Drug and Addiction is a Complex Illness

Addiction is characterized by intense and often uncontrollable drug cravings, along with compulsive drug seeking and using that persists even in the face of devastating consequences. Addiction affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior. This is why addiction is commonly referred to as a brain disease. Some individuals are more vulnerable than others to becoming addicted, depending on the interplay between genetic makeup, age of exposure to drugs, and other environmental influences. While a person initially chooses to take drugs, over time the effects of prolonged exposure on brain functioning compromise that ability to choose, and seeking and consuming the drug become compulsive, often eluding a person’s self-control or willpower.

But addiction is more than just compulsive drug taking—it can also produce far-reaching health and social consequences. For example, drug abuse and addiction increase a person’s risk for a variety of other mental and physical illnesses related to a drug-abusing lifestyle or the toxic effects of the drugs themselves. Additionally, the dysfunctional behaviors that result from drug abuse can interfere with a person’s normal functioning in the family, the workplace, and the broader community.

Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment is not simple. Effective treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences. Addiction treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society. Because addiction is a disease, most people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Patients typically require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives. Indeed, scientific research and clinical practice demonstrate the value of continuing care in treating addiction, with a variety of approaches having been tested and integrated in residential and community settings.

Millions of people are struggling with Drug and Alcohol Addiction worldwide. Although there is no cure, there are many proven ways to treat and enjoy recovery from addiction. Although using drugs and alcohol may begin as a recreational activity that the user has a choice over, it can eventually become a set of addictive, compulsive, and all-consuming behaviors beyond one’s physical and mental control.

According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.5 million people (8.5 percent of the U.S. population) aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit* drug or alcohol use problem in 2014. Only 4.2 million (18.5 percent of those who needed treatment) received any substance use treatment in the same year. Of these, only about 2.6 million people received treatment at specialty treatment programs.

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who use drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease where relapse is defined as the return to drug use after an attempt to stop.

The path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs. But over time, a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised. Seeking and taking the drug becomes compulsive. This is mostly due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function. Addiction affects parts of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior.

Addiction becomes so compulsive that it can eventually control one’s decisions, plans and ultimately their entire life. If not treated, life’s “normal” patterns are interrupted, including vocational and educational, family, mental and physical health and even can result in early death. Although the addict feels that that the substance is temporarily providing certain relief from emotional or physical pain, the continued use is only compounding their real problems, which are only temporarily masked by the drugs or alcohol.

Intensive, long term residential treatment is a proven and successful approach to begin to slow, then reverse the damaging effects in one’s life. Treatment is especially effective with those with more severe problems, including co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety.

 

Signs of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

  • An inability to stop or control how much is consumed
  • Obsessive thinking, spending a great deal of time getting substances
  • Feeling the need to drink/use more to achieve the same effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping; feeling sick to your stomach, sweaty, anxious or shaky
  • Giving up other activities to allow for more time for drinking/using
  • Continuing to drink or use in spite of negative consequences (damaged relationships, health problems, or legal or financial troubles)
  • Feeling guilt or shame after drinking/using
  • Lying about, hiding, or making excuses for drinking/using
  • Engaging in uncharacteristic behaviors; Stealing or engaging in any other shameful behavior in order to obtain drugs or alcohol

Therapeutic Approaches

At Next Chapter we use evidenced based practices that include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Seeking Safety, Motivational Interviewing (MI), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Solution Focused Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, and EMDR. Treatment includes an individualized treatment plan that includes therapeutic groups, individual sessions, family work, and 12-Step immersion groups. At Next Chapter we not only address the obvious behavioral and physical symptoms often seen with drug and alcohol abuse, we specifically focus on the underlying issues that drive the addiction and its associated behaviors that frequently lead to relapse. Significant attention is paid to those experiences of negative childhood experiences with major caregivers, trauma, relationship and intimacy failures, men’s issues in recovery, life skills, personality traits, anger, grief, loss, communication skills and relapse prevention.

Principles of Effective Treatment

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior
  • No single treatment is right for everyone
  • People need to have access to treatment
  • Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug use
  • Staying in treatment long enough is critical
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment
  • Medications can also play an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies
  • Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patients changing needs
  • Treatment should address other possible mental disorders
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment
  • Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously
  • Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as teach them about steps they can take to reduce their risk of these illnesses

 

Common Substance Use Disorders Include:

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder is an individual’s excessive use of alcohol, resulting in an increased risk of developing serious health problems, and the uncontrollable intake of alcohol. Excessive drinking, drinking that leads to a disorder, often puts one’s safety at risk as well. It has been found that the genetic predisposition for the disorder exists, and plays a significant role in one’s chance of developing an addiction to alcohol. Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorders include the uncontrollable need for continued drinking, inability to control or reduce drinking, continued drinking despite interference with major obligations or social functioning, drinking larger quantities over time, developing a tolerance, drinking in risky situations like driving, spending a great deal of time to obtain and drink alcohol, and withdrawal symptoms that occur after stopping or reducing, such as tremors (shaking), seizures, hallucinations, negative mood, nausea or vomiting, and insomnia. It is strongly recommended that alcohol withdrawal is done under medical supervision to stabilize such symptoms.

Opioid Use Disorder (Heroin, Painkillers)

Opioids are a drug that help to reduce the perception of pain; however, they also can induce drowsiness, mental confusion, euphoria, nausea, constipation, and, depending upon the amount of drug taken, can depress respiration. Most often, opioid addiction begins with the legal use of a prescription medication. Illegal opioid drugs, such as heroin and legally available pain relievers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone can cause serious health effects in those who misuse them. Some people experience a euphoric response to opioid medications, and it is common that people misusing opioids try to intensify their experience by snorting or injecting them. These methods increase their risk for serious medical complications, including overdose. Other users have switched from prescription opiates to heroin as a result of availability and lower price. The form found on the street offers a dangerous varied purity, and with other chemicals and drugs mixed with heroin on the black market, this also increases risk of overdose. Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorders include the uncontrollable need for continued use, inability to control or reduce use, continued use despite interference with major obligations or social functioning, use of larger amounts over time, development of tolerance, spending a great deal of time to obtain and use opioids, and withdrawal symptoms that occur after stopping or reducing use, such as negative mood, nausea or vomiting, muscle aches, diarrhea, fever, and insomnia.

Cannabis (Marijuana) Use Disorder

Marijuana is the most-used drug after alcohol and tobacco in the United States. According to SAMHSA: Marijuana’s immediate effects include distorted perception, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and loss of motor coordination. Long-term use of the drug can contribute to respiratory infection, impaired memory, and exposure to cancer-causing compounds. Heavy marijuana use in youth has also been linked to increased risk for developing mental illness and poorer cognitive functioning. Symptoms of Marijuana Use Disorder include disruptions in functioning due to its use, the development of tolerance, cravings for cannabis, and the development of withdrawal symptoms, such as the inability to sleep, restlessness, nervousness, anger, or depression within a week of ceasing heavy use.

Stimulant Use Disorder (Methamphetamine, Cocaine)

The use of stimulants is on the rise in the United States and having devastating effects on communities nationwide. Stimulants are known to increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. In their original form, stimulants were used to treat conditions and illnesses such as obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and, occasionally, depression. Unfortunately, as with other prescription medications, stimulants have been modified for illegal use. The most commonly abused stimulants are amphetamines, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Stimulants can be synthetic (such as amphetamines) or can be plant-derived (such as cocaine). They are usually taken orally, snorted, or intravenously. The symptoms of using such stimulants include unstoppable craving for the drugs, failure to control use when attempted, continued use despite interference with major obligations or social functioning, use of larger amounts over time, development of tolerance, spending a great deal of time to obtain and use stimulants, and withdrawal symptoms that occur after stopping or reducing use, including fatigue, vivid and unpleasant dreams, sleep problems, increased appetite, or irregular problems in controlling movement.

Hallucinogen Use Disorder

Hallucinogens can be chemically formulated (as with lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD) or created/derived naturally (as with psilocybin mushrooms, peyote). These drugs can produce visual and auditory hallucinations, feelings of detachment from one’s environment and oneself, and distortions in time and perception. Symptoms of Hallucinogen Use Disorder include craving for hallucinogens, the inability to control use when attempted, continued use despite interference with major obligations or social functioning, use of larger amounts over time, use in risky situations like driving, development of tolerance, and spending a great deal of time to obtain and use hallucinogens.

Sedative, Hypnotic, and Anxiolytic Use Disorder (Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates)

Sedative-hypnotic and anxiolytic, also called “depressants” and “anti-anxiety” drugs, are used and prescribed to slow down incessant brain activity. Often, these drugs can fall into the hands of a person with the disease of addiction due to experiencing any co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, insomnia or muscle spasms. Most commonly known are Benzodiazepines or “benzos” (Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, Xanax) and barbiturates (Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, phenobarbital). These drugs are usually taken orally or by snorting and pose an increased risk for serious medical complications, including overdose. Symptoms Sedative, Hypnotic, and Anxiolytic Use Disorderinclude intense cravings, failure to control use when attempted, continued use despite interference with major obligations or social functioning, developing a tolerance and using larger amounts over time, and spending a great deal of time to obtain and use sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics. It is strongly recommended that benzo and barbiturate withdrawal is done under medical supervision to stabilize symptoms such as seizures, tremors, muscle cramping, vomiting, sweating, depression, anxiety, elevated heart and respiration rate, confusion, hallucinations or insomnia.

Synthetic and Designer Drug Use Disorder (Bath Salts, Cannabinoids, Ecstasy)

Synthetic and designer drugs are products that are artificially created to imitate the effects of common illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens and methamphetamines. The most common of them are synthetic bath salts, cannabinoids (“spice” or “K2”), and ecstasy (MDMA or “molly”). New and varied versions of designer drugs are evolving all the time. Of them, the most recently popular are kratom (a plant derivative that has stimulant, depressant and euphoric affects) and flakka or “gravel” (a synthetic stimulant that is similar to bath salts and has adrenaline-like effects). As the effects of all synthetic and designer drugs vary, many of them however produce insomnia, decreased appetite, hallucinations, panic attacks, hostile behavior, and paranoia. Many of these drugs such as bath salts, cannabinoids, and kratom can be bought on the legal market and come in packaging that is avoids suspicion. An important thing to be aware of about synthetic and designer drugs is that they are extremely dangerous in the sense that it is difficult to control dosage. Many overdoses and deaths occur because, like most drugs, the potency certain designer drugs are created with vary and as a result, can be lethal. Symptoms of Synthetic and Designer Drug Use Disorder include intense cravings, the inability to control use when attempted, continued use despite interference with major obligations or social functioning, use of larger amounts over time, development of tolerance, and spending a great deal of time to obtain and use.

Inhalant Use Disorder

Inhalants are a wide-range of different substances, which contain toxic gases and fumes from chemicals typically found in household products such as glue, aerosols, paint thinners, and various cleaning products. Inhalant use involves sniffing, inhaling, or huffing chemicals that are easily accessible by anyone. One common inhalant, known as “duster” is keyboard cleaner and upon inhaling, like most inhalants, produces a euphoric effect. Inhalant Use Disorder raises serious health concerns because the high concentrated chemicals can cause cardiac arrest. Sudden sniffing death syndrome, or heart failure from inhaling toxic vapors, can occur even at first use. Furthermore, Inhalant Use Disorder risks also include asphyxiation, choking, seizures, fatal injuries from motor accidents, suffocation and overdose induced comas. Symptoms of Inhalant Use Disorder include intense cravings, the inability to control use when attempted, continued use despite interference with major obligations or social functioning, using in risky situations like driving, using larger amounts over time, developing a tolerance, and spending a great deal of time to obtain and use.

Next Chapter treats patients from all over the United States and in our back yard of Delray, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton FL.

Next Chapter provides a range of approaches with an individually tailored treatment plan coupled with a long term follow-up plan. Clients receive both medical and mental health services as needed. Next Chapter provides a combination of a therapeutic community which is a highly structured program where clients remain at a residence, typically for 3 to 6 months. The entire community, including treatment staff and those in recovery, act as key agents of change, influencing the patient’s attitudes, understanding, and behaviors associated with drug use.

Next Chapter Treatment offers a 24-hour structured environment, including safe housing and regular medical and psychiatric care as needed. Next Chapter employs the most successful and effective therapeutic approaches available, designed specifically to help each client learn to live a drug and alcohol free lifestyle after completing inpatient treatment.

My journey (and growth!) of these last several months has been tremendous, and I could not be more grateful to Next Chapter and all involved for your part in helping me to open my eyes and heart to a self-awareness I have not had in a very, very long time. I took your suggestions from our first initial conversations of getting back to 12 step meetings, counseling and my own inward continued journey. I express genuine, true heartfelt thanks for that
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