Drug addiction is complex, characterized by compulsive–often uncontrollable–drug craving, seeking, and use that persists even in the face of extremely negative consequences. For many, drug addiction becomes chronic, and relapses are common even after long periods of abstinence.
Essentially, drugs are pain killers. They may seem to avert emotional and physical pain by providing the user with a temporary and illusionary escape from or way to cope with life’s realities.
In fact, more problems–serious ones–are created by using and abusing drugs.
Over time, a person’s ability to choose not to take drugs can weaken until they will do anything to get high. They are now caught in the vicious cycle of using to alleviate pain and creating more pain by using…They now display the physiological symptoms of addiction. They become difficult to communicate with, are withdrawn, and begin to exhibit other strange behaviorisms associated with addiction.
The compulsion to use drugs can take over the individual’s life, triggering a wide range of dysfunctional behaviors that can interfere with normal functioning in the family, the workplace, and the broader community. Addiction also can place people at increased risk for a wide variety of other illnesses, due to the toxic effects of drugs and poor health habits. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease can all be affected by drug abuse. Some of these effects occur when drugs are used at high doses or after prolonged use, however, some may occur after just one use.
Because addiction has so many dimensions and disrupts so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment for this illness is never simple. Drug treatment must help the individual stop using drugs and maintain a drug-free lifestyle, while achieving productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society. Effective drug abuse and addiction treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences.
Three decades of scientific research and clinical practice have yielded a variety of effective approaches to drug addiction treatment. Research indicates drug addiction treatment is as effective as are treatments for most other similarly chronic medical conditions. However, because addiction is a chronic disorder, the ultimate goal of long-term abstinence often requires sustained and repeated treatment.