Drug Addiction Explained

1. How it Happens

No one wants to be a drug addict or alcoholic, but this doesn't stop people from getting addicted. The most commonly asked question is simply - how? How could my son, daughter, father, sister, or brother become a liar, a thief, someone who cannot be trusted? How could this happen? And why won't they stop?

2. Drug Addiction at its Roots

The first thing you must understand about addiction is that mind-altering drugs are basically painkillers. For drugs to be attractive to a person, there must first be some underlying unhappiness, sense of hopelessness, or physical pain.

3. The Cycle of Addiction

Drug addiction follows a cycle like this:

A person has some problem, sense of unhappiness or hopelessness, or physical discomfort. It could be a teenager experiencing his first romantic rejection, or a grandmother with arthritis, or it could be a man in his prime, wondering why he keeps failing on the job. Or it could be someone at any age in between.

The alcohol or drugs appear to solve his problem.

This person drinks or tries drugs. The alcohol or drugs appear to solve his problem. He feels better. Because he now seems better able to deal with life, the drugs become valuable to him.

The person gradually increases his usage of his drug of choice. He is then trapped. Whatever problem he was initially trying to solve by using drugs or alcohol fades from memory. At this point, all he can think about is getting and using drugs. He loses the ability to control his usage and disregards the horrible consequences of his addiction.

He loses the ability to control his usage and disregards the horrible consequences of his addiction.

The addict will now attempt to withold the fact of his drug use from friends and family members. He will begin to suffer the effects of his own dishonesty and guilt. He may become withdrawn and difficult to reason with. He may behave strangely.

The more he drinks and uses drugs, the more guilty he will feel, and the more depressed he will become. He will sacrifice his personal integrity, possibly lying and stealing to finance his drinking or drug habit. His relationships with friends and family and his job performance will go drastically downhill.

4. Addiction and Tolerance

The drugs and alcohol are now the most important thing in his life. He has thrown away his job, his life-savings, his dreams and ambitions, all in an effort to maintain the painkilling and emotion killing effects he once obtained from the drugs. But ironically, his ability to get "high" from the alcohol or drugs gradually decreases as his body adapts to the presence of foreign chemicals. He must take more and more, and he now has to have them to be able to function at all.
As he continues to drink or use drugs, his body continues to adapt to the presence of the drugs. This is when the newly created addict begins to experience drug cravings. He will experience an overwhelming obsession with getting and using his drugs, and will do anything to avoid the pain of withdrawing from them.

He has crossed an invisible and intangible line. He is now a drug addict or alcoholic.

5. Progression of Addiction

As his alcoholism or drug addiction progresses, he will become increasingly haggard and ill-tempered. He will be riding on a drug or alcohol induced emotional roller-coaster which may actually be mistaken for mental illness. He may seem very "up" and enthusiastic when he is high, but when the drugs wear off, he becomes depressed and lethargic. He may go into a drug-induced depression.

At this point, the addict is stuck in a vicious downward spiral. He faces the problem of having to find money to buy drugs and to attempt to appear normal to his friends, family and employer. Whether he wants to stop or not, he is now trapped. By now, the drugs he abuses will have changed him both physically and mentally.

Long-term alcoholism and drug addiction can cause one's personality to change. This is called the Biochemical Personality. Some of the characteristics are:

- Mood swings
- Unreliable
- Unable to finish projects
- Unexpressed resentment and secret hatreds
- Dishonesty
- Lies to family, friends, employers
- Withdraws from those who love him.
- Isolates self
- May appear chronically depressed
- May begin stealing from family and friends