Substance Abuse a Growing Problem in U.S.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health has shown that rates of substance abuse are on the rise in the 21st century. In 2012, 13.2 percent of Americans over the age of 12 had used or abused an illegal drug or a prescription medication in the month prior to polling. The number of Americans struggling as they abuse substances continues to grow.

Modern science shows that substance abuse disorder is a disease of the brain, not a personal problem that reflects on the character of the user. This growing trend toward increased drug use and abuse is not a reflection of any decline in moral values. Instead, it indicates the old strategies for drug education and rehabilitation need to be rethought.

That's just what has happened at Lake Wellness Center and the way it offers drug addiction help. This advanced, thoroughly contemporary addiction and recovery center treats addiction as the serious, chronic disease that it is and has developed a proprietary treatment model that uses modern science to help their clients find relief.

Commonly Abused Drugs

The unfortunate truth is that people can get addicted to any substance. There are, however, a few illicit drugs that stand out as being exceptionally likely to lead to abuse. These include cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, benzodiazepines and marijuana.

Although alcohol and tobacco can both lead to equally serious addictions, this article focuses specifically on illicit drugs. It will, however, discuss some of the effects and potential consequences of prescription opioid abuse, which is known to be a gateway to heroin addiction and other potentially severe and life-threatening drug problems.

Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that is known to significantly elevate the user's mood, leading to temporary euphoria and increasing his or her energy levels, self-esteem and alertness for short periods of time, then ending in an unpleasant crash. Along with its derivative crack cocaine, cocaine is one of the most addictive substances.

Once a user's high has subsided, he or she will typically experience at least a few of the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal. These include the development of tremors, paranoia, increased heart rate, elevated body temperature, high blood pressure and vertigo. Even short-term cocaine use can be dangerous. An overdose can result in respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, strokes or death. Despite common misconceptions that cocaine is safer than other illicit drugs, more than 4,500 cocaine-related deaths were reported in the year 2011.

Behavioral therapies that have proven effective in treating cocaine abuse include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, the Matrix Model and community-based recovery groups like the 12-step program. No pharmaceutical interventions are currently approved by the FDA to treat cocaine addiction, although clinical trials are being conducted across the country in an attempt to develop an effective medication that could help.

Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamine is a chemical stimulant like amphetamine, the active ingredient in many of the prescription medications used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Also referred to as “meth” or “speed,” methamphetamine can be ingested via smoking, swallowing, snorting or injection. No matter how substance users ingest this dangerous, illicit drug, it can produce serious side effects.

Speed affects users by increasing the amount of dopamine available in their brains. This release of dopamine leads in the short-term to increased energy, decreased appetite, improved alertness and attention, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat and increased body temperature. It also reinforces the drug-taking behavior by affecting the reward processing areas of users’ brains, often leading to addiction.

The long-term effects of methamphetamine use include extreme weight loss, intense itching, dental problems, anxiety and confusion, insomnia, paranoia, hallucinations and violent behavior. Ongoing use can also cause problems with coordination and verbal learning, although some of these changes are reversible with long-term abstinence. Overdosing on meth can lead to serious conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure and can ultimately lead to death. While no medications are approved by the FDA to treat methamphetamine addiction, many forms of behavioral therapy have been proven effective in aiding those who want to get off of this drug.

Marijuana Abuse

There is an unfortunate misconception today that marijuana is safe for recreational use. While it's true that more states than ever have legalized this drug for both recreational and medicinal purposes, it's important to realize that legality does not necessarily indicate safety and that prolonged use can still lead to the potential for developing a marijuana addiction or dependency.

Like alcohol and tobacco users, even those who use marijuana legally can wind up addicted if they are not careful. Of the more than 20 million American citizens who reported current marijuana use in the year 2015, an estimated 4 million were found to have marijuana abuse disorder. Many others combine marijuana with alcohol or other illicit drugs with serious consequences. In places like Louisiana where marijuana remains illegal, even the consequences of regular use can also be severe.

While marijuana overdoses are not fatal, they can induce unpleasant symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and respiratory problems. These issues are more common and pronounced in the use of marijuana edibles than they are in smoking the substance.

Long-term marijuana use can also lead to mental health problems, acute respiratory infections, and chronic cough. Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, insomnia, anxiety and decreased appetite. Although there are currently no medications approved by the FDA to treat marijuana addiction, behavioral therapies tend to be effective.

Prescription Drug Abuse

While prescription drug addiction can take many forms, opioid painkillers tend to receive the most attention from the medical community. This is because those who become addicted to prescription medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine can wind up turning to street drugs like heroin when their prescriptions run out.

Although short-term, responsible use of prescription opioid medications is a great way to deal with pain, long-term use almost always leads to physical dependency and addiction. This, in turn, leads to chronic nausea, constipation, liver damage, and sometimes even permanent brain damage or death by overdose.

For those who doubt the connection between pain pills and addiction, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that nearly 4 million Americans abused prescription pain relievers in 2015. This doesn't take into account the number of users who switched from prescription opioids to heroin during the year. Common treatments for prescription opioid abuse are the same as those prescribed for heroin addiction.

Benzodiazepine Abuse

Benzodiazepines are prescription sedatives that act as central nervous system depressants. They are often prescribed to patients suffering from anxiety or sleep disorders.

Although benzodiazepines do not, on their own, provide feelings of euphoria, they are often combined with other substances such as alcohol or other illicit drugs. Taken alone or with additional substances, benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, concentration problems, memory issues, low blood pressure and slowed breathing. Combining these prescription sedatives with other drugs, especially alcohol, can be fatal, as this can further slow the user's breathing and heart rate.

Prescription sedatives like benzodiazepines are not as commonly abused as opioid medications. That does not mean there are no treatment options available. The best way to find out about treatment plans for benzodiazepine abuse is to enroll in a program that offers a customized treatment plan.

Get Help Now

Whether looking for a treatment program for yourself or for a loved one, it's important to realize drug addiction help is available. The first step in the recovery process is to choose an addiction and recovery center.

Wondering, "where can I find a drug rehab near me?" It's important to keep in mind that not all treatment programs are created equal. Lake Wellness Center offers individualized, scientifically-based treatment plans based on the unique needs of each of the center's clients.

It is important for those who are still abusing substances and are just beginning on the path to recovery to understand that although drug addiction is a chronic disease, it is treatable. Its symptoms can be managed, and, with help, many substance-abuse survivors can return to a normal life. Schedule a substance abuse assessment to get on the path toward recovery as soon as possible.

Career Opportunities in Addiction Recovery

Working in the field of addiction and recovery can be incredibly rewarding. If it is time for an employment change, now may be the best time to get started. The number of jobs offered to addiction counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, and others in the field shows there is plenty of job security.

Those who have work experience in a related occupation will find that working at the Lake Wellness Center will get them on track to meeting their occupational goals and finding a career that allows them to help others. More addiction specialists and care providers are needed all the time.

Those who are genuinely interested in finding out more about employment opportunities in addiction treatment can find more information online. They can also contact Lake Wellness today to find out about qualification requirements and where to send their resumes and cover letters.