What is Addiction?
Addiction is a complex brain disease that alters the functioning of the brain’s reward and motivation systems. It encompasses alcohol and drug abuse, which can be accompanied by behavioral problems such as eating and gambling disorders. The chronic, and often relapsing disease, primarily affects the brain’s reward and motivation systems. People struggling with addiction are unable to control their actions or make rational decisions about their behavior, even with an awareness of the negative consequences associated with the disease.
Science shows that substance and behavioral addictions can occur within the same individual and that multiple variants of substance or activity-related addiction can be expressed at the same time. Thus, people can have multiple addictions, at varying degrees of severity. Additionally, depression and anxiety frequently accompany addiction, as mental health factors have a tendency to fuel the addiction. This is known as a dual diagnosis, and is treated at White Sands. We have multiple therapy programs, designed to address both issues, in order to ensure a lasting recovery with a reduced risk of relapse.
Various substances and activities with addictive potential activate the brain’s reward circuitry. These triggers are also called “reinforcers”, because the pleasurable feelings they can create make us more likely to engage in them again. Both alcohol and drugs are powerful reinforcers and can cause the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain’s reward system. Repeated activation by these compounds changes the brain’s reward system structurally and chemically, producing behaviors such as binging, in addition to escalated withdrawal symptoms when the substance is taken away. In most cases, the disease cannot be controlled by strong-will power alone and an addict must seek assistance from an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation center such as White Sands.
Although each person with a drug or alcohol addiction will behave slightly different, there are certain key signs and symptoms that are present in the vast majority of cases. The overarching theme is change. If there is no medical explanation for these changes, the following physical and psychological addiction signs and symptoms can be an indication that someone suffers from substance abuse.
Physical Signs and Symptoms
- Bloodshot (i.e. unusually red or pink) eyes
- Dilated or constricted pupils
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- A reduction in appetite
- Sudden and noticeable weight changes (weight loss or weight gain)
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia or oversleeping)
- An irritated, inflamed nose
- Poor personal hygiene or reduced interest in appearance
- Unpleasant or strange smells (on breath or clothing)
- Speech changes such as slurring or stammering
- Poor coordination or muscle tremors
Behavioral Signs and Symptoms
- Poor attendance or performance at work or school
- Mood swings (e.g. sudden anger)
- Changes in social circle accompanied by secretive behavioral patterns
- New tendency to become involved in fights or accidents
- An overall reduction in motivation
- Defensiveness about activities or whereabouts
- Taking risks to obtain drugs or alcohol
- Paranoia and anxiety
- Manic giddiness or hyperactivity
- Financial problems and/or an unexplained desperation for money
- Ignoring or forgetting responsibilities to loved ones
- Appearing socially withdrawn
- Unwillingness to discuss problems or concerns with loved ones
- Outright denying that there is a problem
If these signs and symptoms sound familiar to you, contact us today at (877)855-3470 in order to have a confidential conversation with an expert member of our team. Our board-certified doctors, psychologists and nurses are highly experienced in conducting safe medical detoxification processes and taking an extensive approach to treatment. At White Sands we instill hope, even when hope seemed lost.