Drug addiction

Specialty of GP (general practioner)

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a health problem caused by the frequent consumption of addictive substances. Drug addiction can cause both physical and psychological changes, often leading to a change in lifestyle. This is characterised by compulsive and continuous use.

Not all drug users are addicts – many people experiment with drugs, particularly young people, and others may take drugs recreationally every now and again, without developing an addictive habit. However, many individuals who start taking drugs, even if only experimentally or recreationally at first, become addicted as they take the substance more and more, leading to health problems. Some people also turn to psychoactive drugs to relieve pain or deal with problems like stress or depression, and this behaviour can also lead to dependence on the drug.

What are the symptoms of drug addiction?

Drug addiction is characterised by:

  • Excessive consumption of the addictive substance
  • Inability to go long periods without taking the drug without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, mood swings, sweats, chills, and malaise
  • Obsession with the drug in question
  • Abandoning previous interests, hobbies, and activities that the individual used to enjoy
  • Strain on relationships and social life
  • Changes in personality
  • Problems at work

Why drug addiction occurs?

The fundamental cause of drug addiction is the addictive component in the drug. Consumption of the addictive substance leads to intoxication and a self-destructive cycle of dependence on the substance.

Can it be prevented?

The best prevention is information. It is important that society is aware of the harmful effects that drugs produce on health, as well as the high risk of addiction.

What is the treatment for drug dependence?

Treatment for drug addiction may include counselling, psychotherapy, or medication prescribed by a doctor to help counter the effects of withdrawal.

Many patients enter group therapy, which provides social reinforcement of the ideals of sobriety. Many of these group therapy sessions involve using positive reinforcement, such as the award of chips for a certain number of days sober to encourage addicts to stay clean. Knowing that they are not alone can help many addicts with the mental health repercussions of drug addiction, such as depression.

Other patients may engage the services of a psychologist or psychiatrist, using behavioural therapies to help them steer clear of self-destructive behaviours.

Once it develops, drug addiction is a chronic condition, and relapses are common over time. Therefore, treatment is rarely needed only once.

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