Trying to answer the question ‘what is drug addiction ‘in a way that people can understand is really hard. Addicts know it and get it – they live it.
There are so many different points of view of drug addiction and no definitive answers.One way of looking at it, is the answer the question is going to depend on who you ask.
In this three-part series we will present answers to the question of what is drug addiction? From three different points of view.
- We will discuss drug addiction from an addict’s point of view. (Part 1 of 3).
- We will discuss drug addiction from a medical point of view. (Part 2 of 2).
- And the most modern interpretation, addiction as a brain disease (Part 3 of 3).
An Addicts Point Of View: What Is Drug Addiction?
“Active drug use is hell disguised as the solution to all my problems.”
Addiction is very confusing, hard to explain and can seldom be understood by at its core, by someone who is not in its grips. A number of times I’ve asked a group of addicts in therapy or in lecture if they’ve ever tried to explain what drug addiction is like to a “normal” person. The answer almost universally is yes. The next question is did that normal person “get it”. In the answer is universally no. Without the experience of living the life it is almost impossible to understand.
Here are some attitudes and beliefs common to people in active addiction:
The cause is the cure and the cure is the cause.
I always felt out of place. I always felt like I didn’t fit into my skin. I was so afraid of people and of the world. And when I had my first drink it was like, Wow, this is what I’ve been looking for all of my life!
I always felt out of place. I always felt like I didn’t fit into my skin. I was so afraid of people and of the world. And when I had my first drink it was like, Wow, this is what I’ve been looking for all of my life!”
I believe that I was an addict and an alcoholic waiting to happen…I always wanted more of everything.”
If you have never tried heroin then don’t because it is a very loving, encompassing drug that makes you feel that everything is okay for as long as it lasts. And then, of course, you are going to have the battle of getting more and get the money, to get more heroin and then that cycle…and suddenly you are a hamster on a wheel and you want to kick yourself again because you are the retard in this, nobody else is! … but everyone is so scared of withdrawal…we all know that the fix, the cure is the same thing that hurt us. The cause is the cure and the cure is the cause.”
While everybody is different, in tapping into my personal experience, clinical experience, and listening to literally thousands of addicts describe their experience there are certain commonalities. Here is what I have heard a lot:
Feelings inevitably generated by active drug use are shame, low self-esteem despair, hopelessness – with a dash of anger and self-loathing. A guiding view of life is ‘screw it, I could be dead tomorrow, (and I really don’t care.’
Addicts live for instant gratification and under the belief that if I feel good, I am good.doing drugs feels good, stopping drugs may bring on withdrawals or becoming dope sick.
Obsession, Compulsion and ‘More, More, More'.
An addict in the throes of active addiction has three powers that interact in control their life.
- More, more more
- Obsession is the mental part of drug addiction. A person an active addiction is thinking about how to get high and stay high all the time. It is like an endless loop in the brain, where am I going to get drugs? How am I going to afford them? Where can I do them? Neuroscientists estimate that approximately 85 to 90% of the active thoughts of a person in addiction are about drug use. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for thinking about your job, family, purpose in life etc.
- Compulsion is taking action to alleviate the incessant obsession and fixation on drug use. It’s actually quite simple, if I’m thinking about drugs all the time (Obsession), then the only thing that will relieve that circular thinking is actually doing the drugs.A piece of the compulsion to do drugs is that an addict will do almost anything to obtain in do drugs. That includes putting their life at risk, illegal activities, stealing from family, etc. This is not because they are bad people, it is rather doing what needs to be done to relieve the mental obsession and physical compulsion.
- More, more, more. This concept is one of the most difficult for a non-added to understand. Is a combination of both mental and physical influences?What happens is that once drugs are introduced into a addicts body it sets up a mechanism where they crave more and more of the drugs. 100 is not enough. Many drug addicts will continue to use drugs even though they are not getting incrementally higher. The only stop when they pass out, become physically incapable of functioning, or run out of money.
Short Video Clip From Nat Geo - Life In Addiction - Addicts Speak
Wwe would like to note that sustaining long-term recovery is simply not about saying no to drugs (although that is the object of the exercise). It is about gaining an education of the nature of drug addiction, how it personally applies to you, and formulating strategic prevention awareness and actions.
Click Here For Part 2 What is drug addiction from a brain science point of view.
Some Really Good Resources
- Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction (Drugabuse.gov) – In my opinion this is the best short read on addiction. I have used the content for many therapy groups and lectures…check it out.
- Understanding Drug Use and Addiction This ia a quick, understandable read from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.