Suffering from Addiction

Those struggling with addiction share their personal stories about their journey through recovery

Individuals suffering from the disease of addiction tell their stories about the challenging road to recovery. Created by: Moira Prior

For some, the negative behaviors of addiction results in diseases such as HIV. Created by: Moira Prior

Those Affected by Drugs

Many people are unaware of the common signs of drug addiction. Created by: Moira Prior

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. Those addicted to substances suffer these symptoms.

Kevin Pace, a recovering addict, first started out recreationally using marijuana in high school. He was later introduced to pain medications, where his addiction took off and he soon found himself using heroin.

“I was just doing opioid pills and then you become physically addicted and mentally physically everything,” Pace said. “I needed to take more and more and heroin was a cheaper alternative.”

Drug addiction, also known as substance abuse disorder, can cause serious consequences, including physical and mental health issues. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting the drug nearly impossible.

“Once you get clean and sober, not everything’s going to be perfect again. It takes time and you’re going to have your ups and downs and I still have my ups and downs to this day, but I know how to deal with them,” Pace said. 

Drug use is increasing across the United States. According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) among Americans aged 12 or older, the use of illicit drugs has increased over the last decade from 8.3 percent of the population using illicit drugs in the past month in 2002 to 10.2 percent (27 million people) in 2014. Men and women of all ages are suffering from this horrific disease known as addiction. By definition, addiction is extremely hard to overcome and the disease does not discriminate.

This chronic and incredibly dangerous disease is responsible for harming and even destroying loved ones and leading to countless deaths. About 570,000 people die each year from drugs. Approximately 22,000 of these deaths are due to illicit drug use, and 23,000 of these are due to prescription medications.

Addiction robs those affected of their control and freedom. There are many drug addict stories around the world. Some have happy endings while others are tragic.

“I talk to people now about how I’m feeling or I share in a meeting that I want to drink or I want to use because if I hold that stuff in I’ll end up going back out,” Pace said. “They say you never know if you have another recovery in you so I guess that’s really it.”

Written by: Moira Prior

Those Affected by Alcohol

Alcohol abuse impacts everyone from those suffering to those serving drinks behind the bar. Created by: Allie Stein  

Alcohol abuse is very common in the United States. Created by: Allie Stein

Alcohol Use Disorder, more commonly referred to as alcoholism, is defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) reported in 2014 that about 139.7 million alcohol users nationwide were age 12 or older. Of these, approximately 17 million met criteria for alcoholism in that same year.

Excessive alcohol use can increase a person’s risk for a variety of other serious health problems, such as brain and liver damage, hypertension, heart disease and damage to fetuses in utero. 

The Center for Disease Control states that alcohol causes around 88,000 deaths per year.

Although alcohol has such a large number of negative effects on many areas of life, it is still widely consumed by both underage and legal age people. Between things like peer pressure and the glamorization by the media, alcohol can be found everywhere. Many people do not even realize how big of an issue it is becoming and the many harmful consequences it can cause.

“We figured well you know it’s just a social thing, a lot of people drink, what’s the big deal?” Rick Craft, a parent of a recovering alcoholic, said of his 23-year-old daughter, Madison. “But as she went to college and spent two years in college–she successfully finished two years–and as they call them a high-functioning alcoholic, was able to get through, but didn’t realize until she sort of admitted to us in the summer of her sophomore year that she really had an issue. I mean, literally drinking every day.”

SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in a month. Binge drinking is described as drinking 5 or more drinks in a given period for men, and 4 or more drinks in a given period for women. While some people think that it shouldn’t be hard to stop and that people should be able to put down the bottle at any time, that is simply not the case.

“The ability to deal with a disease in a matter of 30 days is total nonsense and to deal with it in the last two and a half years, which we’ve been helping her through that, she has been in recovery,” Craft said. “She is sober two and a half years.”

While recovery is definitely possible, that does not make it easy. The road to recovery is a lifelong process and a constant battle. Those suffering from alcohol addictions have to make serious changes in their behavior patterns and activities, sometimes even the people they surround themselves with, in order to make a clean start.

Written by: Katie Muska

Those Affected by Relapse

It is common for recovering addicts to relapse at least once during their recovery, but for some that one relapse could lead to death. Created by: Moira Prior

Many people suffering from drug or alcohol addictions find themselves in rehabilitation programs and on their way to recovery. They go through the steps and time goes by, and next thing they know they’re 6 months sober. Everything is looking up, until a year later when the disease causes them to pick up the bottle or the needle, and suddenly they’ve relapsed.

Relapse is when a recovering addict returns to the drug they were previously addicted to. People who are recovering from their addictions often have one or more relapses along their journey of recovery.

According to Addictions and Recovery, there are three stages of relapse. These stages are emotional relapse, mental relapse and physical relapse.

An emotional relapse does not necessarily mean the addict is thinking of us, but your emotions could be setting you up for a relapse in the future. Some signs of emotional relapse are anxiety, anger and isolation.

A mental relapse has to do with dealing with an internal struggle in the addict’s mind. The addict knows that they shouldn’t use, but part of them wants to.

Finally, a physical relapse is when the addict actually goes into action to use again. Once that hits, it is extremely difficult to turn back.

Since addiction is a chronic disease, it stays with a person for a long time. If a former addict starts using again, they will experience a strong need to keep taking their drug, want to take more and more of it and will need to get themselves back into treatment as soon as possible.

Recovering from an addiction does not just mean you quit using drugs. It means you learn a new lifestyle and a new way of thinking, dealing with problems and feelings towards things. It is a constant process.

Written by: Katie Muska