Drug Addiction

Addiction is a multifaceted disease that can be prevented and treated, but not cured.  

If you are suffering from addiction, the areas in your brain governing reward, memory, and motivation are chronically impaired. Resultantly, you will crave the substance despite the consequences. 

Addiction is characterized by: 

  • Inability to moderate or discontinue use of the substance in question.
  • Lack of self-control.
  • No outward concern for adverse consequences.
  • Growing desire for the substance along with a building tolerance.
  • Impaired emotional response.

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As addiction progresses – and it is a chronic and progressive disease – the knock-on effects start disrupting your day to day living. A relapsing disease, random cycles of relapse and remission can create an unstable environment for the person with an addiction, as well as creating stress for the whole family. 

Untreated, addictions tend to worsen, and often trigger serious financial implications as well as long-term health complications.  If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, call our addiction hotline today.

The most well-known addictions are: 

  • Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  • Alcohol addiction (alcoholism) 

While 40 million U.S. adults have at least one serious addiction, fewer than one in ten engages with professional treatment. Of all those with a drug addiction, more than two-thirds abuse alcohol, too, according to the same data.

Article at a Glance:

Drug Addiction Definition

ASAM (the American Society of Addiction Medicine) supply the following drug addiction definition: 

“A treatable, chronic medical disease, addiction involves: 

  • Interactions among brain circuits
  • Environmental factors
  • Genetics
  • Life experiences 

People with addictions engage in compulsive behaviors, and often continue despite negative outcomes.”

How Does Drug Addiction Occur?

If you abuse any addictive substance, your brain experiences structural and functional changes. This altered state can take some time to normalize. 

If your brain circuitry has not been altered by addiction, you will typically experience positive feelings related to normal rewarding behaviors like eating great food, relaxing with friends and family, or exercising. All these activities should make you feel good. It is also likely you will repeat these behaviors in order to experience the positive feeling again. 

If you abuse substances, by contrast, these substances trigger the release of large amounts of dopamine in the areas of your brain that govern reward. Dopamine is a chemical that occurs naturally in the body. As a neurotransmitter, dopamine acts as a chemical messenger. It carries, amplifies, and balances signals between the nerve cells and target cells of your body. 

Addiction occurs when using a substance hijacks these circuits in your body, intensifying the urge to consume increasingly more of the substance to benefit from the same rewarding effects. When this manifests in the form of substance use disorder, you’ll face the following scenario: 

  • You require more of the substance to feel the euphoric effects, but this feeling becomes increasingly elusive.
  • If you stop using the substance, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. These can be extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant. 

By this point, you’ll need to use the substance simply to feel normal, and also to prevent the acute discomfort of withdrawal. 

Using alcohol or drugs to moderate your mood can impact the brain in three core areas:

  1. Cerebral cortex: This area of the brain is responsible for executive functions like planning and decision making.
  2. Brain stem: The brain stem controls heart rate, breathing, and sleeping.
  3. Limbic system: This is your body’s emotional reward circuitry. Your limbic system controls your ability to experience pleasure, and it also governs motivation. 

The type of substance is another contributor to addiction. Opioids, for instance, directly target brain receptors, which makes this class of drug highly addictive. 

Where addiction was once viewed as a moral failing or a character weakness, most healthcare professionals now support the brain disease model of addiction. The disease model of addiction states that initial use may have been voluntary, but as neurobiological changes occur, these diminish behavioral choice over time. 

The changes to brain function and structure triggered by substance abuse alter more than your initial response to the substance. Brain changes are also associated with:

  • Cravings.
  • Distress during abstinent periods – also a key contributory factor to relapse.

What Are the Most Addictive Drugs?

The following are the most common addictions in the United States: 

  1. Alcohol addiction
  2. Opioid addiction
  3. Cocaine addiction
  4. Meth addiction
  5. Marijuana addiction

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction was once widely known as alcoholism but is now clinically termed AUD (alcohol use disorder). 

To be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, a medical expert assesses your responses to these eleven questions laid out in the fifth edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR). AUD is then diagnosed as follows: 

  • Mild alcohol addiction: 2 or 3 criteria
  • Moderate alcohol addiction: 4 or 5 criteria
  • Severe alcohol addiction: 6 or more criteria

Alcohol can be psychologically and physically addictive. Severe alcohol use disorder, when untreated, can lead to a battery of serious health conditions, and it can even be fatal. 

Fortunately, with inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab, you can navigate withdrawal symptoms with a safe and medically managed detox, and then create a firm foundation for sustained recovery, with all the right aftercare and ongoing support in place.

Opioid Addiction

Opioids are a class of drug that includes prescription painkillers, the semi-synthetic opioid heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. 

Addiction to these drugs is classified as OUD (opioid use disorder).  

While opioids are powerfully addictive, three medications are FDA-approved and proven effective for treating opioid use disorder meaning it is possible to initiate a sustained recovery, even in the event of severe OUD.

Cocaine Addiction

Although there are no FDA-approved medications for treating stimulant disorders like cocaine use disorder, the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are largely psychological, and with the right inpatient or outpatient rehab program, you should be capable of conquering even severe cocaine addictions.

Meth Addiction

Meth is a fiercely addictive stimulant that is also strongly addictive. Finding the best meth rehab can help you beat your addiction while also minimizing the chances of relapse. 

Although there are no pharmacological interventions approved for the treatment of meth addiction, most stimulant use disorders respond favorably to behavioral and motivational therapies.

Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana laws are shifting nationwide with the drug increasingly legal, both for medical and recreational use. Unfortunately, recent data suggests that around 30% of those who use marijuana develop some form of cannabis use disorder. 

A general substance abuse treatment center delivering outpatient treatment is ideal if you want to stop using marijuana.

What Happens When Someone is Addicted to Drugs?

If somebody develops an addiction to drugs, using the substance becomes central to their life. One of the diagnostic criteria for drug addiction is compulsive substance use.

While the specifics of the addiction will vary depending on the substance of abuse, all addictions create problems in all areas of life, rippling outward to affect family members as well as the person addicted to drugs.

How can you help a loved one in need of treatment get the help they need, then?

How to Help Someone with Drug Addiction

Here are some simple pointers that can streamline helping a friend in recovery from addiction to drink or drugs: 

  • Look after yourself first
  • Learn as much as possible about addiction and recovery
  • Make sure you actively listen to your loved one
  • Lead by example
  • Stay positive, even in the event of a slip-up
  • Refrain from judgment
  • Keep friction and arguments to a minimum
  • Join a support group yourself if necessary
  • Help connect your loved one with appropriate treatment

Drug Addiction Treatment at California Detox

Here at California Detox, we have a wide range of personalized addiction treatment programs. 

Using a combination of evidence-based medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy, we’ll help you address any addiction head on, however severe. 

FDA-approved medications can soothe the intensity of withdrawal symptoms while minimizing cravings. Psychotherapy like CBT and DBT helps you isolate what makes you use drink or drugs so you can avoid abusing substances. You’ll discover how to implement healthier coping strategies when faced with life’s everyday stressors. 

As well as psychotherapy, you’ll have access to a variety of holistic therapies for a whole-body approach to addiction treatment. 

If you have a co-occurring mental health condition, from anxiety and depression to PTSD and bipolar disorder, we help you deal with both of these interlinked issues simultaneously with our dual diagnosis treatment program. 

To kickstart your recovery, reach out to the California Detox admissions team today at (949) 694-8305.


According to AMA (American Medical Association, a condition must satisfy the following before it is classified as a disease: 

  1. The condition represents a bodily dysfunction
  2. Consistent signs and symptoms are present
  3. The condition causes bodily harm 

Viewing drug addiction through this lens, it satisfies all three criteria. Your body will not function normally when you abuse addictive substances long-term. Drug addiction is characterized by observable, consistent signs and symptoms, and abusing drugs will trigger a variety of adverse physical and mental outcomes.

If you fail to get your loved one to express any indication that they will engage with addiction treatment, even after many attempts to speak with them, you might consider staging an intervention. You will meet with your loved one and a group of trusted friends and family members. The goal of an intervention is to express your loved and support while inviting your loved one to engage with inpatient or outpatient rehab.


Schedule a call.

We want to help, let’s setup a call and figure out the best treatment options for you or your loved one. Our detox specialists will get back to you immediately.

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