Fewer challenges in life are as difficult as overcoming a drug addiction. Fewer experiences are more painful than watching helplessly as a loved one struggles with or loses their life because of their addiction.
So, just what is drug addiction? Drug addiction is hardly a new problem, but it is one which has claimed an ever-increasing number of victims over the past decade, as the opioid crisis continues to spiral out of control. The statistics tell a chilling tale. According to data compiled by the New York Times, American drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest number ever recorded. In fact, drug overdoses are now the single largest cause of preventable death in Americans under the age of 50.
Staggering as these figures are, they don’t reveal the full extent of drug addiction in the U.S. Some estimates conclude that over 20 million Americans suffer from addiction to either alcohol, illegal narcotics, or prescription drugs. But when you or a loved one is in the grips of addiction, statistics don’t matter. The only thing that does is getting help immediately.
The good news is that help is available. Treatment can turn lives around. While drug addiction can never be fully cured, the proper care and treatment can attack the underlying addiction and help prevent relapses.
At Bloom Legal, we work with individuals and families struggling with drug addiction. We defend individuals charged with crimes that stem from their addiction, and we pursue compensation from drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacists, and doctors whose negligence and pursuit or profit contributed to the opioid epidemic and the destruction of so many lives.
Understanding the Issue: What is Drug Addiction?
Understanding what drug addiction is – and what it isn’t – is essential to understanding how to treat and overcome this disease. And that is a key point. Drug addiction is not a character flaw, a weakness, or a personal failing. It is a disease. Just as strength, determination, and willpower alone can’t conquer a disease like cancer, beating drug addiction is more complicated than simply wanting to do so.
The insidiousness of drug addiction is that it changes the way the chemistry of the brain works to make feeding the addiction the highest priority in a person’s life. Most abused drugs, like opioids, create a wave of artificial endorphins and dopamine, which are the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of reward, pleasure and satisfaction. This causes a rush of happiness and euphoria. That’s the “high” a user gets after taking a drug. It feels good.
Like anything that feels good, it is natural to want to get that feeling again. Since this high is not something that can occur naturally, the only way to feel it again is by taking more of the drug.
But after using the drug regularly and often, the body may stop producing endorphins and dopamine on its own, making it impossible for the user to feel any pleasure without the drug. This is drug dependency. This is what leads to the overwhelming physical and mental need to score and consume more drugs. Eventually, a user will develop a tolerance to the drug, thus requiring more of it to get the same high. This is what often leads to deadly overdoses.
Long-term drug use also causes changes in other brain systems, distorting and degrading critical functions such as:
Once a drug addiction has its claws in someone, the alterations that have been made to the brain and body become tall hurdles to overcome, even in someone who desperately wants to kick the disease. That is why professional treatment and rehabilitation is usually required to help people overcome drug addiction.
Now That We’ve Answered the Question, “What is Drug Addiction,” How is Drug Addiction Treated?
There is no one right way to treat drug addiction. But there are many ways that have proven successful in helping people kick drugs and keep them from relapsing.
While the specifics may differ, drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation generally follow four important stages:
- Assessment: After someone makes the decision or is encouraged to get help, doctors, counselors, therapists and supporting staff evaluate their physical and mental state and begin to craft a personalized treatment plan. This process continues to be honed through intake into a rehabilitation facility or program to ensure the best possible outcome.
- Detoxification (detox): Rehab can’t truly begin until the drugs are entirely out of the system. In cases of addiction and physical dependence, this can be a difficult and even dangerous process as the body and mind react to the loss of something they considered essential. Given the dangers, detox should only be coordinated and supervised by credentialed medical professionals.
- Rehabilitation (rehab): Once the drugs are removed, rehabilitation can begin in earnest. There are a range of different therapeutic approaches involved in rehab programs – some inpatient, some not – and medication may also be part of the program. This process is designed to attack the core issues underlying the addiction and equip the person with the tools to fight addictive feelings and behaviors.
- Aftercare: After intensive rehab is completed, follow-up aftercare is critical to ensure that the lessons and skills learned during the rehab process endure throughout day-to-day life. Ongoing support can be the key to avoiding relapse.
Where to Get Help for Drug Addiction
There is no shortage of drug addiction help available in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has an online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator through which people seeking help can find facilities and programs in their area by typing in the address or zip code.
Psychology Today also has compiled an extensive list of rehabilitation facilities and programs in and around New Orleans.
Bloom Legal: Partners in the Fight Against Drug Addiction
At Bloom Legal in New Orleans, we are legal counsel, not addiction counselors. But we are committed to helping those dealing with the devastating consequences of substance abuse and drug addiction. This includes defending individuals against criminal charges as well as the representation of individuals and families in efforts to hold accountable drug companies and others responsible for causing this epidemic.
We know first-hand the havoc caused by drug addiction. With empathy and understanding, we fight for those fighting for their futures. Please call Bloom Legal’s New Orleans drug defense lawyer at 504-517-0487 or contact us online now to discuss your situation and learn more about how we might be able to help. We can help you gain further insight into what drug addiction is and the options available to you under the law.
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Posted by: Zachary Klos