by Stephanie Collier, Project Coordinator (ACPP I), Casa Grande Alliance
Hailey lay in a hospital bed. She had a concussion, a few broken bones and multiple bruises after she passed out while driving and hit a parked car. Unable to get out of bed, she had time to reflect on her past and think about how she ended up here…
Hailey started drinking her sophomore year in high school. She wanted so much to feel like she fit in somewhere, and she found easy acceptance in a small group of youth her age that used alcohol. By the 12th grade, Hailey had used marijuana, pills – pretty much anything she could get her hands on. She found herself feeling like she needed to pop a few pills just to get through her day.
Once considered a bright student, her mother noticed that Hailey’s grades were lower than usual. She confronted her, but accepted her daughter’s explanation that the classes were getting harder and balancing school and a social life was not easy. Hailey managed to graduate with grades that were barely passing. She knew she had to quit using drugs or she would never make it through college.
One morning, she flushed all the pills she had down the toilet and swore she wouldn’t use anymore. That evening, Hailey was a mess. She was sweating and felt sick to her stomach. She had a pounding headache, and her thoughts were racing. The longer she waited, the worse she felt. She couldn’t take it anymore – she got in her car and drove to a friend’s house. Her friend gave her two pain pills she had taken from her dad’s prescription. After about an hour, Hailey was feeling somewhat normal again. She left her friend’s house to go get a coffee, as she was starting to feel sleepy. She awoke in the back of an ambulance, with no recollection of the accident.
What is drug addiction?
For a long time, people who were addicted to drugs were thought to be lacking willpower and good morals. As a result of scientific research, more is known about drug addiction today than ever before. Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.1
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.5 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year.2 Addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of ethnic background, financial status, or any other indicator. However, research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at or after age 21.3
Signs of addiction include the following:
- Neglecting other activities: Spending less time on activities that used to be important (exercising, pursuing hobbies, etc.) because of the use of alcohol or drugs and/or drop in attendance and/or performance at work or school.4
- Risk- taking: More likely to take serious risks (ex. stealing) in order to obtain one’s drug of choice.4
- Relationship issues: People suffering from addiction often act out against those closest to them, especially if someone confronts their substance problems.4
- Changing appearance: Noticeable changes in physical appearance that cause concern, or lack of hygiene.4
- Tolerance: Over time, a person’s body adapts to a substance to the point that they need more and more of it in order to have the same reaction.4
- Withdrawal: As the alcohol or drug wears off, the person may experience symptoms such as anxiety or jumpiness, shakiness or trembling, sweating, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, depression, irritability, fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches.4
- Continued use despite negative consequences: Even though it is causing problems (on the job, in relationships, legal issues), a person continues the substance use.4
Can addiction be treated successfully?
Yes. Addiction is a treatable, chronic disease that can be managed successfully. Treatment approaches must be tailored to address each patient’s drug-use patterns and drug-related medical, psychiatric and social problems.1
For more information on substance abuse prevention or a listing of local substance abuse treatment programs, visit the Casa Grande Alliance website at casagrandealliance.org, or call 520-836-5022.