According to DrugFree.org, 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs. Addiction affects millions of Americans. It is not a failure of will or character, but a disease of the brain. When people think of addiction they have the assumption it has to do with alcohol or drugs.
The truth is that more and more Americans are becoming addicted to things that aren’t actually considered drugs. Such as caffeine, food, and tobacco. Even activities are becoming addictive like gambling, browsing the internet, and shopping. By analyzing the patient’s behavior we can diagnose them with addiction. It is a serious condition and involves more than one behavior.
The symptoms of an addiction are:
- Developing a tolerance for the substance
- Enduring withdrawal symptoms
- Losing control of the situation
- Ignoring social, professional, or educational activities
Addiction changes the human brain. Each substance can cause different changes and affect the information channels that tell the brain when something is pleasing. It also affects the parts of the brain that control the memory encoding, judgment, aspirations, decision-making skills, and inspiration. Even after an individual stops using substances, these changes in the brain function and structure can last a long time.
The Addiction Connection
There is a connection with addiction and mental health. If an individual suffers from anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD, depression, an eating disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder it is more likely they will succumb to addiction. Individuals that are dealing with a mental illness are abusing substances in an effort to ease their pain or struggle.
Abusing substances with a mental illness will only worsen its symptoms. An example of this would be someone trying to manage an anxiety disorder. They may turn to heroin however, they are likely to experience more reoccurring and severe panic attacks during the withdrawal phase. Likewise, alcohol can intensify depression and even guide someone who’s intoxicated to become suicidal. Getting help for both an addiction and mental illness is classified as dual diagnosis treatment.
The road to recovery can be long and challenging. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be abusing drugs or an un-diagnosed mental illness, encourage them to call our helpline at (855) 248-4393.