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Common Questions

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Why is age of first use of alcohol so critically important?

Kids who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older.  A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that 47% of those who began drinking before age 15 experienced alcohol dependence at some point in their life, compared to 9% percent of those who began drinking at age 21 or older.

Can you get addicted even though you only do it once in a while?

YES.  For most, addiction to alcohol and drugs is a process -- not an event.  Most people who use alcohol and drugs do so with an intention of only using once or “once in a while.”  No one decides that they want to become addicted to alcohol and drugs.  But, we are dealing with addictive drugs that directly affect the brain.  It is easy for occasional use to change to frequent use or constant use -- that is addiction.  The only thing we know for sure:  if you don't drink alcohol and don’t do drugs, you definitely won't become addicted.

Does marijuana use lead to the use of other drugs?

While most marijuana smokers do not go on to use other illegal drugs, long-term studies of high school students show that few young people use other illegal drugs without first using marijuana.  Using marijuana puts people in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs and are more likely to be exposed to and urged to try other drugs.

Why do some people become addicted, while others don’t?

Risk factors for becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs, like other conditions and diseases, vary from person to person.  But, the common risk factors include:  1. Genetics--your family history; 2. Age when you start using alcohol or drugs; 3. Family (including abuse, neglect and traumatic experiences in childhood) and Social Environment (including access to alcohol and drugs), and 4. Types of drugs used.

Should I be concerned about prescription drugs when the “real problem” is the illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine?

As a teen you should be concerned about alcohol and all of the other drugs, legal and illegal.  Recently there has been a significant increase in the non-medical use of prescription pain drugs among young people.  In fact, after marijuana, the next three most commonly used drugs are the non-medical use of prescription pain medications:  Vicodin, OxyContin and Adderall.

I thought drinking and driving was the only alcohol-related risk for college students?

An estimated 1,900 young people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.   And, approximately 600,000 college students are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol.  Approximately 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking and about 100,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (from NCADD Fact Sheet:  Facts About Underage Drinking).

What drugs are the most commonly abused?

Each year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) tracks drug use trends among high school students (8th, 10th and 12th grades) through the Monitoring the Future Study (MTF).  The following is a list of the most commonly abused drugs among 12th graders, starting with the most frequent:  marijuana, Adderall, Vicodin, tranquilizers, cough medicine, sedatives, hallucinogens, MDMA/ecstasy, OxyContin, cocaine, salvia and Ritalin.

Can a person be too young to become addicted to alcohol and drugs?

No.  And, research and experience show that the younger someone starts using alcohol and drugs, the greater the chance that they will become addicted.

Marijuana is just a plant... is it really that dangerous?

Yes, marijuana is a plant but it has very real health consequences, including drug addiction.  While some people think marijuana is a “harmless drug,” actual experience and the real science show a different reality.  More teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined.

How do I know if I or someone close to me is addicted to alcohol or drugs?

The short answer -- if you or someone close to you is having a problem with alcohol or drugs and they continue to use, it’s time to get help.  Continued use, despite negative consequences, is a powerful indicator of addiction.  T

What is a “standard drink” of alcohol?

A standard alcohol drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol (0.6 ounces):

    12-ounces of Beer or Cooler
    8-ounces of Malt Liquor
    5-ounces of Wine
    1.5-ounces or “shot” of Distilled Spirits/Liquor (e.g., rum, gin, vodka, or whiskey).

Note:  These are approximate, as different brands and types of alcoholic beverages vary in their actual alcohol content.

How does alcohol leave the body?

Once absorbed into the bloodstream, the Kidneys eliminate 5% of alcohol in the urine, the Lungs exhale 5% of alcohol (detectable by breathalyzer) and the Liver breaks down the remaining 90% of alcohol.  Alcohol is broken down (metabolized) by the liver at the average rate of one standard drink per hour and nothing can speed this up, including drinking coffee.

Are alcoholism and drug addiction genetically inherited?

Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism and drug addiction runs in families.  But just because there is a genetic predisposition doesn't mean that the child of an alcoholic or addicted parent will automatically become alcoholic or addicted.  Not all children of alcoholic or addicted parents get into trouble with alcohol and drugs.  And some people develop alcoholism and addiction even though no one in their family has a drinking or drug problem.

Can alcoholism and drug addiction be treated?

Yes, alcoholism and addiction can be treated.  Alcoholism and addiction treatment programs can help a person stop drinking and using drugs.  Treatment has helped millions of people stop drinking and drugging, rebuild their lives and live a life in long-term recovery.

I think prescription drugs might help me feel better.  Is it OK to use them once in a while?

You or your friends might think that prescription drugs are safer than alcohol or illegal drugs because doctors prescribe them.  But, these drugs can be just as dangerous. When prescription drugs are used without a prescription they can be as dangerous as alcohol or illegal drugs.  You can die from abusing prescription drugs . . . even the first time.

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR PARENTS & LOVED ONES

Is a drug addiction a disease?

Drug addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the drug addict and those around them. Drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 20 million Americans aged 12 or older used an illegal drug in the past 30 days.  This estimate represents 8% percent of the population aged 12 years old or older.  Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription drugs used without a prescription.

And, despite the numbers, for many people, the facts about drugs are not clear.

Cost to Society  

The estimated cost of drug abuse exceeds $190 Billion:

  • $130 Billion in lost productivity
  • $20 Billion in healthcare costs
  • $40 Billion in legal costs including efforts to stem the flow of drugs

Beyond the financial cost is the cost to individuals, families and society:

  • Spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, either through sharing of drug paraphernalia or unprotected sex
  • Deaths due to overdose or other complications from drug use
  • Effects on unborn children of pregnant drug users
  • Impact on the family, crime and homelessness

Most Commonly Used and Abused Drugs

Without question, the most commonly used and abused drug, after alcohol, is marijuana. Each year more teens enter addiction treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than all other illegal drugs combined.  Other common drugs of abuse include cocaine, heroin, inhalants, LSD (acid), MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP), steroids (anabolic), Vicodin, OxyContin and other prescription drugs.  For additional information about specific drugs including information by drug category, street name, how it is used and health risks:  Commonly Abused Drugs.

Short-Term Effects of Drug Use

Drugs are chemicals and while each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common.  They hijack the normal function of the brain and change the way the brain responds to issues of self-control, judgment, emotion, motivation, memory and learning.

This is why the person feels differently — the signals coming and going from the brain have been changed.  Although this can cause temporary euphoria it can also cause hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, and uncontrolled behavior.  It can cause your respiratory (lungs) and cardiovascular (heart) systems to malfunction or fail.

And, there are social consequences to using drugs including losing the trust of friends and family; poor performance at school or work; quitting activities you enjoy; making bad decisions like placing yourself at risk to be a victim of violence, drugged driving; getting pregnant and surrounding yourself with other people who use drugs.

Long-Term Effects of Drug Use

Beyond the short-term risks and consequences are the potential long-term effects.  It depends on the drug, but all drugs can cause negative health effects and can lead to addiction.

Whether you become addicted to marijuana, OxyContin, heroin, Xanax, cocaine, methamphetamine or Vicodin, the effect on the brain and your life is the same:  an uncontrollable craving to keep using that is more important than anything else in your life, including your family, friends, co-workers, career, school and even your own health, security and happiness.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 20 million Americans aged 12 or older used an illegal drug in the past 30 days.  This estimate represents 8% percent of the population aged 12 years old or older.  Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription drugs used without a prescription.

And, despite the numbers, for many people, the facts about drugs are not clear.

What Are Some Common Signs Substance Abuse is Present?

Substance abuse affects different people in different ways depending on the substance and the individual. There are many common signs that are directly related to when a person becomes addicted to a substance though, and they may include:

  • Letting primary responsibilities slip through the cracks. Examples include: failure to complete school work leading to flunking or not attending work because you’re too hungover.
  • Financial and legal consequences are becoming a factor because of your substance abuse.Examples include: proven guilty of driving while under the influence, stealing to support your addiction, or getting into fights while under the influence.
  • Relationship problems are starting to arise due to your substance abuse. Relationships are beginning to become distant between you are your partner, family members, co-workers, etc. Often times the relationship will become mostly a common battle or lead to a total loss of the relationship.
  • Compulsive behaviors revolving around the substance. Examples include: stealing money, driving while intoxicated, having unprotected sex, etc.

There are other signs and symptoms of substance abuse, but these are some primary signs to be aware of.

How Quickly Can Substance Abuse Progress into Addiction or Dependence?

This common question is a hard one to answer. The reason being because there are so many factors that come into play when addiction becomes dominate. Family history or genetics is one primary factor that may determine if you can or will become addicted to substances. Those who have a history of addiction in their family are more likely to become addicted to substance after trying it. Whereas, someone without family history of addiction may take longer or more times using the substance before becoming addicted. It all depends on the drug, the person, their genetics, and their environment.

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a complex, and often chronic, brain disease. It is characterized by drug craving, seeking, and use that can persist even in the face of devastating life consequences. Addiction results largely from brain changes that stem from prolonged drug use—changes that involve multiple brain circuits, including those responsible for governing self-control and other behaviors. Drug addiction is treatable, often with medications (for some addictions) combined with behavioral therapies. However, relapse is common and can happen even after long periods of abstinence, underscoring the need for long-term support and care. Relapse does not signify treatment failure, but rather should prompt treatment re-engagement or modification. For more information, see "Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction."

 

How quickly can I become addicted to a drug?

There is no easy answer to this common question. If and how quickly you become addicted to a drug depends on many factors, including your biology (your genes, for example), age, gender, environment, and interactions among these factors. Vast differences characterize individual sensitivity to various drugs and to addiction vulnerability. While one person may use a drug one or many times and suffer no ill effects, another person may overdose with first use, or become addicted after a few uses. There is no way of knowing in advance how quickly you will become addicted—but there are some clues, one important one being whether you have a family history of addiction.

How do I know if someone is addicted to drugs?

If a person is compulsively seeking and using a drug(s) despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, family problems, or physical problems brought on by drug abuse, then he or she probably is addicted. And while people who are addicted may believe they can stop any time, most often they cannot, and will need professional help—first to determine if they in fact are addicted, and then to obtain drug abuse treatment. Support from friends and family can be critical in getting people into treatment and helping them to maintain abstinence following treatment.

What Affects Do Drugs and Alcohol Have on the Brain?

Long-term use of drugs or alcohol lead to severe side effects on your brain. When abusing substances, your brain produces higher amounts of dopamine than usual. Causing brief happiness and pleasure. If substances are used on a regular basis, they can cause the brain to react differently when lower levels of dopamine are present. It can cause you to feel depressed and inability to enjoy certain activities or things that once mattered. Basically you have to be “high” to enjoy things that you used to be able to enjoy without being high.

Is There a Cure for Addiction?

Since addiction is considered a disease, many wonder if it is curable like other diseases with medication. The answer is there is no real cure for addiction, but it is treatable. By receiving treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, you learn the coping mechanisms necessary to learn how to deal with any triggers that might come your way causing you to use again. With individualized treatment, you get the right treatment based off your needs and addiction. When achieving abstinence from substances, your brain can reverse your cravings for substances.

How Do You Know If You’re Dependent on a Substance?

When you’re prescribed a certain drug for a long period of time, it’s no surprise that your body and brain become physically dependent on the substance. When this happens, your body will need higher amounts of the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring. When your body isn’t receiving a high enough amount of the substance, you will start to have withdrawal symptoms. That’s when you know you’re dependent on a drug.

What Are Some Treatments Used for Substance Abuse?

We use a variety of techniques to treat substance abuse including: behavioral therapies, group and individual therapy, medication management, psychological evaluations, family counseling, and more. Each treatment plan we create is tailored to you and your addiction. We focus on educating you on how to cope with your addiction triggers. The goal of substance abuse treatment is improve mental and physical health re-gaining control in day to day life.

What Are the Next Steps If I, or Someone I Love, is Struggling with Addiction?

Remember, addiction is a treatable disease. Just like someone who has to take medication to alleviate disease symptoms, addiction needs to be treated to alleviate symptoms with medication and/or on-going therapy. Don’t wait to seek help. We offer a 24 hour help line where you can call at any time for questions or to begin your journey of addiction recovery.