Addiction and dependence on substances is a dangerous and destructive chronic disease, compelling users to use drugs compulsively and without regard for themselves or others.
Drug addiction in South Africa include a broad spectrum of both legal and illegal substances, ranging from something as seemingly harmless as cough syrup and sleeping tablets to hard drugs like heroin and crystal meth.
Drug addiction often starts with the voluntary use of drugs, but repeated use can cause serious damage to our brain function. Once these substances find the root, the user finds it incredibly difficult to stop, fueled by the psychological and physical effects of substance withdrawal. Drug use becomes the anchor for sufferers looking to feel normal, at the expense of themselves, others, and even their own lives.
Drug Addiction and Dependence Explained
Addiction is a disorder of the brain’s reward centres; the repeated exposure to rewarding stimuli forces parts and functions of the brain associated with reward to adjust to this exposure. An example is how the use of cocaine triggers a release of dopamine and other neurochemicals in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. But with repeated use, the brain can become dependent on cocaine to release dopamine, and similarly higher doses are required for the same flood of dopamine. Even more alarmingly, this inhibition of dopamine can result in the negative physical and psychological effects known as withdrawal symptoms, making addicts even more likely to use.
It’s when addicts start to increase the dosages of drugs they take to chase that ‘high’ that addiction becomes dangerous. To make up for the tolerance, addicts resort to higher doses that can result in deadly consequences. This is what we refer to as overdosing.
Beyond the already alarming physical and mental symptoms of drug addiction, drug addiction can erratically change an abuser’s behaviour, affecting themselves and those around them. The catastrophic effects of addiction, and the sheer strength of their dependence, can feel almost impossible for them to recover from. In most cases an addict is so overcome by addiction that they actively resist the help and advice from those around them, decreasing their recovery rate.
Drugs can be both illegal and legal, and in South Africa we’ve seen a significant rise in prescription drug addiction. Besides illegal drugs such as cocaine, crystal meth, heroin, ecstasy and more, there are other substances that fall under hallucinogenic drugs, Benzodiazepines, stimulants such as Ritalin, opiates, and even legal substances like cough syrup and bath salts. All have varying effects and symptoms of addiction, and some are more deadly than others.
Signs of Drug Addiction
Symptoms of drug addiction can take on many forms, but it’s important to note that symptoms aren’t limited to those seen here. Additionally, the absence of symptoms is never a sign that someone isn’t abusing drugs. Drug addicts go to great lengths to hide their addiction from their GPs and families, and even from themselves. That being said, some of the below symptoms are not inherently indicative of addiction and can be linked to other causes.
Physical Symptoms of Drug Abuse include:
- Bloodshot or glazed eyes
- Dilated or constricted pupils
- Abrupt weight changes
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Decreased coordination
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Slowed reaction time
- Changes in hygiene
- Dental issues
- Skin changes
- Problems sleeping or sleeping too much
Behavioural Signs of Drug Abuse include:
- Increased aggression or irritability
- Changes in attitude/personality
- Sudden changes in a social network
- Dramatic changes in habits and/or priorities
- Involvement in criminal activity
- Sudden and drastic changes in finances
Treatment for Drug addiction in Cape Town
No matter how impossible it may seem to overcome addiction, either in yourself or in loved ones, recovery is possible. With the help of a private Cape Town rehab centres, rehab specialists, counsellors and peer support, it’s possible to find recovery and pursue a life of sober living. The first step is reaching out.
Get in contact with us, and we’ll help get you or your loved one the care needed.