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Drug Addiction

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Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is a disease that affects the brain. Drug addiction also affects behavior. When drug addiction is present, a person loses their ability to control the ramifications of using a legal or illegal drug. Drug can occur from the use of medication that is prescribed or over the counter medication. Substances such as alcohol, opiates, and benzodiazepines are drugs that can become addictive.

Addiction Medicine and Drug Addiction

Addiction medicine is a specialty for doctors. Learning the ins and outs of medications and deciphering how to provide medical advice based on the individual needs of each person, requires this specialized training and medical education. Substance use disorder and opioid use disorder are two examples of a diagnosis used for someone addicted to drugs. One can become addicted to many types of drugs or including prescription drugs (pharmaceutical drugs), street drugs like crack cocaine or other illicit substances. Drug abuse or misuse of drugs may cause a physical dependence to the drug. Understanding drug use and how drugs affect the mind and body are important. It is up to each individual to know the risks involved. Prescription medications used for pain relief will not always turn into drug abuse or addiction. When you have a substance use disorder, it may get to the point where your ability to function in day-to-day life becomes impaired.

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. With the right intervention this disease is treatable. Although a person might meet the requirements for a diagnosis pertaining to their drug abuse or drug addiction, successful change occurs when the person using wants to change their life. Drug addiction and sometime drug abuse is a compulsive need for and use of a drug which is characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.

Drug addiction begins with drug misuse and drug use before physical dependence | Turning Point of Tampa

For a person addicted to drugs, taking drugs seems almost easier than seeking out how to stop using. Most addicts do not like the word addict, and although needing to stop is in their best interest to arrest their disease, control of when, where, and how to stop can become a battle. The physical detoxification process and withdrawal symptoms can be scary. Illicit drugs and alcohol have protocols that are followed based on the amount and frequency of use. Once the detoxification is handled, it is suggested to gain additional drug addiction treatment in a safe place.

Drug Addiction Statistics

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 abuse treatment in the same year. Of these, about 2.6 million people received treatment at specialty treatment programs (CBHSQ, 2015). The evidence is obvious that this is a major problem within our society, no matter what definition of drugs or addiction you may subscribe too.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a trends and statistics section where they show opioid data by each state. The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers many publications that are available for print. These National Institute on Drug Abuse publications are a wealth of information and are free to the consumer.

Areas of Impact

Drug addiction is a brain disease that can also cause damage and changes in the brain chemistry. Some areas or functions that can be impacted by drug use include:


People do things when they are using drugs or alcohol that they normally would not do. Drug addiction creates situations where addicts will behave in any way needed to keep their addiction alive. 

To stop the behavior, some sort of intervention usually occurs. The intervention can be from the consequences of their use such as legal troubles. Family issues can arise. Job or lack of holding a job can become an issue.

Formal Intervention

Formal Intervention from an interventionist could be helpful. Although interventions are not free, finding an interventionist is rather easy.

There are also books outlining how to succeed in an intervention if a family wants to try themselves.


At times, loss of memory is caused by blackouts where the brain is so impacted that you forget what they you done and what others did. When you use drugs for a long time, it can cause brain changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well. Regardless of the cause, addicts will report that there is significant impact on their memory from the use of drugs.

Decision Making

It is impossible to make good life decisions while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The consequences of addiction start to mount as the addict makes bad, life threatening choices in their addiction.


Living an addicted life is stressful, and within the throes of drug addiction begins that stress becomes another reason to use once again. Since the addict cannot tolerate or cope with life on life’s terms, they need the relief of the drug to feel better, or even normal enough to move throughout their day.

So why do our loved ones use drugs? The reality is, no one wakes up one day and decides they want to be a drug addict. The reasons are as varied as the kind of drugs used.

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What is Drug Dependence or Drug Abuse?

If you use a drug or alcohol frequently, your body will begin to develop alcoholism and drug dependence. This means that your body will “need” the drug to function normally. Drugs affect everyone in a different way, depending on how much you took or the prescribed dose.

If you take the drug or alcohol away and quit abruptly withdrawal symptoms can occur. This is often why there is continued use the drug, to avoid these withdrawal symptoms.

Most Commonly Abused Drugs

There are some drugs that are more addictive than others. Below are the most common drugs that may result in substance use disorders:

  • Alcohol
  • Club Drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hallucinogens
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Kratom
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opioids
  • Over-the-Counter Medicines
  • Prescription Medicines
  • Steroids (Anabolic)
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice)
  • Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts)
  • Tobacco/Nicotine and Vaping
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Prescription Medications

Unlike illicit drugs, prescription drugs are given by a doctor, to treat certain medical conditions or used for pain relief. Despite being prescribed, medications like this can still become addictive.


People who abuse alcohol are not necessarily addicted but may develop a physical dependence. Alcohol abuse is different than alcohol addiction.

You can suffer from alcohol abuse but not be addicted to it. Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that makes it so you are not able to stop drinking and need the help of a medical provider to stop.

Illegal Substances

Cocaine / Crack Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant. The energizing, euphoric, effects are not only highly addictive but seductive. Because of the way it feels when you use these drugs, it can result in addiction and warrant addiction treatment.

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal

If you are addicted to a substance or suffer from drug abuse, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit using the drug or alcohol. The withdrawal process will look different for each person.

Why Do People Use Drugs or Alcohol?

Here are some of the reasons for drug use:

To Relieve Stress:

Relying on drugs to reduce life stressors. Drugs produce feelings of pleasure. However, frequent use can also build a tolerance that requires you to use more to produce the same initial effect.

To Feel Good:

Using drugs can provide some people with a break from reality. It offers a sense of relief from underlying issues your mind may be trying to escape from. However, continual drug use can lead to a serious problem.

To Cope with Stress:

Losing someone you love can take a toll on you emotionally, physically, and mentally. Drugs can ease the grief you are feeling and are used to get through difficult times. Even if drugs are used temporarily, they can spiral into a serious problem.

To Overcome Anxiety:

Some people are naturally anxious, causing them to perpetually worry. Although initially drugs may help with anxiety, it has been shown that prolonged use can actually induce more anxiety. Over time, this can lead to even more increased addictive behaviors.

Diagnostic Criteria for a Substance Use Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). This book is the product of more than 10 years of effort by hundreds of international experts in all aspects of mental health.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) “Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex condition in which there is uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequences. People with SUD have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s) such as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs, to the point where the person’s ability to function in day-to-day life becomes impaired. People keep using the substance even when they know it is causing or will cause problems. The most severe substance use disorder is sometimes called addiction.”

Warning Signs

According to the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM-5) the following are warning signs of a substance use disorder:

  • Drugs are often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drug use
  • Obsessive thoughts surround activities necessary to obtain drugs, use drugs and then how to recover from said drug use and its effects – to start the cycle again to find the drug
  • Intense cravings or a strong desire or urge to use drugs, in any form
  • Intense pleasure from drug use
  • Failure to fulfill life obligations (i.e. work, school and family responsibilities)
  • Loss of motivation and/or decrease in desire to obtain life goals
  • Increased tolerance to drugs, combined with increased usage to feel the initial “high” or same effect once felt
  • Withdrawal symptoms once the drug wears off
  • Using drugs despite Medical advice that it may be detrimental to physical health and/or exacerbate already existing conditions
  • Continual usage even after multiple legal issues as a result of drug use
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Risk Factors for Developing a Drug Addiction

There is not one specific factor that determines if someone will develop a substance abuse problem or a drug addiction. Below are some risk factors and warning signs for developing the disease.

Taking a Highly Addictive Drug

There are some drugs such as opioid painkillers, cocaine, or stimulants may be more addictive than other drugs.

Mental Health Disorder

If you have mental disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, panic disorder or anxiety you are at an increased risk for developing a drug addiction or substance use disorder.

Family History

Having family members with addiction problems increases the risk for developing an addiction or substance use disorder.

Peer Pressure

Particularly for young people, peer pressure can be a strong factor for drug misuse.

Early Alcohol or Drug Use

Using drugs and alcohol at an early age can cause changes in your brain resulting in an increased likelihood of drug use and addiction.

Lack of Family Involvement

Difficult family situations or lack of a bond with your parents or family members may increase the risk of drug addiction or a substance use disorder. Lack of parental supervision or early drug use can also increase the chances of developing an addiction.

Drug Addiction Treatment at Turning Point of Tampa

Often, a drug addiction or substance use disorders coincide with another mental disorder. From the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Many people who are addicted to drugs are also diagnosed with other mental disorders, including anxiety and depression. Some people develop mental health problems related to their compulsive drug use, and some people take drugs in an attempt to alleviate symptoms of their mental health disorder.”

When a person is struggling with both a mental illness and a substance use disorder, it can be difficult to identify and treat the issues of each.

Treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems can lead to continued recovery. As with other chronic diseases, there is no “cure” for a substance use disorder.

Drug addiction and mental health disorders much like diabetes and asthma are conditions we have seen individuals learn to live with and experience productive lives. Learning to live without using drugs or alcohol takes time, practice, and a commitment to new coping mechanisms.

Drug Addiction Treatment at Turning Point of Tampa

Turning Point of Tampa is a drug addiction treatment center. We recognize drug addiction as an ever-increasing problem within this country. We also believe treatment based on the 12-Step philosophy leads a person to a life that is productive and meaningful.

Whether you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, we can help. illegal drugs or a prescription medication can be abused (Amphetamines/Stimulants, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Opioids, Fentanyl).

Illegal drugs (Marijuana, Cocaine, Ecstasy, Heroin, Spice and Methamphetamine) or more recently the new “designer drugs” (Spice, Bath Salts, Kratom) have been on the rise in our country for the last several years and pose a serious problem.

Levels of Care

At Turning Point of Tampa we offer a comprehensive continuum of care, including primary and extended care programs, intensive outpatient and weekly aftercare groups.

What are the 10 most important things to know about addiction?

Addiction is a complex condition that affects millions worldwide, with far-reaching implications for individuals, families, and communities. Here are the 10 most important things to understand about addiction:

One - Addiction is a Brain Disorder:

Addiction is characterized by compulsive use of substances or engaging in behaviors despite adverse consequences. It is a chronic disorder involving biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors that affect brain function and behavior.

Two - Substances Hijack the Brain:

Drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s reward system by flooding it with dopamine—a neurotransmitter involved in movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Normally, the brain releases dopamine in response to potential rewards. When substances artificially increase dopamine levels, it leads to abnormal messages within the brain.

Three - Genetics Play a Role:

Approximately 50% of the likelihood that someone will develop addiction is attributed to genetic factors. Family history significantly influences one’s risk of addiction.

Four - Environment is Key:

While genetics provide the blueprint for addiction, environmental factors (such as home life, social interactions, and community) interact with one’s genetic makeup. Peer pressure, emotional distress, and availability of drugs can significantly impact addiction risk.

Five - Developmental Stages Matter:

The interaction of genetic and environmental factors with developmental stages of life makes adolescents particularly vulnerable early drug and to substance addiction. Early exposure to drugs or alcohol can modify brain development, potentially leading to severe addiction problems later in life.

Six - Addiction is Treatable:

Despite being a chronic condition, addiction is treatable. The comprehensive treatment can allow people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects and regain control. Treatment must be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the individual responds.

Seven - Multiple Treatments Exist:

Treatment varies depending on the individual but often includes medication, behavioral therapies, and support groups. No one treatment is suitable for everyone, and multiple interventions and regular monitoring are often necessary.

Eight - Relapse can be Part of the Process:

Relapse should not be seen as a failure but rather as a step in the process of treatment. It often indicates the need for treatment adjustment or an alternate approach.

Nine - Support is Crucial:

Recovery from addiction can be very challenging, and support from friends, family, and the community is crucial. Social support and establishing a support network can greatly increase the chances of recovery.

Ten - Mental Health is Often Linked:

Many individuals who struggle with addiction also suffer from other mental illnesses. Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders are common, and treatment for addiction should also address these mental health issues.

Understanding these key aspects can help in recognizing the signs of addiction, offering support, and seeking treatment for those in need, promoting a more informed and empathetic approach to this profound challenge.

How can drugs affect you?

Taking drugs of any kind, including alcohol can affect each person uniquely in the moment. Having a good time and being aware of not going overboard means the intent is not to seek oblivion. Your support group can have a significant environmental risk factor towards enjoying ones self verses repeated behaviors that can cause problems with family members, school, work, and your self control.

Drug addiction begins for every person at a different time. Mental health conditions can come first and drug misuse from prescription medication prescribed by health care providers can start from the person who is misusing the drug experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Similarly prescribed medicines from physical pain or an accident can cause recreational drug users to seek illegal substances which can develop into a physical dependence. repeated drug use despite negative consequences is often a clear sign of a substance use disorder.

What are the three types of addicts?

In general, physical dependence is classified in 3 groups: alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. Alcohol addictions have been found to be among the most frequent. This can manifest as dependence on alcohol via binge drinking or heavy drinking. Addictive drugs can be illicit or prescription.

What is the difference between a psychological dependence on drugs versus a substance use disorder or drug addiction?

The terms “psychological dependence,” “substance use disorder,” and “drug addiction” describe different aspects of drug use and its impact on individuals, though they are related and sometimes overlap.

A dependence that is psychological focuses more on the mental and emotional aspects of drug use, substance use disorder is a formal diagnosis that can range from mild to severe and includes both physical and psychological dimensions, and drug addiction typically refers to a more severe and compulsive form of substance use disorder that includes significant physiological changes and behaviors.

Psychological Dependence:

Psychological dependence refers specifically to the emotional or mental aspects of substance use. It involves drug seeking, a perceived need or craving for a drug to achieve a sense of well-being or to avoid negative emotions.

Most people with a psychological dependence may feel that they need the drug to function normally, manage stress, anxiety, or depression, or feel pleasure – despite negative consequences. The focus here is on the psychological effects rather than the physical aspects of dependence, which might include tolerance and withdrawal.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD):

Substance use disorder is a broader and more clinically defined term. It encompasses a pattern of drug use that leads to significant impairment or distress. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a diagnosis of SUD is based on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe, depending on how many criteria are met.

These criteria include physical issues like tolerance and withdrawal, as well as psychological issues such as a strong desire to use the substance, unsuccessful efforts to control its use, and continued use despite once again negative consequences. Having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of drug use is also a sign of a substance use disorder.

Drug Addiction:

Drug addiction is often used interchangeably with severe substance use disorder and implies a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to use drugs. Drug addiction like a substance use disorder is seen by the compulsive behavior despite harmful consequences, physical dependence, and the potential for relapse after an attempt to stop. Addiction is characterized by changes in brain function and the brain’s reward system that affect self-control and emotional responses.

How does you know when withdrawal symptoms are happening from drug addiction?

Withdrawal symptoms happen when a person who has been regularly using a drug (especially a physically addictive one) suddenly stops or significantly reduces their intake.

These symptoms can vary widely depending on the substance used, the duration and amount of use, and the individual’s health.

Here are four common signs and indications that someone might be experiencing withdrawal symptoms from drug addiction:

One - Physical Symptoms:

  • Shakiness or tremors: Especially common with alcohol withdrawal.
  • Sweating: Even without physical exertion.
  • Nausea and vomiting: A common symptom for opioid, alcohol, and barbiturate withdrawal.
  • Headaches: Frequent in withdrawal from caffeine and nicotine.
  • Muscle pain and stiffness: Often reported in withdrawal from opioids.
  • Seizures: Can occur during severe alcohol or sedative withdrawal.
  • Extreme fatigue: Common with stimulants such as cocaine or amphetamines.
  • Changes in appetite: This could include increased appetite or lack thereof.

Two - Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Anxiety or nervousness: Common across many types of drug withdrawals.
  • Depression: Can be deep and severe, particularly in withdrawal from stimulants or cannabis.
  • Irritability or mood swings: Notable in nicotine or steroid withdrawal.
  • Difficulty concentrating or confusion: Especially in withdrawal from benzodiazepines or alcohol.
  • Cravings: Strong desires to use the drug again to relieve withdrawal symptoms.

Three - Behavioral Changes:

  • Insomnia or changes in sleep patterns: Common with withdrawal from opioids, stimulants, and depressants.
  • Social isolation: Pulling away from family members or friends as part of the emotional turmoil of withdrawal.
  • Neglect of responsibilities: At work, home, or school.

Four - Autonomic Signs:

  • Heart palpitations or racing heart: Particularly with stimulant withdrawal.
  • Increased blood pressure: Notable during withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines.

If someone is experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical advice, as some withdrawal symptoms can be severe and potentially life-threatening. Medical professionals can offer support and sometimes medication to help manage the symptoms safely.

What is the connection between substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health conditions?

The connection between substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health conditions is significant and complex, often involving a cooccurring disorder where each can influence the onset and progression of the other.

Here’s a breakdown of how these connections generally manifest:

  1. Common Risk Factors: Both SUDs and mental health conditions often share similar risk factors, including genetic vulnerabilities, exposure to trauma or stress, and adverse childhood experiences. These factors can predispose individuals to both types of disorders.

  2. Self-Medication Hypothesis: Many individuals with mental health conditions might use drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate. For instance, someone with depression might sometimes misuse drugs or alcohol to numb their feelings of sadness or hopelessness, or a person with an anxiety disorder might use benzodiazepines, CBD with THC or marijuana to reduce their symptoms. While this can provide temporary relief, it often leads to a worsening of symptoms over time and can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder also known as addictive disorders.

  3. Substance-Induced Mental Disorders: Substance use can directly affect brain chemistry and lead to the development of mental health disorders. For example, heavy and prolonged use of substances like alcohol, amphetamines, or cannabis can lead to conditions such addictive disorders as depression, anxiety, or psychosis. This is sometimes referred to as a substance-induced mental disorder, which should be diagnosed and treated differently from other mental health disorders.

  4. Worsening Symptoms: Problematic substance use can exacerbate symptoms of an existing mental health condition. For example, while alcohol may initially seem to alleviate anxiety, its use can increase anxiety levels over time. Similarly, stimulants might increase energy and mood in the short term but worsen episodes of mania or lead to higher levels of depression after the effects wear off.

  5. Impaired Treatment Outcomes: When an individual has both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder, each can complicate the treatment of the other. Substance use can interfere with medications prescribed for mental health conditions and can make therapeutic interventions less effective.

  6. Shared Neurological Pathways: Research suggests that many addictive substances and mental health issues share common neurological pathways. For instance, dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and reward, plays a significant role in both substance use disorders and conditions like depression and schizophrenia.

Turning Point of Tampa Works With Men and Women Seeking Help for Drug Addiction

Turning Point of Tampa treats drug addiction and co-occurring conditions. A mental health condition and a substance use disorder is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders, and it requires integrated treatment approaches that address both conditions simultaneously.

Illicit drug use, abuse of prescribed medicines, coupled with a mental health condition requires both addiction doctors and a trained mental health professional. The staff at Turning Point of Tampa is well versed in integrated treatment approaches and has helped hundreds overcome drug addictions and find the right solution to their mental health condition.

Understanding these connections is crucial for effective treatment. Understanding the importance of screening for all potential co-occurring disorders and having the ability to offer comprehensive treatment plans that address the spectrum of an individual’s needs is a specialty of Turning Point of Tampa.

If you feel that you or someone you care about has a drug addiction problem and or a mental health condition, please call Turning Point of Tampa, we loo forward to helping you find the right solution.