Illicit Drug Addiction

The most commonly used illegal drugs include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamines, hallucinogens (e.g., “‘shrooms”, LSD), and “club drugs” such as MDMA (e.g., “ecstasy” or “molly”). While use of any of these drugs can be risky, continued use can easily lead to the development of a dangerous addiction. Even if one is not necessarily “addicted” to drugs, continued use can cause significant problems in the person’s relationships and their ability to function at work, school, or home.

What is drug addiction?

Here are some signs and symptoms of drug addiction:

  • The drug is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than was intended
  • The person persistently uses the drug or has made unsuccessful attempts to cut down on their drug use, even if the drug has caused the person interpersonal or psychological problems
  • The person spends a great deal of time in activities necessary to obtain the drug, use the drug, or recover from its effects
  • The drug use has led to a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home
  • The person uses the drug in physically hazardous situations
  • The person has developed a tolerance to the drug (i.e., the same dose as was taken before development of tolerance causes muted effects, or larger doses are taken to achieve the same effect as before the tolerance was developed)
  • Withdrawal symptoms occur if the drug is not taken or the person continues use of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms

How does one become addicted to drugs?

Drugs are addictive in at least two major ways, 1) psychologically (i.e., via the mind) and/or 2) physiologically (i.e., via the body). First, drugs are psychologically addictive because they are reinforcing. That is, drugs are often taken to escape painful emotions, thoughts, memories, etc. Thus, taking the drug is associated with the removal of something negative, and thus, taking the drug is psychologically reinforced, making the person want to use the drug again. Drugs can also be physiologically addicting, meaning the body becomes physically dependent on the drug to function properly and the absence of the drug in the system leads to unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal.

Additionally, there are psychological and biological individual differences in one’s susceptibility to developing a drug addiction. That is, depending on things like genetics and environmental stressors, some people are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to drugs than others.

How is drug addiction treated?

In some cases, drug addiction is initially required to be treated in an inpatient setting such as a hospital or a rehabilitation facility, as withdrawal from some drugs can be physically dangerous and thus require medical surveillance. Once the person has successfully detoxified their system of the drug, however, or if physical withdrawal is not a medical concern, outpatient services are recommended in order to decrease the likelihood of relapse.

Outpatient treatment of drug addiction can take on many forms. However, individual treatment for addiction is likely to include at least one or more of the following approaches:

  1. Motivational interviewing: a collaborative approach between therapist and patient to bolster motivation to change drug use behaviors
  2. Cognitive behavioral therapy: aims to identify, recognize, and challenge thoughts, behaviors and situations that trigger the urge to use drugs
  3. Contingency management: aims to change drug use behaviors by rewarding constructive behaviors and discouraging unhealthy behaviors
  4. Community re-engagement: aims to help the person repair relationships or opportunities damaged because of drug use as well as find alternative activities to using drugs

If you or someone you know is addicted to drugs, immediate treatment is the best way to prevent detrimental effects to your/their physical and psychological health. Addiction specialists at Great Lakes Psychology Group are professional and effective at treating drug addiction. Don’t wait — make your first appointment online or call 800-693-1916 today.