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When you think of the word “addiction,” what comes to your mind? An unhealthy habit? A disease? A challenge? 

Actually, addiction encompasses all of those, and the meaning of the word “addiction” varies among people. Many people that have not suffered from addiction have a stigma against it, calling those suffering from it “junkies” and “druggies.” The stigma behind drug addiction is one of the main reasons that people refuse to seek help; it’s embarrassing.

Fortunately, with the emergence of the opioid crisis, the negative feelings toward drug addiction have been fading. Even though addiction is classified as a disease, it is still very treatable, especially when it is detected in the early stages. With the help of many different doctors, therapies, and medications, there has never been a better time to treat your addiction than now. 

Addiction, being a chronic brain disease, will get more damaging to the body and mind over time. Identified through compulsive and uncontrollable drug use despite negative drawbacks, addiction can pretty much only be treated by pulling it up from the roots. By finding the causes and reasons behind your addiction, you can pull it up from the roots and start living a sober life: the life you deserve.

Causes of Addiction

As mentioned before, addiction can only really be “cured” by identifying and treating the reasons for the chronic drug use. So why do people do drugs to begin with if they know it’s bad?
The answer is actually quite simple: happiness.

Well, it’s actually not that simple. People do things including drugs for happiness, euphoria, and the feeling of pleasure. It’s written in clear print on the Declaration of Independence that we all reserve the unalienable right of “the pursuit of happiness.” Whether that be eating, playing video games, or partaking in substance abuse, pleasure is everyone’s motivation. Substance abuse in particular rewards the brain with abnormal amounts of dopamine, resulting in intense euphoria. Sounds too good to be true? It is.

When someone uses a substance to achieve euphoria (both recreationally and prescribed), dopamine is released into the brain and thus the user becomes happy. Unfortunately, due to the unnatural amounts of pleasure coming from the drug, the brain rewires itself to seek even more dopamine-releasing activities, with previously-enjoyable activities paling in comparison to this new substance. This is how cravings and habits start: by repeating a certain activity over and over again to release more dopamine.

Normal brains function in a very specific way, reabsorbing the dopamine that it produces to ensure that dopamine levels are normal and healthy. When someone abuses a drug, the surge of dopamine is too much for the brain to reabsorb, and it stops making its own dopamine. Now, with a high amount of dopamine just milling around the brain, the brain raises its standards for what can be considered pleasurable. This is why boredom and general irritability are common among addicts; their brain is now hardwired to enjoy pretty much only substance abuse. At this point, a user will be considered addicted.

There are many factors that can affect whether or not someone is at risk for addiction. While this remains true, the two most common types of factors that are taken into consideration are environmental factors and biological factors.

The likelihood of someone to develop an addiction undoubtedly depends mostly on the environment they are in. Environmental factors of addiction simply refer to the outside forces or influences that may push someone to begin using, abusing, depending, and ultimately becoming addicted to a drug.

One of the top contributing environmental factors is their home environment and the family members that the person lives with. If they are surrounded by family members that partake in substance abuse, even an alcoholic parent, they are much more likely to develop a future addiction, especially if the person affected is a child. Studies show that children are much more susceptible to become substance addicted if they have an addict family member or even if they live in an impoverished area. By being around such illicit substances at such a young age, a child may view substance use and abuse as acceptable and are much more likely to try it themselves.

School and work both play a surprisingly large role as environmental factors of addiction. Stress from work and school as well as someone’s peers can play a huge role in the development of addiction, especially in someone’s youth. In school, peer pressure can easily push someone to “take a hit” at a party or get blackout drunk because it’s “cool.” Simply underperforming at school or work can also cause stress, and the person will self-medicate themselves with illicit substances to take that stress away. It is important to always surround yourself with positivity and the right crowd; making friends with the wrong people can easily sway someone to begin using drugs like they do.

Although there is no gene that determines “drug addiction probability,” there have been a few genes identified that can easily affect the probability of someone developing an addiction. Take alcohol consumption for example; while there is no “alcoholism” gene, there are genes that have been discovered that contribute to the likelihood of developing alcohol dependency, such as genes that reduce the effects of a hangover and genes that increase the effects of alcohol on a user.

Although these genes may be rare, the relatively few people that contain them are at a much higher risk of developing an addiction. There are currently multiple studies and models that suggest factors of addiction being related to biology, claiming that brain development and genetic functionality can play a large role in determining whether or not someone becomes an addict in the future. These models are constantly being created, revised, and updated to help determine the roots of addiction and thus addiction treatment.

Even though environmental factors and biological factors play a large role in the probability of addiction development, they do not account for all factors of addiction. As a matter of fact, there are a huge variety of other risk factors that affect addiction probability, and someone may be at a higher risk if considering one or many of the following:

  • Mental Health Disorders – Depression, personality disorders, PTSD, ADHD, ADD, and many other mental health disorders are among the most common reasons that people become addicted. Those that suffer from mental health disorders may use drugs to self-medicate and will build a tolerance over time. This leads to higher doses, dependency, and ultimately addiction.
  • The Addictiveness Of The Drug – While it sounds self-explanatory and obvious at first, many people fail to realize that the drug that is being abused can very much sway someone in the addicted direction. Many people deny the addictiveness of the drug, preferring their own opinion and thinking that they won’t get addicted. When they abuse a drug, a benzodiazepine for example, although they may not have an addictive personality or be in an environment that encourages drug use, benzos are still naturally addictive and can easily result in chronic abuse and addiction.
  • Lack of Family/Friend Interaction – Technically falling under the “Environmental Factors,” simply not being around friends or family can cause lack of support and even may push someone to use drugs out of sheer boredom. Lacking a parental figure, lack of communication and even lack of motivation can also increase the chances of a user to become addicted to a drug.



Signs of Addiction

While some addictions may exhibit similar side effects as other addictions, it is always important to remember that every addiction case is unique. Viewing addiction and addiction treatment as “one size fits all” is dangerous and can deny an addict the help and support they need.

Seeing the huge variety of different illicit drugs and substances, it may be difficult to pinpoint which side effects are contributed to which substance addiction. All drugs are different and will more than likely exhibit different side effects, but most subtypes of drugs and specific brand name drugs of the same category share similar side effects of long-term abuse and addiction. Take stimulants, for example; while cocaine and amphetamines are both different drugs and are chemically dissimilar, both are stimulants and thus exhibit similar side effects when it comes to chronic use.

The most common substances that are abused and are addiction-forming are alcohol, opioids, stimulants, and depressants. They all show many different signs, both psychological and physical, of addiction, and it is important to know which drug is associated with which side effects to detect addiction early and make treatment easier.

Alcohol addiction causes the user to exhibit noticeable symptoms, both physical and mental. When treating alcohol addiction, early detection is key, as time only brings more severe symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to be vigilant in detecting symptoms, such as the following physical symptoms:

  • Slurred/slow speech
  • Nausea
  • Blackouts
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating

The psychological side effects that an alcohol addict may exhibit are as follows:

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness

Most opioids, being sedatives, exhibit very noticeable symptoms of addiction, both being unique physical and behavioral symptoms. Depressants in general slow down the functionality of the user’s central nervous system, resulting in very obvious physical symptoms such as:

  • Liver damage (generally by mixing opioids and acetaminophen)
  • Weak immune system
  • Gastric problems (bowel perforation, constipation, diarrhea, etc.)
  • Irregularities in breathing

The psychological side effects caused by an addiction to opioids can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Irritability
  • Sleep irregularities

The signs of stimulant addiction are surprisingly similar to the side effects of alcohol addiction, despite alcohol being a depressant. They both exhibit physical and behavioral symptoms, however, stimulant addiction side effects tend to be more severe than any other substance addiction symptoms. Even short-term stimulant abuse can lead to the development of addiction, and stimulant addiction forms faster than most drugs. The physical side effects caused by stimulant addiction can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Irregularities in breathing
  • Stroke
  • Headache
  • Severe exhaustion
  • Seizures
  • Uncontrollable tremors

The psychological side effects of stimulant addiction may include:

  • Delusions
  • Acute anxiety
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Paranoia

Depressant addiction, like most other substances, shows noticeable physical and behavioral symptoms. Depressants, being sedatives, slow central nervous system functionality similar to opioids, and have a number of distinguishable physical symptoms such as:

  • Incoordination
  • Problems with balance/dizziness
  • Irregularities in breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Slower reflexes

The psychological effects caused by depressant addiction may include:

  • Poor decision making
  • Partaking in risky behaviors
  • Low attention span
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss (explained below)

It is important to note that memory loss associated with depressant addiction, while being one of the most noticeable symptoms, does not consist of chronic depressant abuse simply making you forget past memories. Memory loss, as it pertains to depressant addiction, refers to when an addict will engage in depressant abuse, possibly engage in behaviors that seem bizarre or even just irregular, and forgetting what happened as the depressant wears off. Think of it as being similar to sleepwalking; the addict will often “wake up” in the middle of doing such strange action or behavior, gaining consciousness but not remembering what exactly they were doing.

Addiction Treatment

Seeing the severity and dangers of substance abuse disorder and addiction, it is clear that seeking treatment should be an addict’s number one priority. We advise that you or anyone you know that suffers from an addiction to seek professional treatment immediately, as seeking the proper help you or an addict you know needs is crucial in ensuring long-term sobriety. Disregarding professional treatment can bring even more severe symptoms, withdrawals, and possibly even prove fatal.

The sooner that a patient seeks treatment, not only does the chance of successful recovery increase but the chances of relapsing decrease substantially. As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction is characterized as a chronic brain disease consisting of multiple cases of relapse. To best prevent relapse, professional treatment centers use a variety of methods and medications. However, relapse prevention does not simply end as soon as you finish treatment. Addiction is a long-term disease and thus requires constant care and a watchful eye to prevent relapsing post-treatment. Aftercare works wonders at relapse prevention after treatment, providing medical interventions, constant support, and the necessary therapy you need to make sure that treatment is successful. 

By starting with medical detox, transitioning into inpatient or outpatient care, and finally aftercare, treatment centers offer the most comfortable and most successful ways to go about getting back to your healthy, sober life.

Medical Detox

The first and most important step in treatment is called medical detoxification, more commonly known as medical detox or simply “detox.” As the first and most important step, medical detox is consequently the most difficult stage of treatment for most addicts. Detox is the most intensive stage of treatment and thus most relapses occur in the detox stage. Medical detox rids the patient’s body of any toxin, residue, or buildup that may have been a result of previous chronic abuse and prepares the patient for follow-up treatment via inpatient or outpatient treatment.

By successfully engaging in and completing medical detox, a patient has already greatly increased their chances at successful treatment. Medical detox provides the patient with intensive care, placing them under 24/7 medical supervision. Medical experts, doctors, and nurses create a detox plan tailored specifically to your addiction and, through use of medications, tapering, and other resources, provide a smooth transition from detox into further treatment.

While medical detox provides the best possible way to begin treatment, the slight inconvenience of engaging in professional detox at a center will sometimes push people to detox by themselves, usually in the form of cold turkey.

Cold Turkey

When someone uses the term “cold turkey,” they are referring to the immediate cessation of a drug in an attempt to self-detox at home. If you’re going to detox anyway, why go through the trouble of detoxing at a professional center, right?

Well, there are a number of reasons that detoxing via cold turkey should never be considered. The first is that engaging in cold turkey detox can be life-threatening. This seemingly easy and harmless method of detox actually denies the addict’s body the time it needs to transition from being under constant effects of a substance to complete sobriety. 

This sudden change in chemical functionality of the brain can bring upon the victim a number of deadly withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, hypertension, hypotension, seizures, and a vast array of nearly impossible-to-treat side effects. Not only can cold turkey detox be life-threatening, but those that do succeed in completing cold turkey detox have extremely high relapse rates. The best way to engage in detox is in a medically-controlled environment with a team of medical experts to assist. 

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment programs are one of the two options a patient has after detox. It consists of a patient engaging in therapy and treatment at a treatment center following a set schedule, but the patient returns home after treatment and lives off-site. Outpatient treatment is extremely effective in treating those that require medical attention but can safely live at home without risk of relapse or development of another addiction. Different outpatient treatment programs can include intensive outpatient treatment and partial hospitalization. 

Intensive Outpatient

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is similar to the way that inpatient treatment programs treat patients, while also giving the patient the time they need to take care of out-of-treatment responsibilities. Patients meet doctors and therapists three to five days a week, for around three hours each session. Outpatient treatment generally works around the patient’s schedule, so participating in work and school while engaging in IOP is a possibility.

Partial Hospitalization

As a step up the curriculum from intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization similarly consists of meeting three to five times a week, but for much longer sessions (generally six hours). Partial hospitalization can be compared to detox, as both of which are tuned to treat extremely severe addictions that require a patient to be under constant surveillance and care. Also similar to intensive outpatient treatment is the fact that a patient engaging in partial hospitalization, while being much more intense than other outpatient programs, is still stable enough to live off-site without risk of relapse.

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment programs consist simply of a patient engaging in therapy and treatment on-site while also living on-site. Although medical detox technically falls under the “inpatient program” umbrella, as the patient stays on-site for three to five days, the term “inpatient treatment” generally refers to the extended period of time in which a patient engages in treatment while living at the treatment center. As opposed to outpatient programs, inpatient programs are effective for those that are at high risk of relapse, and the patient should be prepared to dedicate all of their time and effort to their treatment.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment is one of the types of inpatient programs that many people find to be the easiest and most enjoyable. Patients are viewed as residents, and residential treatment aims to help a patient find the roots of their addiction in the psychological sense. Mainly used as a way for treatment centers to ease patients back into everyday life, simply living with people that have similar addictions and engaging in group therapy can give someone the support they need to become and stay sober.


Addiction is a chronic disease and thus requires long-term care to fully treat it. Since relapse is so common, it is almost always advised that aftercare programs be put implemented immediately after treatment is completed. Aftercare treatment commonly comes in the form of altered outpatient treatment programs, including group therapy and even more recreational activities such as picnics or game nights. 

Aftercare is almost always required to prevent relapse, and there is no downside in being extra careful. Full recovery from addiction is a huge deal, and to relapse is to send all of your hard work down the drain. Better safe than sorry, right?

Seeking Treatment

Here at Ocean Breeze Recovery, we pride ourselves on having a team of, not only expert, but extremely friendly doctors, nurses, therapists, and case managers. We view your problem as our problem, and we always push to go above and beyond the call of duty. Our mission is to help you back on your feet and support every step you take in the bath to total sobriety.

Call us today at (844) 554-9279 or contact us online to start taking back what’s rightfully yours: a sober life. We’re excited you will include us in your story to recovery, and we ensure that treatment will be a breeze every step of the way. 


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