Drug dependence is a serious addiction that can have serious health consequences. Around 20 million people are affected across the USA. But what exactly is drug addiction? What are the symptoms of addiction and what can I do if I am affected?
What exactly is drug addiction?
Drug dependency is a physical and/or psychological dependency on certain drugs. This can develop when a drug is taken either for too long, in too high a dose, or without medical necessity.
The reasons for such drug abuse are varied – those affected often hope for a faster, stronger, or longer-lasting effect of the preparations to be taken. As with any other addiction, difficult living conditions or personal overload are common reasons for consumption in the case of an existing drug dependency.
The following drug groups, therefore, have a particular potential for addiction:
- Painkillers (analgesics)
- Sleeping pills (sedatives, hypnotics)
- Nose drops or nasal spray
- Relaxation and sedatives (tranquilizers)
- Stimulants (stimulants, central stimulants)
In the long term, the wrong dosage or long-term use of these groups of drugs can lead to tolerance. This means that patients feel a reduced effect of the preparations to be taken and continuously increase the dosage. Discontinuation of these drugs then leads to physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms in the event of dependence.
According to estimates, around 20 million people in the USA are affected by drug abuse or drug dependency. Two-thirds of those affected are women. However, the number of unreported cases is likely to be higher, because patients and relatives often recognize dependencies as addictions late or not at all.
And how do I know if I’m drug dependent?
Dependence is often only discovered by those affected when the preparations to be taken are discontinued after treatment has been completed or a continuous increase in dosage has to be carried out during treatment in order to achieve the desired effect. Nevertheless, there are some typical indications that can indicate drug dependency or drug abuse at an early stage. These vary depending on the duration and severity of the dependency:
- Neglecting personal or professional activities to obtain, consume, or recover from the drug.
- Repeated and excessive use of the drug despite physical, social, or professional problems caused by drug use.
- Medications are taken longer, in larger quantities, or in other ways than prescribed by the doctor (e.g. taking sleeping pills during the day to calm down).
- Development of tolerances associated with an increase in dose and reduced effect of the preparations.
- Obtaining drugs from different doctors or illegally.
- Consumption and the associated problems are kept secret in the social or professional environment.
- Physical and/or psychological withdrawal symptoms when stopping or reducing the intake of medication.
- Unsuccessful attempts to control the intake of the drug. A reduction or termination of the intake is no longer conceivable.
What are the consequences of drug abuse in the short and long term?
Taking or using medication that is not consistent with therapy can have very serious, long-term consequences for those affected. These can be both physical and mental in nature.
Possible physical consequences of drug addiction can be, for example, balance, movement, concentration, and speech disorders. But the organs also suffer serious damage depending on the preparation, dosage, and duration of use. For example, stomach diseases, liver damage, or kidney failure can occur with drug abuse.
In particular, an overdose of painkillers can even cause respiratory paralysis in individual cases and poses an acute danger to life for those affected.
Addiction to medication often also creates very stressful psychological problems, such as a lack of interest and a flattening of feelings. Mood swings, depression, and anxiety are also typical consequences of drug addiction, which lead to personality changes in the long term.
In addition to long-term effects, stopping the medication can cause short-term, but sometimes very serious, withdrawal symptoms that are dangerous for the patient. Here, the body reacts to the absence of the active substance supply, for example with severe cramps, sweating, tremors, anxiety disorders, or increased blood pressure and tachycardia.
What can I do myself if I suffer from drug addiction?
The first step should be a consultation with a doctor to determine the degree or type of drug dependency and to discuss possible therapeutic approaches. If a dependency is diagnosed by the doctor, attempts to break the habit should definitely take place under medical supervision.
With the help of a doctor, the dosage can then be gradually reduced. Psychological or psychotherapeutic support when weaning is also advisable for many of those affected since the causes of drug addiction can often be justified.