Home Addiction Portrait of Drug Addiction: Definition, Symptoms, Withdrawal, and Treatment

Portrait of Drug Addiction: Definition, Symptoms, Withdrawal, and Treatment


Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, not just a behavioral problem involving drugs. Consuming drugs does not involve only the illegal consumption of hallucinogens but also the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, painkillers.

Addiction may alter the overall health of an individual and lead to death. Lately, there have been registered more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Additionally, the highest yearly consumption rate takes place in Florida. 

Along with the consumption of illegal drugs, alcohol was the main cause of 44% of all drug-related deaths in the state. Addiction is a dangerous, slippery road, regardless of the type of drug consumed. Here are more insights about symptoms, withdrawal, and treatment of this disease, that might come in handy in predicting it. 

Substance Addiction vs. Abuse

People abuse drugs in order to solve life-related problems or just to feel good. This translates into having an unhealthy habit of consuming legal or illegal drugs. In the early stages, one can stop this habit. 

On the other hand, addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, which often relapses and causes compulsive drug use, despite the harmful consequences on one’s health and those around him. The urge of consuming a certain drug happens even when the person is trying to quit.

Drug abuse can lead to addiction, as it leads to changes in the structure and functioning of the brain. 

Types of Addictions 

Depending on the type of drug consumed (illegal drugs, tobacco, alcohol, painkillers), the person’s health and its tolerance to the product, addiction may be psychic or physical:

  • Psychic addiction translates into the need to consume drugs that alter mental activity. Abstinence causes a compulsive, tyrannical desire to resort to the drug again. 
  • Physical addiction refers to disorders and symptoms happening from the moment drug consumption stops. Withdrawal symptoms can include vomiting, cramps, headaches, intense anguish, sweating, tremor, etc.

How Drugs Affect the Brain

There are at least two ways in which drugs affect our brain: imitating natural chemical messengers of the brain, and/or overstimulating the “reward circuit” of the brain.

Certain substances, like marijuana, heroin or alcohol, have structures close to the brain’s neurotransmitters. Due to this resemblance, these drugs can “fool” the brain’s receptors and activate the nerve cells to send abnormal messages.

In the case of alcohol, cognitive disorders caused by its consumption include memory disorders, diminished decision-making, inability to control emotions and anxiety. Despite this, alcohol remains widely consumed worldwide. It is classified as the most socially accepted drug at such a large scale. 

Addiction Symptoms

Drug addiction symptoms can vary depending on the type of drug consumed. However, most of the symptoms are common and at one point may include:

  • altered feelings and relationships with family members, 
  • disturbing interpersonal relationships at work and in the circle of friends,
  • reduced feelings of responsibility, 
  • neglecting personal hygiene,
  • symptoms of tolerance (acute need to increase dosages to achieve the effect of intoxication)
  • anger or stress in the absence of drug consumption,
  • diseases caused by drug addiction,
  • overall degradation of health. 

Drugs Withdrawal: Periods & Symptoms

Among the 6 hardest drugs to quit, there are cocaine, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, nicotine, and alcohol. 

Usually, withdrawal symptoms may last, on average from 5 days to 10 days. Depending on the drug’s type. However, Benzodiazepines and alcohol withdrawal can manifest for several weeks. 

Depending on the drug abuse, most common symptoms characterize through uncontrollable cravings, anxiety, cramps, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, anger, depression, headaches, high blood pressure, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting.

Nevertheless, in addition to general withdrawal symptoms, alcohol, Benzodiazepine, and Opiate withdrawal symptoms are life-threatening if not properly treated and monitored. 

Treating Drug Addiction

Where to Ask Help?

In the United States, alcohol is the most widely abused psychoactive and addictive substance. Its rising consumption affects mostly Florida’s population, where alcohol represents the main cause in 44% of all drug-related deaths, followed by opioid, methamphetamine and heroin. 

For people with a severe addiction, stopping alcohol or drugs without medical supervision is dangerous. Therefore, the safest solution relies upon seeking treatment from a specialized Florida drug rehab.  

There are many rehabs offering specialized treatment, in Florida. But when dealing with severe drug dependence, one must take into consideration the centers that treat both physical and emotional addiction. 

Physical dependence might pass easily, in a few days, with the administration of proper medication and stopping drug consumption. But many drug users also have psychiatric problems leading to violent manifestation. 

Can We Treat Drug Addiction?

Yes, but the treatment depends from one individual to another, genetics, drug abuse period and type of drug consumed. In the case of illegal substances addiction, the treatment involves medically assisted detoxification, therapy, counseling, and long-term follow-up. 

In the case of alcoholism treatment, withdrawal symptoms can vary from mild to severe. This is a medically assisted detoxification as in the case of illegal drug addiction. 

After passing the withdrawal period, some patients continue taking medication. Some prescribed treatments (Disulfiram) cause severe reactions when mixed with alcohol. While others (Naltrexone) relieve the craving to consume this substance. 

Despite their unpleasant reactions, this medication will not treat the impulse to consume alcohol and will not solve the problem in the long run. In these cases, long term therapy is advisable. 

Most psychiatrists recommend that alcohol-dependent patients remain abstinent throughout their lives and discourage attempts to drink normally

Final Thoughts

Once a person completes the detoxification and rehabilitation process, he/she is not totally cured of addiction. Because this condition is, by definition, a chronic illness such as hypertension, asthma or diabetes, there may be episodes of recurrence in the future. However, addiction is managed throughout life, and the individual can remain sober and healthy.

One can avoid recurrence through specialized care. Regardless of the type of drug consumed, post-withdrawal care involves a support group, ongoing therapy, and even medication. 

Support from family and friends is also an important part of the individual’s recovery. The presence of a supportive environment at home – moving to a new home or eliminating drugs and alcohol in the existing home – is very important.