Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a chronic, relapsing neurological disorder. It is characterized by “clinically significant impairments in health, social function, and voluntary control over substance use.” While the scientific reasoning behind why an individual develops an addiction remains unknown, there are certain risk factors (e.g., environmental risk factors, genetic risk factors, psychological risk factors, socioeconomic risk factors, etc.) that can increase an individual’s susceptibility to developing an addiction. Further, an individual’s behaviors have the propensity to contribute to the development of an addiction. Addiction can be framed as a repeating cycle with different stages. These recurring stages are called a cycle because they generally progress in a repetitive pattern until some form of treatment takes place to intervene and alleviate the addiction. The cycle of addiction occurs in stages as outlined below:
- First Use: The first step to addiction is trying the substance. The initial exposure to drugs can ignite an individual’s curiosity regarding experimentation with other substances.
- Regular Use: Individuals that begin to abuse drugs regularly will exhibit certain patterns of incorporating drugs into their lives. The term regular is subjective, as patterns of regular drug use will present distinctly in different people (e.g., one person may regularly use drugs on the weekend, whereas another person may regularly use drugs daily).
- Risky Use: Individuals that continue to abuse drugs even when it knowingly negatively impacts their lives and/ or the lives of their loved ones. Individuals are also likely to engage in risky, dangerous behaviors while intoxicated.
- Dependence: Individuals that have developed a dependence on one or more substances of abuse are unable to stop without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which manifest though the following three steps:
- Tolerance: the individual requires increased amounts of the substance to achieve its desired effects.
- Physical dependence: the individual is unable to limit substance intake without going into a state of withdrawal.
- Psychological dependence: the individual experiences a pervasive, uncontrollable need to continue using; possibly arising from fear that they will be unable to function in its absence.
- Addiction: After an individual has developed a dependence, he or she is extremely close to developing a full-blown addiction. The DSM-5 provides eleven different criteria that define substance use disorder.
- Relapse: A hallmark of any chronic condition, including addiction, is the potential to relapse. Relapse is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “as the recurrence of behavioral or other substantive indicators of active disease after a period of remission.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40% to 60% of people relapse after drug treatment. Clinical treatment studies estimate that more than two thirds of individuals relapse within weeks to months of initiating treatment. It is important to note that relapse is not an indication of failure, only that treatment needs to be adjusted.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.