If you or someone you love is battling drug addiction, it’s perfectly normal to feel lost and hopeless. Also known as a substance use disorder, this debilitating disease triggers uncontrollable urges to misuse drugs. Any substance that produces a psychoactive effect has the potential to cause addiction, including illicit drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine and prescription medications such as opiate painkillers and benzodiazepines.

The team of supportive substance abuse experts at Calusa Recovery can help you overcome drug addiction and learn to live a happy, health sober life. Get in touch today for more information.

What Is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a highly complex disease that leads to compulsive behavior, repetitive drug use despite negative consequences and an inability to function in daily life. When you have a substance abuse disorder, you continue taking drugs despite harmful consequences and repeated attempts to curb or stop drug use.

The problem with substance use for many people is that it often creeps stealthily into full-blown addiction. Many people start off small, experimenting with illicit substances recreationally or using legal substances because they were prescribed medication by a doctor. Unfortunately, for some, this leads to a substance use disorder, where drug or alcohol abuse becomes a necessity.

Young woman with drug addiction - drug rehab

Drug use and addiction are complicated because each person is affected differently by substances due to having different physical attributes and experiences. Every person’s brain is unique, so the overall risk of addiction and how quickly someone develops a substance use disorder vary.

Over time, many people who struggle with drug abuse require more and more of a substance to achieve the effects they initially experienced. This is called tolerance and is one of the hallmarks of addiction because it prompts the user to increase the dosage. When you take drugs in higher quantities, the risk for addiction increases. Many people with a substance use disorder end up turning to substance use to feel normal and prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms, which are also key indicators of addiction.

What Causes Drug Addiction?

what causes drug abuse and addiction - depression

Addiction is included in the DSM 5 manual of mental health disorders, and just like other types of mental illness, a range of risk factors are at play. In the past, people saw addiction as a simple matter of poor decision-making or weak will power, but we now understand there’s much more to it.

People who are susceptible to addiction have the perfect storm of genetic, environmental and mental health characteristics that put them at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder.

Genetic Risk Factors

The way your mind and body respond to drug abuse is partly determined by your genetics, which are traits inherited from your parents. They play a major role in how susceptible you are to developing drug addiction. Experts estimate that genes account for as much as 50% of a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder. Three specific factors are thought to be instrumental in determining your predisposition to a particular behavior such as drug addiction:

  1. Opportunity: Social and physical factors are major deciders of how susceptible you are to drug addiction, with substance abuse at an early age being one of the most prominent.
  2. Motivation: Behavior is only partially driven by the conscious decisions you make on a daily basis, with subconscious processes also playing a role. For some people, the euphoria associated with substance abuse is enough to negate the conscious understanding that substance use is harmful. For people who aren’t prone to addiction, the idea of prioritizing a short-term feeling over long-term consequences is unthinkable. This type of person isn’t morally superior; their brain just functions slightly differently.
  3. Capability: Certain traits are partly determined by our genes, such as capacity for self-regulation, ability to adhere to personal rules and ability to learn from punishment. People who don’t have these abilities are at a higher risk of drug addiction. It’s important to note that just because you might lack these traits, you’ll have other skills and strengths that people who have them lack. For example, people who struggle with addiction are often highly creative and empathetic.

Environmental Risk Factors

Close up of addict buying dose from drug dealerEnvironmental factors are instrumental in the onset of addiction, and the interplay between genes and environment is highly complex. This is why many people who’ve had adverse experiences don’t get addicted and many who haven’t experienced trauma develop problems with substance use.

Some of the environmental factors that contribute to your likelihood of getting diagnosed with a substance use disorder include:

  • History of compulsive behavior
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Lack of social support
  • Peer pressure
  • Social status
  • Ability to self-soothe and cope with stress
  • Supervision from family members
  • Education
  • Access to health care
  • Attitudes and beliefs
  • Presence of drugs in the home
  • Family history of drug use

Mental Health Risk Factors

Mental health issues and drug addiction are closely tied and feed into each other, with many people who have a mental disorder turning to substance use as a means of self-medicating. Unfortunately, due to the way substance use affects the chemicals in your brain, it inevitably magnifies any existing mental disorders and contributes to the cycle of addiction.

Lots of people with a mental health disorder are undiagnosed, and drug abuse can lead to feelings of shame and inadequacy that feed into the cycle of addiction. Some of the mental disorders that are often seen alongside alcoholism and drug dependence include ADHD, PTSD, depression, anxiety, mood disorders and personality disorders.

Why Is Drug Addiction Considered a Disease?

what causes drug abuse and addiction - depressionDrug addiction is considered a disease because both legal and illegal substances lead to physical changes in the brain. In the same way diabetes is a disorder of your hormones and high blood pressure is a disorder related to the heart, addiction is a disorder of the brain. Just because someone doesn’t have physical symptoms you can see doesn’t mean they’re not present. Addiction is included in the DSM V, along with around 297 other mental disorders.

While scientists still don’t fully understand the mechanism of addiction, they know it’s partly a disorder of the brain’s reward system. Addiction changes nerve cells in your brain known as neurons, which communicate using neurotransmitters. These chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, are responsible for mood, movement and motivation. Substances alter the ways these chemicals interact, throwing the body off-balance and forcing it to adapt to repeated interference.

Biological changes in the brain account for a person’s inability to resist cravings, not strength of will power or morality. Luckily, although addiction is a chronic disease, it’s possible for anyone to gain control over their symptoms and find a healthy balance.

How Drug Addiction Affects Relationships

One of the major reasons people seek help for a substance use disorder is the impact it has on personal and professional relationships. Addiction is often called a family disease because it’s unlikely to only impact the addicted person, unless they’re already completely isolated.

People with a substance use disorder are prone to deception because of the warped high value they place on inebriation. Many addicts will go to great lengths not only to get hold of substances but also to hide the extent of their drug abuse from family members. For the affected loved ones, it can seem like the person they once knew has been torn away from them, and anger, resentment and sadness are common reactions.

This is why family involvement is so important in drug addiction treatment. Addiction affects family members just as much as the sufferer, and conflict in personal relationships can make the cycle of addiction worse for both parties. Learning to understand each other’s viewpoint and communicate in a healthy, effective manner is one of the most important factors of long-term recovery.

Alcoholism

Alcoholism is the most common addiction in the United States, affecting millions of people. While it’s legal and doesn’t lead to dependence in the majority of people, individuals who are susceptible to addiction can become seriously ill as a result of chronic alcohol use.

Signs and Symptoms

Below is a list of the signs and symptoms associated with alcohol abuse disorder:

  • Being dishonest or secretive about alcohol use
  • Depression, anxiety or other mental health issues
  • Inability to say no to alcohol or regulate intake
  • Regularly seeming irritable, tired and drained
  • Drinking increasing amounts to get the desired effects
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Problems at work or school due to alcohol use
  • Breakdown of relationships due to drinking
Depressed man drinking alcohol in a pub - alcoholism

How Alcohol Affects the Mind and Body

Woman drinking alcohol - alcoholism

While alcohol is mainly a central nervous depressant, it also has some stimulant effects when you’re initially intoxicated. Intoxication leads to feelings of euphoria, loss of inhibition, sleepiness, increased confidence and decreased anxiety.

Alcohol is a poisonous substance to the body, forcing the liver to work hard to clear a buildup of toxins from the body. This is the reason people experience hangovers and negative effects such as digestive discomfort or nausea when they drink. Addicted people often have a high tolerance for alcohol and very much enjoy the sensation of being out of control. Drinking in large quantities is one of the biggest risk factors for developing alcoholism.

Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a major problem in Lee County, which is considered the epicenter of Southwest Florida’s opiate crisis. This highly potent substance tricks the brain and body into thinking you’re giving it endorphins that are essential for functioning. The intense feelings of well-being and euphoria are immensely alluring for people who are susceptible to addiction, making it one of the most dangerous drugs in the world.

Signs and Symptoms

A person with heroin use disorder is likely to display the following symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Running nose and watery eyes
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Constipation
  • Scabs and bruises
  • Itching
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes to friendship groups
  • Intense feelings of guilt and shame
  • Job loss
  • Social isolation
  • Despair and hopelessness
  • Poor judgment
  • Inability to focus
Addicted man boiling heroin in spoon with lighter

How Heroin Affects the Mind and Body

Heroin mimics chemicals your body produces naturally, but the influx is much greater than the quantities your body can produce. As such, tolerance to heroin occurs very quickly as the body struggles to replenish supplies quickly enough. It craves heroin to restore normal functioning, prompting the user to take more and more to experience euphoria as well as relief from withdrawal symptoms.

Methamphetamine Use Disorder

Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, is one of the most potent and addictive substances in the world. The intense high associated with meth use is longer than with many other drugs and leads to a severe comedown once its effects wear off.

The intensity and duration of the effects, in addition to the comedown, means many users feel an irresistible urge to keep using the substance over and over.

Crystal meth on the table - meth use disorder

Signs and Symptoms

Some signs and symptoms associated with methamphetamine use disorder include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weight loss
  • Scabs and bruises
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Hypersexuality
  • Picking at skin and hair
  • Lack of self-care

Addiction to Prescription Drugs

Opioid addiction comes in two distinct forms: addiction to an illicit drug like heroin or fentanyl and addiction to prescription drugs such as oxycodone and hydromorphone. Lots of people are given these drugs in response to genuine medical concerns but end up developing a tolerance to their effects and start using more to get the desired effects. It’s also possible to get hold of prescription-only drugs such as fentanyl on the black market.

Signs and Symptoms

If someone can’t control their intake of prescription opiate medication, they might demonstrate the following symptoms:

  • Regularly using prescription medications in any way other than as directed by a doctor
  • Using opioids just in case as opposed to for pain relief
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Using multiple providers to ensure you have enough of the substance
  • Impaired decision-making
  • “Losing” medication or frequently borrowing from other people
  • Mood swings
Pills scattered on the table
Get Help Now

How to Get Help for Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is a serious disease and recovery isn’t simple, but it’s possible for anyone. No matter how long you’ve been using or how high the quantities are, with the right care and support, you can get sober and maintain good health in the long term. Most people require several different types of counseling in addition to psychoeducation, family therapy and experiential approaches that help you rediscover joy in sober life.

The following treatment modalities are associated with successful drug addiction treatment.

Outpatient Drug Rehab in Fort Myers

Group supporting sad woman in a drug rehab in fort myers

An outpatient addiction center offers all the treatments you’d get in a residential rehab, but you don’t sleep at the facility. This method of treating addiction is highly effective because you get help while still maintaining contact with the regular triggers you come across in daily life. Learning how to cope with stress and apply coping mechanisms outside the safety of an addiction treatment center is vital when it comes to making a sustained recovery.

Individual Counseling

One-on-one therapy is crucial in the addiction recovery process because it’s your opportunity to work with a trained professional to discover what drives you to take drugs. Once you have an understanding of your triggers and realize your experience is grounded in chemical reactions, you can start developing healthy coping mechanisms to replace substance use.

You go through an assessment when you start drug rehab, and a team of doctors devises a treatment plan. Most people get counseling that involves a mixture of treatment modalities. If you seek help for a substance use disorder, the following treatments are recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Cropped image of one-on-one therapy session in a drug rehab in Fort Myers

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is focused on getting to the bottom of persistent unhelpful beliefs and thoughts in view of changing the behaviors they promote.

For example, someone who has low self-esteem might believe they’re incapable of succeeding in life as a result of parental neglect or emotional abuse. Without realizing it, this belief could cause them to act out destructive behavior as a means of self-sabotaging so they can maintain their deeply held belief.

A CBT therapist can help you realize that you have inherent worth as a human being and help you notice when this type of unhelpful thought is going to impact your behavior. They help you put space between a belief and an action so you have time to assess whether it serves you or not.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This approach to counseling helps addicted people understand that seeking help for addiction is urgent and that they’re worthy of care. Instead of gently guiding someone through the recovery process, the aim is to inspire rapid change from within. Motivational interviewing techniques inspire the sufferer to take action and remain consistent in seeking ongoing support for overcoming addiction.

Group Therapy

Drug addiction rehab group therapy session

Support groups are a vital part of the recovery process because they reinforce what you learn during individual therapy and offer a wider perspective. Sometimes, it’s easier to understand something when we see it from another person’s perspective. What’s more, during group sessions, you learn about the mechanism of addiction and get the opportunity to open up, be listened to, and listen to and empathize with peers. Learning how to communicate your feelings and navigate social interactions are essential for getting sober and maintaining abstinence.

Family Therapy

Drug addiction is a family disease that has the power to create rifts in once-loving relationships. It’s important to remember that addiction causes changes in the brain that the sufferer hasn’t chosen. However, the addicted person must also accept personal responsibility for the hurt they’ve caused loved ones. Navigating this without professional help can be hugely challenging, so family therapy is recommended for everyone who seeks treatment for drug addiction.

Family therapy session lead by a female psychiatrist

Medication Assisted Treatment

Happy man spreading his arms

MAT is often required for individuals who struggle with an opioid addiction. Quitting this type of substance cold turkey can cause the body to go into shock and lead to withdrawal symptoms that are so uncomfortable that the user would rather continue using that go through them. Substances such as buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, and naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, are used to help ease symptoms and prevent drug abuse.

Southwest Florida Drug Abuse Statistics

Here are some statistics about substance abuse in Lee County and the areas surrounding Fort Myers to give you insight into the scope of the drug problem:

  • 12.1% of people in Lee County have reported abusing prescription drugs
  • Opioid sales in Lee County increased 627% between 1997 and 2007
  • Methamphetamine use has been steadily increasing for the past decade in Florida
  • 26.8% of people in Lee County are excessive drinkers
  • 25.6% of people in Lee County say their life has been negatively impacted by substance abuse

Treatment for Substance Use Disorder in Fort Myers

Drug use is dangerous and harmful, but that doesn’t stop millions of people from using them each year. There are alternative, non-harmful ways to cope with life and have fun, but it can take working with a team of addiction experts to develop these tools.

Calusa Recovery is located in Fort Myers, Florida, and offer outpatient rehab services to people in the following locations:

  • Villas
  • Iona
  • Cypress Lake
  • Cape Coral
  • San Carlos Park
  • Lehigh Acres
  • Bonita Springs
  • Boca Grande
  • Naples Park
  • Port Charlotte
  • Immokalee
  • Orange Tree
  • Sidell
  • Ave Maria
  • Golden Gate
Hands joined together during therapy session in a drug rehab in Fort Myers
Get Help Now