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The 3 Most Common Substance Addictions

Addiction is one of the most prevalent disorders in the United States today. There are many different types of addictions out there – from food addictions to gambling addictions – but perhaps the most common among them is substance addiction.

Today, more than 19 million Americans battle a drug or alcohol addiction.

Substance addiction is the most severe form of a substance use disorder (SUD), and develops when a person uses drugs or alcohol continuously over a period of time. The individual becomes reliant on the drug, and requires it for everyday functioning or feeling “good.” When a person is addicted, they spend much of their time craving, seeking, using, and recovering from the drug. This, in turn, causes significant issues in their life—such as health problems, strained relationships, and neglected responsibilities like school and work.

Addictions can range from mild to severe, but every addiction is considered a disease of the brain. This is because of the neurological changes that happen with prolonged drug abuse. When a person uses drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time, the chemicals start to re-wire brain circuits. Eventually, the parts of the brain responsible for impulse-control, decision-making, and reward become compromised.

Every drug affects the brain a bit differently, and causes different symptoms or side effects. Some drugs are more addictive than others, or pose more dangers to an individual. Some substance addictions are more common than others, due to the prevalence of the drugs. Marijuana, for example, is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. As a result, it is also one of the most common addictions treated by clinical professionals today.

Below, we outline the most common addictions people are facing today, and some of the most common addictions we see (and treat) in adolescents and young adults at Turnbridge.

  1. Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol is the most widely abused substance in the United States. This makes sense, as alcohol is legal (and therefore accessible) for adults over age 21. Millions of people, including those underage, drink to socialize, celebrate, and relax. What many do not realize, however, is that alcohol is also addictive.

In 2018, over 14 million Americans over age 18 – about 3 in every 4 adults – struggled with an alcohol addiction, formally known as an alcohol use disorder (AUD). That same year, over 400,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 also struggled with alcoholism.

The most tell-tale sign of alcoholism is a person’s inability to control their drinking. They may drink too much, drink at unusual times of the day, and drink just to cope with normal obligations, like going on a date or before making a presentation. They may express a desire to quit, but are unable to do so with the continuous cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Other signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Excessive time and resources are devoted to alcohol
  • Intense cravings for alcohol when they are not drinking
  • Drinking to “feel better” or cope with difficult situations
  • A high tolerance for alcohol, and requiring more to feel the effects
  • Problems at school, work, or home due to alcohol
  • Declining to engage in once-loved activities

You can learn more about the signs of alcohol abuse and addiction here.

  1. Marijuana Addiction

As noted above, marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. And, as a result, it is also the most common addiction seen in treatment centers today. Marijuana use and addiction is particularly common among teens and young adults, with more than one-third of teens using marijuana by the end of high school.

You may be wondering, “How can marijuana be addictive if its natural, and even legal in some states?” Like other drugs, marijuana can create lasting changes in the brain, affecting how a user thinks, behaves, and functions. Research shows that approximately 1 in every 11 marijuana users will become addicted. However, the chances of developing an addiction increase with certain factors:

  • Those who smoke marijuana in their teens are 4-7 times more likely to become addicted
  • Up to half of daily marijuana users become addicted to the drug

In addition to addiction, prolonged marijuana use can also lead to issues with a memory, learning, and mental health. If you are parent and suspect your teen is using marijuana, it is important to keep watch for the following signs of addiction:

  • Lack of motivation and empathy
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Neglect of responsibilities, such as going to work or school assignments
  • Reduced ability to learn or to retain information

Learn more about the signs of marijuana addiction here.

  1. Prescription Opioids

OxyContin. Percocet. Vicodin. You may have heard these brand names from your doctor, or on the news regarding the current opioid crisis facing America. These prescription opioid drugs, often referred to as painkillers, are a class of drugs that are designed to relax the body and relieve pain. They are often prescribed after surgeries or for painful conditions. At the same time, prescription opioids are often frequently misused, due to the relaxing “high” that users get after taking these drugs—a high very similar to heroin. While many assume that prescription drugs are safe because they are legal, this is not always the case. When taken in anyway other than prescribed, prescription opioids are highly addictive.

In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration has classified prescription painkillers like oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, and fentanyl as Schedule II drugs. Schedule II drugs are substances that, according to the DEA, have a “high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.”

Currently in the United States, about 2.1 million Americans are facing an opioid use disorder. Almost 10 million Americans over the age of 12 are abusing prescription opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and more recently, the dangerous fentanyl.

Addiction is just one of the many risks of opioid abuse. Misusing opioids like OxyContin can quickly lead to overdose and death. If you suspect your loved one is using opioid drugs, it is important to intervene. Look for the following signs of opioid abuse:

  • Slowed respiration or difficulty breathing (this is a symptom of overdose)
  • Uncontrollable cravings
  • Unbearable withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug
  • Mental health symptoms like Psychosis and Depression
  • Frequent anxiety attacks
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Financial struggles

You can learn more about opioid abuse and addiction here.

The Most Common Addictions are Treatable

Substance addiction is scary. Especially for concerned loved ones, there are many fears about overdose and the long-term effects of drug abuse. It is important for you to know that addiction is also treatable.

Much like asthma or diabetes, substance addiction is a manageable condition, that can be treated with ongoing care, therapy, and lifestyle changes. As far as your loved one may seem to be in the addiction cycle, know that help is available. Professional intervention provides the highest rates of success when overcoming drug addiction. You can help your loved one get the help that he or she deserves.

If you are seeking addiction treatment for your loved one, or are looking to learn more about common addiction treatment methods and therapies, Turnbridge is just one call away. We are a recognized addiction treatment center for young adults and adolescents. Call 877-581-1793 to learn more.