Drug addiction is a complicated disease, and addictive drugs and substances can alter the chemistry of the brain and the impacts of these changes can be lasting. Although quitting is not easy, reaching out for help and trying supports that are available can help with recovery. Drug addiction can be successfully treated. People who were once addicted can recover and live full, happy and healthy lives.
As with any disease, addiction has common signs and symptoms. A person struggling with a drug addiction may have one or more of these characteristics:
- Experiences difficulty saying 'no' when someone offers drugs
- Becomes more involved with others who use drugs
- Abandon their relationships with important people such as family and friends
- Uses drugs to cope with fear, anger, depression, sadness, and other issues
- Experiences problems and possible violence in relationships as a result of being intoxicated
- Builds up a tolerance to the substance or has to take more and more to get the same effect
- Has withdrawal symptoms or discomfort when they stop using
- Spends a lot of time thinking about and doing things to try to get more drugs
- Spends more on drugs, no matter what other expenses they may have
- Thinks about drugs all the time and next 'high'
- Keeps using drugs even though they know using drugs causes big problems in their life and the lives of people they care about
Some people may choose to use illegal drugs. Common examples of some illegal drugs include street drugs such as crack, cocaine, heroin, meth (methamphetamine), and ecstasy. These drugs are not regulated and may contain unknown and potentially harmful contents. There are criminal penalties for possessing, selling or using any of these drugs.
If left untreated, drug addiction may have negative effects on personal health and wellbeing.
These may include:
- Financial problems
- Distant relationships due to destructive or violent behaviours
- Missed school or work
- Criminal charges or time in jail
- Being unable to meet the physical and emotional needs of family members
- Serious illness or early death
It is not possible to know exactly what causes addiction. From what we know, genetics, environment, underlying mental health issues, and difficulty coping with thoughts and feelings may all play a role in the development of addiction.
Help and support for addiction
The department of health offers community, regional, and out-of-territory services to help diagnose and treat people with alcohol abuse or addiction problems.
If you or someone you know might have an addiction problem, talk to a nurse or doctor at your community health centre. You can also talk to you local social worker or wellness counsellor.
You can also call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line for more support at (867) 979-3333 or toll free at (800)265-3333.
In Nunavut, there are also self-help groups that can help if you have an addiction or have a friend or family member with an addiction. Talk to your local health centre to find out what self-help groups are available in our community. Some common groups include:
- Alcoholic Anonymous is a group for people who want to stop drinking or want support after they have quit drinking.
For more information: www.aacanada.com
- Al-Anon is a group for families and friends of alcoholics.
For more information: al-anon.org