About Addiction

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a disease, just as diabetes and cancer are diseases. It is a disease of the brain, not simply a weakness. People from all backgrounds, rich or poor, can develop an addiction. Addiction can happen at any age, but it usually starts when a person is young.

It is important to note that:

  • Drugs change how the brain works.
  • These brain changes can last a long time.
  • They can cause problems such as mood swings, memory loss, and trouble thinking and making decisions.

When speaking of recovery and addiction, the word “drug” includes all substances, including alcohol. Addiction occurs when the urge to use a drug is too strong to control, even if they know the drug is causing harm.

When people start taking drugs, they don’t plan to get addicted. Most believe they can control how much and how often they take the drug. Those who use drugs start to need the drug just to feel normal, and the urge to use can quickly take over a person’s life.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Easy-to-Read Drug Facts, https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/content/what-addiction

Signs of Drug Use and Addiction

People with drug problems might act differently than they used to. They may:

  • Spend a lot of time alone
  • Lose interest in their favorite things
  • Exhibit poor grooming habits, such as not bathing, not changing clothes, and not brushing their teeth
  • Appear tired and sad
  • Be very energetic, talk fast, or say things that don’t make sense
  • Be nervous or cranky
  • Experience mood swings
  • Have irregular sleep patterns
  • Miss important appointments
  • Have problems at work
  • Eat a lot more or a lot less than usual

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Easy-to-Read Drug Facts

What is Relapse?

Sometimes people quit their drug use for a while but start using again no matter how hard they try. This return to drug use is called a relapse. People recovering from addiction often have one or more relapses along the way, and once an person relapses, he or she could be just as hooked on the drug and as out of control as before.

With some drugs, a relapse can be very dangerous – even deadly. If a person uses as much of the drug as they used before quitting, they can easily overdose. An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death. Overdoses can happen on purpose or accidentally.

What is Recovery?

Recovery is when someone quits taking drugs and starts learning how to live life without drugs. Recovery from addiction means to develop different coping mechanisms. Drug addiction makes it hard to function in daily life. It affects how you act with your family, at work, and in the community. It is hard to change so many things at once and not fall back into old habits.

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong effort, and sober living can be difficult, but there is good news. Research shows that living sober for 6 months after residential treatment or outpatient care reduces the relapse rate as much as 50%.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Easy-to-Read Drug Facts

This program is made possible in part by the support of the Jefferson County Public Health Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.