- Having the desire to quit but is unsuccessful
- Lacking control over their substance use
- Lacking responsibility in numerous life aspects
- Spending a majority of time purchasing and using the substance
- Having cravings
- Experiencing problems with relationships
- Using substances dangerously
- Losing interest in hobbies, activities or relationships
- Increasing tolerance
- Experiencing withdrawal
The number of criteria points that apply to a person can determine the severity of their addiction. People experiencing any of these symptoms should try and seek treatment to improve their overall health and lifestyle.
Types of Drug Addiction Treatment
Looking toward the road to recovery and searching for treatment is the best thing a person can do to address their substance addiction. Whether someone decides to seek treatment on their own or has assistance from their friends or family, it is a major accomplishment and the first step to becoming sober.
The type of treatment a person needs depends on the severity of their addiction to drugs. Learn about the various types of treatment options people can seek out when they want to recover from addiction, which we offer at Gateway Foundation:
- Detoxification: Supervised, medical detoxification treatment can help ease the symptoms and make the process easier for people recovering from addiction. This process includes medication-assisted detox and helps stabilize a patient during their withdrawal process. Detoxification programs vary in time depending on the severity of addiction and symptoms. Some treatments can take a few days, while others may last a few weeks. Once the person is stabilized, they can move on to their next type of treatment.
- Inpatient treatment:Residential or inpatient treatment provides supervised care for people working on their recovery after they have gone through detoxification. At Gateway, we create structured treatment plans for patients that will best help them progress in their recovery. People can participate in these inpatient programs for a few weeks or months. The programs vary in the level of patient monitoring, activities and treatment, but most have nearly all-day supervision from licensed professionals.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient programs let patients continue their personal responsibilities while attending treatment appointments and meetings to follow up with their recovery process. This option is best for patients who do not need around-the-clock supervised care but still need help navigating their recovery process after detoxification. Some outpatient programs have options to attend during the weekends or at nighttime, making it convenient for individuals to fit treatment into their schedules. At Gateway, we offer around-the-clock support groups.
Treatment can also include various types of therapy programs. Attending therapy sessions is a helpful method for patients to continue to talk about their feelings and thoughts on their recovery process. Some therapy programs at Gateway Foundation include:
- 12-Step Facilitation
- Dialectal Behavior Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Mindfulness-Based Sobriety
The Process of Treating Substance Abuse
Treatment for addiction is different for every patient. While treatment plans can vary, many individuals can expect to complete four phases of treatment to reach recovery. The four phases include intake, detox, treatment and ongoing recovery care.
The four phases of addiction treatment are necessary to help a patient heal and find healthy coping methods after struggling with addiction.
Phase 1: Intake
The first step of the treatment process at Gateway is admissions and assessment. The patient will meet with a licensed professional to talk about their treatment options and learn more about the patient’s life and addiction severity. This will help us come up with the best treatment plan based on the person’s emotional, medical and social aspects. The professionals at Gateway may have the patient take psychological, medical and psychosocial assessments to further improve their treatment plan.
Phase 2: Detox
The next step in the treatment program is detox. The symptoms of withdrawal can be intense depending on a person’s dependency on a substance. Medically assisted detox is a helpful treatment option to help lessen the symptoms. Our medical team will assess a patient’s risks during withdrawal and plan for certain medical interventions or additional treatments to help the patient progress through the withdrawal process.
Phase 3: Treatment
Treatment options range depending on a patient’s specific needs. Some patients may require more time and supervision after detox and enroll in an inpatient treatment center. Inpatient treatment is great for removing people from their old habits and lifestyle and introducing them to healthy lifestyle changes.
Patients who need to take care of loved ones or resume life obligations can attend outpatient treatment. This is a great choice for those who are recovering from more mild addiction issues.
Patients may seek therapy options in combination with inpatient or outpatient treatment. Individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy and rehabilitation therapy can be a helpful or necessary addition to the recovery process.
Phase 4: Ongoing Recovery
The last phase of treatment is ongoing recovery. This step is important because recovery continues throughout a person’s lifetime. While a patient can become stronger mentally and physically after treatment, it’s important to ensure all of their hard work continues throughout their life. Follow-up programs at Gateway like support groups or therapy are helpful for many patients looking to continue a substance-free life.
Benefits of Seeking Treatment for Substance Abuse
Taking the leap to seek out treatment is a huge accomplishment for any person with a substance use disorder. While the road to recovery has ups and downs, the benefits of getting treatment for addiction outweigh any of the challenges.
Some of the benefits of substance use treatment include:
- Support: People struggling with substance use disorder may feel like they don’t have a support system to rely on. When they enroll in treatment, they will find people in similar situations and professionals they can trust and count on for support.
- Education about addiction: People can learn valuable information about addiction and how people can become addicted to substances. Treatment centers and therapy are places to gain insight into a person’s own recovery and develop a better understanding of why addiction is a challenging disease that people from all walks of life deal with. Patients can learn more about substance use disorder and how they can avoid cues or triggers in their environment.
- An understanding of underlying problems: Patients can dig into their reasons for choosing drugs and how it affected their lives. Counselors can help guide patients through this internal discovery, whether stress, emotional trauma or their environment impacted their substance use disorder.
- Healthy habits: A big part of treatment is learning new healthy habits and coping methods that align with a person’s new lifestyle. Treatment helps a person learn how to transform their lifestyle for a strong and lasting recovery after addiction.
- Advice on mending relationships: Counselors can help give patients advice on how to heal personal relationships that dwindled because of their addiction. People can also learn how to create new and healthy relationships during their recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions About Substance Abuse Treatment
Substance use and addiction treatment are complex topics. Learn more through some of the most frequently asked questions regarding substance use treatment.
Are There Treatment Options for Drug Addiction?
Substance use treatment centers like Gateway Foundation can treat drug addiction for various substances. Treatment services and programs vary depending on the substance and the person. Some people may require minimal treatment, while other treatment plans are more extensive.
Where Can I Find a Drug Addiction Treatment Center Near Me?
If you are looking for treatment options near you in Illinois, Gateway Foundation has 16 locations throughout the state. You can find the location closest to you if you’re seeking treatment for yourself or another person.
What Medications Are Used in Addiction Treatment?
Medications are a helpful treatment option for some patients in combination with counseling and therapy. Medications like Vivitrol and Suboxone can be included in a patient’s treatment plan if necessary. Medication-assisted treatment programs can help patients recover from alcohol, opioids and other sedatives. Medications may also be used during withdrawal management.
Does Addiction Have a Cure?
There is currently no cure for substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is a relapsing illness, so the best way to recover is through managing addiction through treatment programs, therapy and ongoing care. Substance use treatment is an effective method for patients to gain control over their lives.
How Much Is Substance Use Treatment?
The cost of treatment varies between treatment centers for drug addiction and programs. Cost is a big point of discussion when considering treatment. Reach out to treatment facilities and look into insurance coverage to determine what treatment plans work best for your budget.
Contact Gateway Foundation for Substance Abuse Help and Resources
Reaching out for substance use disorder treatment, whether it’s for yourself or someone you care about, is a step in the right direction. Learn more about the treatment options Gateway Foundation has to offer and the quality care our staff provides. Contact us today for resources on addiction and inquiries about our treatment programs.