The meaning of the term “addiction” can vary from person to person. Some view addiction as an untreatable disease and they are dissuaded from seeking treatment. To other people that realize that they have an addiction, it can pose a challenge, a sort of test. They are motivated to beat addiction, and through medical supervision and professional treatment, they can achieve sobriety. To all; however, addiction is dangerous and must be treated.

When it comes to drug addiction treatment, everyone is different in regards to the best treatment for their specific case. There are many kinds of tried and true therapies and treatment methods available for people in active addiction, but it’s important to realize the same combination doesn’t (and won’t) work for everyone.

However, having the correct background knowledge plays a huge role in determining whether a patient can achieve sobriety or not.

As a chronic brain disease, addiction can be identified through compulsive substance use and abuse in spite of the negative drawbacks. While knowing what addiction actually is can give some insight into treating your addiction, the first step in actually recovering is finding the root of your problem.

What drew someone to follow the path of substance abuse? Understanding those triggers, if you will, is critical. Upon locating the underlying reason for addiction, you might just be able to gain better clarity and move forward with effective treatment. Without pulling it out from the roots, your addiction will grow back, similar to a garden weed.

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Causes of Addiction

The reason why people do drugs despite the negative side effects sounds simple at first: happiness. Substances such as alcohol and illegal narcotics make people feel good, and thus they get addicted, right? Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Pleasure is the motivation for everyone, whether it is working a job to get paid or buying yourself new things to simply eating a bowl of ice cream. If pleasure is so often sought after, why is taking drugs bad if it makes you happy?

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The sensation of pleasure is caused by the release of dopamine into the brain, which rewards the person with feelings of happiness. Because of this, the brain begins to seek other dopamine-releasing activities. Your brain begins to associate certain activities or substances with happiness, and, eventually, habits form.

In a normal-functioning brain, the dopamine released into the brain is reabsorbed and the dopamine levels in the brain return to normal. Yet, when abusing a drug, the chemical function of the brain changes to accommodate the unnaturally high levels of dopamine that are released.

The extreme surge of dopamine is too much for the brain to absorb, so the dopamine is not recycled as it usually is. As the excess dopamine lingers, the brain begins to produce dopamine less and less and begins to depend on the dopamine that is produced from drug use instead of naturally. So, activities that were once fun and enjoyable, soon become dull and boring when compared to using drugs. 


At this point, simply not taking the drug causes discomfort, and the addict will begin to lose track of their drug intake.

It’s important to understand what addiction is and how it works. But, more critical is knowing the specific roots of your addiction. At what point do drugs begin to take over someone’s life, and what makes someone more susceptible to addiction than others?

While it is true that there are almost countless factors contributing to whether someone becomes addicted to a drug, the two main factors that have the most influence on a potential addict are environmental and biological factors.

Environmental Factors

Depending on the environment that someone is in, the probability of that person developing an addiction or dependency can vary from nearly impossible to almost guaranteed. The term “environmental factor” as relating to addiction refers to the different outside forces that a person is exposed to that may influence their risk of developing an addiction.

Potential addicts’ home and people that share the home with them are two environmental factors that can increase or decrease the chance of developing a substance abuse disorder. Studies have shown that those who are exposed to drugs or alcohol at a young age by family members are at a much higher risk of developing an addiction. The mind at a young age is very malleable, and if someone has a parent that has a substance addiction problem, they may view addiction as “normal” and acceptable.

School and work are two more environmental factors that can sway someone’s likelihood of developing an addiction. Especially during adolescence, the people that surround an individual during school and work can easily influence them. Failure at work or school and even a lack of people surrounding an individual can also put someone at risk for addiction, so making sure you are surrounding yourself with the right crowd is a powerful weapon in substance abuse prevention.


  • Biological Factors

    Currently, experts are studying models that contribute some factors of addiction development to biology. These models assert that brain development and functionality and genetics can play a vital role in determining whether someone is at a higher or lower risk of addiction.

    Although no genes have been specifically identified as “addiction probability” genes, there is no doubt that some genes can indirectly influence a person’s susceptibility. Take a look at alcohol addiction, for example. No gene single-handedly makes someone at a higher risk of developing alcoholism, but there are genes that we know of that can substantially reduce the effects of a hangover and can boost the enjoyable effects of alcohol. For obvious reasons, combining these two traits can make someone more prone to become addicted to alcohol.

    Risk Factors

    A risk factor is simply something that correlates with addiction rate. For example, someone born in a certain country may be more likely to become addicted, but their country of birth is not the reason they will become addicted.

    Regarding the development of a drug addiction, there are a few risk factors that are worth considering:


    Many mental health disorders directly correlate with the likelihood of developing an addiction. Depression, ADHD, ADD, PTSD, and personality disorders are common among addicts.


    Stimulants, opioids, and benzodiazepines are generally more addictive than other substances. Even though addiction is not guaranteed, the type of drug heavily influences whether or not a person becomes addicted.


    The lack of a parental figure, difficulty in family communication, and even a lack of motivation to engage in family bonding can increase someone’s likelihood of developing an addiction.

    Signs of Addiction

    While some substances may share common signs of addiction, it is important to remember that every case is different. By treating every addiction as one, someone can put themselves at great risk.

    All drugs are different, and the plethora of illicit substances that can be abused grows every day. Because of this, learning the noticeable signs of addiction to each type of drug can be the difference between a successful and failed recovery. For example, an alcoholic and someone addicted to Xanax may show similar long-term abuse signs, but there will be signs unique to each substance.

    The most commonly abused substances are alcohol, stimulants, depressants, and opioids, and each of them shows different signs of long-term abuse and addiction.


    Because the signs of alcohol addiction can include physical and mental symptoms, early detection of alcoholism can be much easier than other substance addictions. The physical symptoms of alcohol addiction can include:

    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Dizziness
    • Sweating
    • Blackouts
    • Slurred speech or problems with coordination

    The psychological side effects of alcohol addiction can include:

    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Restlessness and agitation
    • Loss of interest in previous hobbies or activities


    In the case of stimulant abuse disorders, the signs can be physical or behavioral. However, the physical side effects of stimulant addiction are unique and are usually more severe when compared to other substances, because stimulants, even when in short-term use, have extremely severe withdrawal symptoms and can easily alter the chemical functionality of the brain. The physical symptoms of stimulant addiction may include:

    • Extreme exhaustion
    • Fatigue
    • Severe weight loss
    • Short, shallow breathing
    • Stroke
    • Headaches
    • Seizure/loss of muscle control

    The psychological symptoms of stimulant addiction are:

    • Paranoia
    • Delusions
    • Severe anxiety
    • Depression
    • Suicidal thoughts


    When it comes to depressant abuse and addiction, the physical and behavioral symptoms are quite noticeable. Depressants have sedative properties, and they slow down a person’s central nervous system function. This results in noticeable behavioral and physical side effects. The physical symptoms of depressant addiction are:

    • Incoordination
    • Dizziness
    • Shallow breathing
    • Drowsiness

    The psychological symptoms of depressant addiction include:

    • Low attention span/difficulty concentrating
    • Poor decision making
    • Memory loss

    The memory loss aspect of psychological depressant addiction is in reference to the addict doing actions that they will not remember later on. It is almost identical to sleepwalking in the way that the user will randomly become conscious in the middle or after a bizarre action.


    With the ongoing epidemic, cases of opioid addiction have seen a steady climb in society today. The signs of an addiction to opioids range from physical to behavioral symptoms, and knowing what the symptoms are can easily aid in the early detection of addiction. The physical symptoms of depressant addiction are:

    • Weakened immune system
    • Gastric problems (ranging in severity from constipation to bowel perforation)
    • Shallow breathing
    • Liver damage (prevalent in cases that combine opioids with acetaminophen)

    The psychological signs of opioid addiction are:

    • Mood swings
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Irritability
    • Social isolation
    • Restlessness

    Addiction Treatment

    Drug addiction treatment is meant to help an addict not only end their addiction but also prevent future relapse and addiction. Relapse prevention in the future is an aspect of treatment that is commonly overlooked even though it is just as important as any other stage of treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse clearly states, in a research-based guide, that drug addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by occasional relapses. For this reason, addiction treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and constant attention and care.

    addiction treatment

    While all cases of addiction are viewed as unique, drug addiction treatment generally follows a certain path: medical detoxification, a treatment program (outpatient, inpatient, residential), and aftercare.

    Medical Detox

    As the first and arguably most important step in drug treatment, medical detoxification eliminates any toxins or leftover residue from previous abuse before continuing treatment. Detox is usually short, only lasting for around five to seven days, and is the starting point of treatment. Because it is the first stepping stone on the path to sobriety, it is consequently the most difficult for a majority of people that seek treatment.

    The overall success of a person’s addiction treatment depends largely on the success of medical detox, so ensuring that you receive the proper help and support you need during it is essential. For this reason, medical supervision is almost always suggested before engaging in detox. Treatment centers provide 24/7 support for patients in detox, and the patient’s withdrawal symptoms can be much easier to spot and combat.

    Despite the obvious benefits of engaging in professional medical detox, many addicts disregard or forget the more-than-likely withdrawal symptoms and attempt to self-detox at home by going “cold turkey.”

    Cold Turkey

    Going “cold turkey” refers to the immediate cessation of substance intake or abuse in an attempt at self-detoxing. By engaging in “cold turkey” detox, an individual can avoid the minor inconvenience of seeking professionally-supervised medical detox at a treatment center. Unfortunately, this “life tip” is not a tip at all, but rather misleading information. Not only are success rates in cold turkey detox alarmingly low, but withdrawal symptoms are much more intense and harder to treat.

    As evidenced by low success rates and severe withdrawal symptoms, there is no doubt that quitting cold turkey is dangerous. When it comes to almost any physically addictive drug, the act of quitting cold turkey is not only uncomfortable but also can be counterproductive in treating addiction. The sudden lack of an addictive substance in someone’s body can produce side effects that can cause death, so it is crucial that you seek professional detox.


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    Outpatient Programs

    Outpatient treatment programs are forms of treatment that involve a patient partaking in therapy at a recovery center, but have a stable environment to live in and thus don’t have to live on-site during treatment. Programs that are common as outpatient treatment include partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and a variety of others.

    Intensive Outpatient

    Intensive outpatient treatment is similar to inpatient treatment in the way that the patients are serviced and accommodated. Patients that participate in IOP meet about three to five days a week, for three hours a day. Intensive outpatient programs are generally tailored to work and school to best accommodate the patient.

    Most effective in treating people that have a stable living environment outside of treatment, IOP is generally the first level of treatment after detox.

    Partial Hospitalization

    The next step up from IOP includes partial hospitalization. Meeting from three to five days a week for four to six hours a day, partial hospitalization is more suited for patients that require constant medical surveillance and care. Think of it as a slightly less intensive detox, but without living on-site for treatment. It is meant generally for severe addictions, but also for those who can handle the responsibility of living off-site.

    Inpatient Programs

    Although medical detoxification technically counts as an inpatient program, the use of the term “inpatient treatment” seldom refers to detox and more commonly applies to post-detox treatment that involves a patient staying on-site during recovery. As a long-term approach to treatment, inpatient programs are some of the most effective ways to treat addiction.

    Regarding the subject of inpatient programs, there are two main types of treatment options. The first is called residential and is meant for less severe addictions. The second, more intensive and urgent treatment option is called intensive inpatient treatment.

    residential addiction treatment

    Residential Treatment

    Residential treatment is a common, yet, a unique method of treatment that explores the psychological reason for addiction rather than the physical reason. For example, many people think of marijuana addiction as “fake” and that it has no negative drawbacks. Although not physically addictive, marijuana abuse can develop into a psychological addiction. In this case and many others like it, a less intensive approach to treatment would be most beneficial, and residential treatment offers just that.

    In residential treatment, the resident will have access to 24-hour living support and supervision, and the patient must only partake in five hours of treatment per week. The main point of residential treatment is to explore the long-term psychological aspects of addiction and to find the underlying causes of addiction.

    Intensive Inpatient Treatment

    Similar to the 24-hour living support that is offered in residential treatment, intensive inpatient treatment offers 24-hour medical supervision and care, but more tailored towards severe addictions. With access to support groups and therapeutic sessions, a patient in an intensive inpatient program will live comfortably on-site and be treated with utmost care and precision.


    As mentioned before, addiction requires long-term care and attention even after inpatient or outpatient treatment. Aftercare should follow immediately after a treatment program and works best right after a short, intensive treatment such as partial hospitalization or intensive inpatient treatment.

    Some outpatient treatment programs have been used and proven successful in aftercare and relapse prevention. After suffering from the common withdrawal symptoms associated with drug addiction treatment, the chances of relapse increase exponentially. To stay sober, aftercare is necessary and can significantly reduce the chances of future relapse and addiction





    Common Withdrawal Symptoms

    There are many withdrawal symptoms link to these drugs, and even though every case is different, there are a few common withdrawal symptoms that are apparent through all kinds of addiction treatments. These symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

    • Anxiety
    • Fatigue
    • Sweating
    • Vomiting
    • Depression
    • Nausea
    • Seizures
    • Hallucinations
    • Change in appetite
    • Insomnia

    Unique to alcohol withdrawal symptoms are Delirium tremens, or DTs for short. DTs are a collection of exponentially amplified withdrawal symptoms that can be associated with loss of muscle control, spasms, shivering, sweating, vivid hallucinations, extreme body temperatures, and sometimes-fatal seizures.

    Neglecting withdrawal symptoms can easily lead to relapse, but what exactly does it mean to relapse, and how can you prevent it?


    Knowing what relapse is, while it may sound silly, is actually the first step in relapse prevention. To simplify its definition, relapse occurs when someone uses a substance after a long period of abstinence. Many people view relapse as simply becoming addicted again but, while it may contribute to the development of another addiction, relapse can simply mean a slip-up (quick, short interval) or a binge (heavy use in a short amount of time).

    In any case, relapse does not always lead to another addiction. Many times, someone in recovery who relapses can easily get back on the right path. As a matter of fact, many medical professionals that will aid you in treatment centers refer to relapse as a chance to learn rather than a failure. Relapse can sometimes show an addict and those treating them the causes of addiction and why it may be so difficult to go sober.


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    The beginning stages of treatment are the most difficult, and relapse is most common in the beginning stages of treatment, accounting for 66 percent to 80 percent of relapses. Because of this, early detection plays a huge role in relapse prevention. Once an addiction is detected and identified, it is imperative that a patient devise a relapse prevention plan as soon as possible.

    Causes of Relapse

    To best fight the chance of relapse, we created a list of helpful tips you or anyone suffering from addiction may use. We understand that relapse happens, and sometimes it can seem like an impossible roadblock to overcome. There are a few simple but extremely effective tips worth considering when you are in treatment and at risk of relapse:

    • Mental or emotional health problems such as anxiety, depression, and any negative emotions are often high-risk triggers for relapse. In some cases, even boredom can push someone to relapse.
    • A factor that might trigger intense cravings and commonly leads to relapse is simply seeing or being around the substance that you went to treatment for. For example, if you went to addiction treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder, seeing alcohol is likely to bring cravings, in turn causing relapse.
    • Although many reasons for relapsing have negative connotations, many positive situations and celebratory events like parties and concerts can encourage relapse. Being exposed to a substance in such an adrenaline-filled event can easily bring unhealthy decisions, relapse being one of them. It is best to avoid these events altogether or to bring a trusted friend who can advise against your possibly addiction-inducing decision.

    When it comes to avoiding relapse, it is crucial to seek professional help when noticing the early signs and causes of relapse before it happens.

    If You Or Someone You Know Suffers From Addiction

    Here at Arete Recovery, we know how difficult it can be to treat addiction. That’s why we want to extend our hands to you and help you or anyone you may know that suffers from substance addiction.

    Our team of licensed medical experts is willing and ready to lead you down the path to sobriety. As soon as you step foot in our treatment center, our doctors, nurses, and therapists create a treatment plan that works for you. 

    If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction or abuse, Arete Recovery is here to provide the help and resources that someone may need while they follow the path to sobriety. Our addiction specialists are on-call 24/7, so call now at (855) 781-9939 to get connected to the help you need, or contact us online.