Drug Addiction
Signs and Risk Factors

Drug Addiction: Signs and Risk Factors

Overview: addiction among celebrities

In the movies, we are led to believe that when troubled, celebrities mix staggering amounts of alcohol with whatever else is at hand -mostly opioids these days. Prior to that, Frank Sinatra, in The Man with the Golden Arm, showed us what a heroin addict looked like in withdrawal.

The list of celebrities who either overdosed accidentally or overdosed on purpose thus seems to be never-ending, and it is hard to tell which it was. Did Elvis die accidentally? How about Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, to cite just a few celebrity musicians in the flashy 60’s and 70’s? And how about, before them, Errol Flynn and Brian Jones and, since them, superstars like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Heath Ledger? It is often impossible to tell for sure whether a luminary died accidentally, or whether their death was premeditated. It is also easy to imagine that in many cases, the overdose wasn’t entirely meant, but if it brought the end, so be it.

Persons at High Risk for Addiction

Among the people who are most vulnerable to becoming addicts are children and adolescents who, before they even have a chance at shaping their own destinies, have to endure the unforgiving reality of trouble at home. Here are some of the repercussions:

  • Starting with the young ones, at high risk are teens -with alcoholic and drug addicted parents- who are exposed to regular bouts of violence and abuse at the hands of one or more members of the household. When the atmosphere at home becomes traumatic, life becomes unbearable, and the teens may take refuge in drug abuse to dull the pain.
  • Teens may also fall on a group of peers at school or on the streets who are into drugs. It is difficult for a teen to abstain and at the same time remain part of that group. The odds are high that their peers will sooner or later get them at first to experiment in cocaine, opioid pills, or heroin, in time turning into abuse and addiction.
  • Anyone carrying psychological baggage such as deeply engrained guilt, anger at something or someone, a cultural or religious stigma, a physical deformity or chronic disease –those and others who carry long-standing suffering like that are at high risk of developing a drug addiction.
  • Anyone who suffers from the painful post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), depression, and generally anyone who has cause to “give up” for any number of reasons –they would be at high risk for developing a drug addiction.

Parents Driving Teens to Addiction

Since none of us relish the idea of our children getting mired in addiction, it is incumbent upon us to be categorical in our homes about the dread and misery that prescription drugs can cause. But instead of communicating that message loud and clear, keeping our medicines out of reach and having frequent candid discussions about the ill effects of prescription drugs, many parents are entirely complacent.

A recent study reveals that parents are not communicating the gravity involved in a teen stealing pills from a parent –or otherwise getting hold of prescription drugs. And yet, research has revealed that one in four adults has used prescription drugs in their recent past. This has the magnitude of an epidemic amongst teens, while some parents continue treating the whole issue with marked indifference. They send their children to a life of addiction by finding it hard to talk about drugs, or because of an ill-conceived notion that their children are above it all.

Signs of Addiction – when someone gets hooked

There are several clear signs of trouble that family and friends ought not to ignore, with behavioral changes leading the way:

  • Transformations in appearance and food and sleep routines: Those are often the easiest signs to spot, as with meth abusers, for example, demonstrably losing weight. They will typically also stay up at times for days on end followed by “crashing” for a few more days, and then back to another binge episode.
  • Unusual behavior: Friends and family might spot the user undertaking risky behavior, desperately seeking additional supplies of the drug. The user might start associating with shady characters or may start hanging out with other users. In addition, all prior interests and hobbies are discarded in favor of those that enable the user to stay high.
  • Performance at school or in a job: These are severely compromised as the user’s mind is fixated on getting more drugs and staying high. When the job starts getting in the way, or school attendance and exams, the habit always takes precedence.

Co-occurring issues as causes for addiction

Illnesses and disorders: You can have chronic asthma or have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), alcoholism, one of the eating disorders, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder or bipolar disorder: these and other conditions are triggers that can easily guide you towards drug abuse and addiction. Drug use may also start as a prescribed medication by a physician to manage moderate to severe pain; if you are vulnerable, you end up going to several doctors for more prescriptions, and you ultimately end up buying them from the corner dealer.

Traumas and stigmas: traumas may be severe as in those that lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or they can be less formalized, unresolved traumas, such as having been molested as a child, bullied as a teen ager, or having witnessed an endless stream of violence in the home; you may carry burdensome stigmas that bother you in your daily life, such as being short or bald, or having the wrong color skin or accent for the area in which you live. You would be easy prey for friends who would be telling you that all those complaints can go away with one hit of an opiate.

Genes: Genetics are thought to be the factor which in great part determines why one person’s experience with a drug ends up in an addiction while another person with the same experience does not. It is also thought that the action of genes is entirely intertwined with the environment in which they function. Thus, a teen who is genetically susceptible and who grew up in a household where domestic violence was the rule has higher odds of acquiring a drug addiction than the teen who has the genetic predisposition but who grew up in a child-friendly environment.

Final Thoughts -- The addiction cycle

Most drug abusers believe that they are stronger than their drug, and that they can use it only once in a while. This soon goes out the window though. Here is what in reality often happens:

  1. You’re depressed and have a lot of anxieties
  2. You find a friend or two who lead you to opiates
  3. You try opiates and discover that they erase all your anxieties
  4. You start to have cravings and withdrawals
  5. You continue using to take the edge out of the withdrawals
  6. You exhaust all your financial resources and start stealing

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