Do you, or someone you love, find that you are suddenly struggling with a drug addiction problem? There used to be a myth in our society that those facing addiction were only found in certain segments of the population. They were the ones living on the streets or in shelters. They were, somehow, different than and segregated from the rest of us.

However, if there is one thing that we’ve learned through the course of studying substance addiction, it is that no one is immune. Habitual drug abuse can be found in every stratum of our society. And these days the danger of forming an addiction is greater than ever because now there are so many pathways to addiction.

But whether your substance abuse is the result of a lifestyle where drugs are just an accepted part, or if you became addicted from trying to cope with pain resulting from a medical condition, it is important that you realize that help is out there. It is also important to understand that there are a number of treatments specifically designed to deal with the various types of addictions you may be facing.

The Top 5

Methamphetamine

Meth is at the top of the list for use in Sacramento. One of the biggest reasons is that there is a thriving meth manufacturing business in the area. Just to illustrate this point, it was reported in 2016 that 40% of those arrested in Sacramento tested positive for meth.

The drug acts as a stimulant to create feelings of pleasure, increase energy and elevate mood. Most of these effects are believed to be a result of meth’s ability to cause the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is important to understand that there is a physical component that is driving the addictive behavior.

The major issue with methamphetamine use is that it is such a powerfully addictive substance. And this tendency for the drug to quickly become habit-forming also exacerbates its damaging aspects. Users become so consumed by it that severe physical debilitation occurs over just a very short period of time.

Just looking at possible long-term effects of meth addiction can be startling:

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Psychosis: Paranoia and hallucination

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Repetitive motor activity

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Changes in brain structure and function

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Memory loss

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Mood disturbances

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Severe dental problems

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Weight loss

It is nearly impossible to overcome a methamphetamine addiction without professional treatment and counseling. If you, or a loved one, are struggling with a meth habit, it is critical to seek help as soon as you can to minimize this damage.

Cannabis

In recent years, cannabis has rivaled methamphetamine as the most common problem for those seeking treatment in Sacramento. As with meth, where manufacturing labs are numerous, Marijuana growing is also very popular in the area. It was reported in 2016 that 53% of all people arrested in Sacramento tested positive for cannabis.

Although physical addiction to cannabis is not as problematic as with other drugs, it can still be a debilitating drug and one that leads to psychological dependence. In fact, one of the hidden dangers of marijuana is that users operate under the assumption that they cannot become addicted. It is, therefore, is a “safe” substance to use recreationally without concern for side effects.

However, it is estimated that about 9% of those who use marijuana end up becoming abusers. It also should be noted that the strains of marijuana that are available on the streets now can be much, much more potent than what was found in previous decades. The high itself tends to be more debilitating.

If you find that you need to smoke pot to function in day-to-day settings, this is a warning sign that your cannabis use is going beyond just social consumption, and may be a form of addiction. Talking to a professional in addiction treatment can offer some important insights into the dangers of overconsumption.

Opioid addiction

Sacramento ER’s have reported a sharp rise in the rate of overdoses due to opioids and other painkillers over the past few years. There are many reasons for this, but amongst the most disturbing is the fact that many of those having overdoses are doing so on medication that was prescribed.

Patients misusing opioids over the course a medical treatment is only part of the problem. The overprescribing of opioid painkillers by doctors is an alarming trend as well. Often times, patients will have a procedure—surgery, for example—and when their rehabilitation is complete, they are unable to effectively wean themselves from the opioids.

Added to the problem of prescription abuse is the street traffic of opioids. This is a black market that has been in existence for many years but has grown significantly over the past two decades. Part of the reason dealers like opioids so much is the fact that they are so extremely addictive. Like meth, opioids become habit-forming very quickly and generally require professional treatment in the course of recovery.

Some critical signs of opioid abuse:

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Poor coordination

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Drowsiness

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Shallow or slow breathing rate

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Nausea, vomiting

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Constipation

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Physical agitation

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Poor decision making

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Abandoning responsibilities

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Slurred speech

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Sleeping more or less than normal

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Mood swings

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Euphoria

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Irritability

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Depression

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Lowered motivation

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Anxiety attacks

Cocaine

Cocaine is similar to meth in that it acts by stimulating an increase in the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Also like meth, the physical addiction to it can be quite severe.

In recent years, cocaine has diminished as a drug of choice, due to the rising use of methamphetamines, opioids, and cannabis. Unlike these other drugs, which are generally produced locally, cocaine is typically trafficked in from Mexico into the Sacramento area. This cost of shipping often makes cocaine a more expensive option, although it can be cut with cheaper ingredients to make the freebase form that is popular on the streets. In spite of any declining popularity, however, cocaine is still widely used and can become a very serious problem for those who do use it.

Chronic users are likely to experience serious health risks due to cocaine. Changes in heart rhythm and heart attack are possible. So are seizure and stroke. Other reported problems include loss of smell, persistent runny nose, nosebleeds, hoarseness and destruction of the nasal septum (from snorting).

Death resulting from cocaine abuse can occur either directly or indirectly. Heart attacks are a risk, as are seizures in which the sufferer stops breathing. If the drug is being injected, there is also a chance of contracting fatal infectious diseases.

Heroin

Figures from 2013 showed that California hospitals treated more than 11,500 patients suffering from heroin or opioid overdose. That averages out to around one every 45 seconds. It is also an increase of 50% from 2006. And unfortunately, the rate in Sacramento County was higher than throughout the rest of California.

As pill forms of opioid addiction have increased, so too has heroin use in recent decades. Just like other forms of opioids, heroin addiction is severe and life-consuming. Further, the difficulties associated with withdrawal symptoms can make the process extremely challenging. Severe depression and suicidal behavior are not uncommon.

Any use of heroin on a regular or semi-regular basis represents a pathway to addiction. If you suspect that a loved one is using, there are numerous signs that you can look for, both in terms of paraphernalia and in physical appearance.

Some typical paraphernalia

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Burnt spoons

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Tiny baggies

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Residues that are powdery (tan, whitish), or dark and sticky

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Small glass pipes

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Syringes

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Rubber tubing

Physical traits associated with heroin use

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Tiny pupils

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Sleepy eyes

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Nodding off at inappropriate times

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Slow breathing

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Flushed skin

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Runny nose

If the addiction has been prolonged and the user is in poor health, heroin withdrawal can sometimes be fatal. It is imperative that you, or your loved one, seek professional assistance before starting any process of trying to kick a heroin habit.

Fatalities Involving Substance Abuse

The negative consequences associated with drug abuse and drug addiction cannot be understated. Overdose may be the first risk that comes to mind for many, and that is certainly a problem of epidemic proportions. But there are also many others negative consequences, some of which you may not have considered.

To begin with overdoses, however, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that from 2002 to 2015, drug overdoses resulting in death nationwide saw a 2.2-fold increase. In 2002, there were 20,000, and in 2015, there were over 50,000.

As you can see from the chart below, there is a particularly sharp increase in the year 2015, especially for male users.

overdose death rates

(https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates)

To put this in perspective, we need to also examine the chart below. It shows deaths to due to opioid overdose alone. As you can see, opioids account for nearly 35,000 of the 55,000 deaths in 2015. Put another way, if we take opioids out of the picture, then there is essentially no increase in overdose deaths between 2002 and 2015. This shows the true magnitude of the opioid problem in the U.S.

overdose death rates

(https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates)

Driving while intoxicated is another grave danger associated with drug abuse. It is well known that drug and alcohol use affects both impulse and motor control, which makes impaired driving doubly dangerous for both the intoxicated driver, as well as others on the roads.

A study by the NHTSA found that 18% of those killed in car crashes tested positive for at least one drug (not including alcohol). The study did not take into account, however, how many crashes in general involved drugs, nor those killed in accidents where the other driver was under the influence.

There are many other fatality risks associated with drug use as well. Accidents at the workplace due to intoxication are a common hazard. The drug trade itself is one marked by violence, and it is a lifestyle that users can often get caught up in. Also, drug users, particularly those using stimulants such as methamphetamine, tend to have a higher propensity toward violent behavior, posing a danger to themselves and others.

The idea that drug use is only a danger if you continue using heavily over an extended period of time is a fallacy that many users fall into. The fact is, whenever you are abusing an intoxicating substance, you are putting yourself at risk of a possibly fatal accident or an overdose. With the regular use that comes with addiction the chances of one of these outcomes occurring increases dramatically.

It is critical that if you or a loved one are facing drug addiction, that you seek treatment. The risks for choosing not to enter a rehabilitation facility, or at least seek professional counseling, are simply too great.

Lost boy

Seeking Professional Help

Far too often addicts will lie to themselves that quitting is something that is within their own capability. Friends and family members too can fall into the trap of denial about the depth of their loved one’s addiction. In some cases, families seek to handle matters “privately,” as if admitting to an addiction problem is some source of shame.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Hiding an addiction problem may be a source of shame. However, admitting to it, confronting it head on and addressing it is a commendable act of courage. It is critical that family members and addicts alike do not allow something as foolish as pride to keep them from seeking the professional care that they need.

Today’s centers for detox and rehabilitation offer more choices than ever for addressing your addiction. As drug addiction has become a growing problem, more and more research has gone into finding effective treatments. There are also more support groups, whether it is a 12-step program or those with a different philosophy, available so that you can find a system for continued sobriety that best fits you.

Also, if you have struggled with addiction, or are close to someone who has, your input is invaluable to us. Please leave your comments, share your stories, and provide your insights. What you say may prove to be the real motivation that begins someone else on a journey to becoming addiction free.

Why live even one minute longer trapped in the damaging cycle of addiction? Taking back control of your life can begin with something as simple as picking up the telephone. There are so many people in your life and within the professional community who are ready to help, so why not do it now!