Having an occasional drink or smoking a cigarette is socially acceptable in our culture. However, if your body develops a physical dependence on alcohol, nicotine, laxatives, or other drugs, you have a chemical addiction. Breaking the cycle of addiction is difficult, and it often requires intervention from medical personnel and a mental health team of professionals. Although chemical addiction is not easy to overcome, thousands of people each year successfully break their addictive habits and go on to lead healthy lives.
People develop addictions due to a variety of factors. Some are genetically predisposed to chemical addiction while others develop dependence due to recreational overuse of alcohol or drugs. Some individuals use chemicals to medicate pain or emotional difficulties associated with medical or psychological conditions. Others develop addictions to the prescription drugs they use to treat pain or other medical conditions. Regardless of the causes, chemical addiction can impair all aspects of an individual’s life including school, work and interpersonal relationships.
According to Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’s Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 20.4 million Americans over the age of 12 used illicit drugs; more than half of all Americans over 12 admitted to drinking alcohol; and 72.9 million Americans used tobacco. While use does not imply abuse, the staggering number of users suggests that the potential for abuse is high.
Many people who have one or more chemical addictions will often have a secondary mental health diagnosis. Because many people use chemicals to self medicate, treating the addiction along with other mental health issues strengthens the chance for recovery. Although many people believe that they can stop the chemical addiction on their own, success is more likely with long-term therapeutic intervention and treatment.
Because the effects of alcohol and drugs differ, the list of symptoms will vary according to the chemical of choice. However, here are just a few of the typical signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol dependence:
- Poor memory
- Slowed reaction time
- Behavioral changes
- Illegal activity
- Slurred speech
- Nasal congestion
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Change in peer group
- Red eyes
- Deteriorating relationships
- Feeling the “need”
- Risky behavior
- Rapid speech
- Using drugs or alcohol to cope with problems
- Repeated failures to quit
(Because these symptoms in and of themselves do not always indicate the presence of chemical addiction, please contact your physician or mental health treatment provider in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.)
The possibility of relapse is high, and multiple interventions and long-term therapy/support are needed to ensure long-term success. Chemical addiction can be successfully treated but must be individualized according to the causes and symptoms. Chemical addiction is usually treated with a combination of the following interventions:
Detoxification to rid the body of the substance
Behavioral Therapy to develop coping strategies to combat the drug/alcohol cravings and to avoid relapse
Cognitive Therapy to change unproductive thinking patterns that lead to chemical abuse
Medication to eliminate the symptoms caused by chemical imbalances in the body, to “wean” the individual off the drug, or to treat co-occurring disorders
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have a chemical dependency problem, please contact a professional mental health provider for diagnosis and treatment.
What We Treat
Lifeskills South Florida is a place where second chances become new beginnings. Since 1991, we’ve offered residential, transitional and outpatient mental health treatment to men and women ages 18 and over who are facing the challenges of psychiatric disorders, trauma-based disorders and chemical addictions. Located near white sands and sunlit Palm Beaches, Lifeskills provides a safe and caring environment for adults who are focused on long-term health, healing and recovery.