Initially the attraction is euphoria taking a mini vacation. Someone once told me getting high is like God putting a warm blanket around you and rubbing your temples telling you everything will be alright. This is a powerful draw. The mini vacation to escape life’s hardships becomes more frequent and all encompassing. Physically the body comes addicted. Psychologically the individual needs the drug to maintain emotional stability and to cope with life’s stress. Individuals with addicted family members are at an unfair disadvantage. Once they get a taste of euphoria from a drug, their bodies crave more drugs. Something is different with this group, they are genetically built to use excessively. Their bodies experience powerful cravings to use addicting drugs and keep using them. Their favorite word is more. Genetic predisposition is one unlucky factor. Another unlucky factor in making someone drug dependent, is being raised and living around drug dependent people. So, there are two forces at work, one is a genetic predisposition to use, another is a learned behavior.

That’s just the start. Once the psyche experiences the high, the escape, and a free ride from life’s problems; new forces take over. The individual goes undercover and must now conceal their activities. They have to make some time to get drugs and to do the drugs. They have to start explaining to others lost blocks of time, money, energy, and different thoughts and behaviors surface. By thoughts I mean all the using and getting drugs takes a lot of planning, manipulating and lying. They need to form a group of people who each contribute something to getting drugs, a place to use them and help with the cover story to disguise what’s really going on.

The getting and using is one thing now an individual must cover up the physical and psychological effects of using drugs and that is not so easy. Marijuana smokers would need to get the smell off of themselves, clear their eyes and not act paranoid. Alcoholics need to get the alcohol smell off their breath and stand up without leaning, staggering and talking without slurring. Opiate addicts need to somehow get rid of the pinpoint pupils and stop from nodding out. Xanax dependent individuals need to prevent themselves from falling over, slurring words, and losing track of conversations and time

In addition whenever they are high, they must try to interact with family members, significant others, lovers, employers, etc. This task is so difficult it requires a large amount of mental energy and can’t be done for very long. The cover up stresses the individual to the point they just crash. They either have to runaway, get put in jail, or hospitalized.

Even if this doesn’t happen and it usually does, the addict has lied, cheated, stolen, betrayed, and manipulated everyone important in their life. They have isolated themselves from others and their own moral code. Their self-esteem is very low, and they have very little regard for themselves and their safety.

The stress of maintaining this lifestyle and coping with all the anger towards them and other emotions just makes them want to use more. Their teeth, cleanliness, skin, the whole body all suffers. Everything starts to rot. I can’t even describe it any other way. Their teeth rot, their skin has a grey complexion; they have ulcers, sores, and severe acne. Their clothes are worn dirty, and they have bad hygiene. Their appearance is a reflection of their internal thought process. They feel like they are nothing. Being nothing means you have nothing to take care of. All that matters is drugs and getting high: so they get high. That’s what they value: nothing else matters. It’s just about the drugs. “Give me drugs!” is what they are thinking. They may act young, cute, innocent, charming, charismatic, friendly, seductive, needy, heroic, and altruistic. But don’t be fooled, it’s just about getting the drugs and getting high.

Towards the end they can’t act or pretend anymore. They steal, prostitute, rob or do other crimes. They do whatever they can to get what they need. Don’t look too deep into an addict psyche, because it’s all about getting drugs to them. It doesn’t matter who they hurt. Pete B. a chemical dependency counselor of 40 years once told me, “If they are using drugs, when their lips are moving, they are lying. They are lying to get their drugs.”

Twenty years and this is what I’ve learned. People always want to figure out why they are addicted, as if insight will get them out of the addiction. Focusing on the positive behaviors and thoughts necessary to combat the addiction is the way out of this mess. This will allow the complexity of personalities drives emotions, capabilities, and talents to emerge.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Agresti and Associates in West Palm Beach, Florida is a multi-disciplinary addictions and psychiatric practice made up of caring professionals who strive to provide to quality service based on the individual needs of our patients. Our practice focuses on the treatment of mental illness, addictions, dual diagnosis and outpatient detoxification from drugs and alcohol. ~ (561) 842.9550