questions and answers
"I've said it many times now, 'I didn't know what I didn't know.' Stigma and embarrassment played a big role in keeping me from asking honest questions. But there's so much more that's known now about addiction. That's one thing the current crisis has done. People are getting more educated on the subject."
doesn't addiction come
down to a choice?
Addiction is a brain disorder where a person compulsively uses a substance despite knowing it’s harming them and causing problems in their life. Addiction has been medically diagnosed as a disease because your body becomes dependent on the substance. You know you’ve become dependent when you need it to feel normal and function, where not using sends your body into withdrawal, making you very sick.
What's the science behind addiction?
From a science perspective, alcohol and drugs cause the release of a feel-good chemical called dopamine. When your brain gets used to that short-cut supply of dopamine, it can become hard-wired for survival and prioritize that feeling over everything else. Including family, friends and logic.
If addiction is a disease, why is there such a stigma around it?
Our culture can be quick to classify addiction as a "those people" problem. We're seeing a shift in understanding, but because addiction is linked to stealing, lying or manipulation, it can be equated to criminal behavior. As we do a better job of educating about the science behind addiction, we're seeing the kind of constructive conversations that lead to a more heart-centered desire to to help our neighbors.
Does all addiction look the same?
No. Every person experiences addiction differently. Someone who is in the early stages is going to look different than someone in the later stages of addiction. Two people will never experience addiction exactly the same way. Some people are “functioning addicts,” meaning that for much or all of the addiction, they're able to hold a job, pay their bills and so on. Others’ lives show little to no signs of manageability. Typically, the longer an addiction persists, the more unmanagable and out of control it becomes.
what's up with withdrawal?
Simply put, withdrawal is the cruel way the body's biology -- and the rewired brain -- requires the alcohol or the drug to simply feel normal; where stopping is more physically and mentally brutal than continuing to consume.
Someone who abruptly stops using a substance they're addicted to may experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as within a few hours of their last use.
Why is withdrawal from alcohol so dangerous?
When a person becomes addicted to alcohol, their body becomes physically dependent on the substance. As with addiction to other substances, we now know that the brain’s chemistry is changed.
With dependency developed during addiction, when a person decides to stop drinking, their brain and body suffer from Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. Depending on age, the length of addiction and other factors, basic withdrawal symptoms can include:
Dizziness Rapid heart rate
Muscle weakness Depression
The more serious indicators of withdrawing are called Delirium Tremens (also known as DT’s). These can lead to seizures and confusion. Dehydration and depletion of other vitamins and minerals in the body can lead to heart attack, coma and death. The real risk of these side effects can occur days after an alcohol-dependent person believes they’ve been through the worst of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Detoxing from alcohol should never be attempted without medical assistance.
What are the signs of opiate and heroin withdrawal?
A physically dependency means the individual no longer feels the level of euphoria they experienced when they first began using; they now must take it simply to feel normal, in typically increasing amounts. Where stopping means getting extremely sick -- also referred to as being "dopesick."
Signs of withdrawal may include flu-like symptoms such as a headache, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, anxiety and the inability to sleep. The physical and mental effects of withdrawal can become excruciating and extreme.