According to the
American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a complex condition—a brain disease manifested by
compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with a
substance use disorder or addiction often have an intense focus on using a particular substance to the point
where it takes over their lives. Even if substance use causes problems
in their lives, they may continue to use it.
This is because the substance is causing distorted thinking, behavior,
or body functions. Changes in the brain cause people to have intense cravings
for the substance and make it hard to stop using it. These changes can
impact their judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavior
control. Substance use and disorder can cause harmful changes in how the
brain functions and can last long after the intoxication of the drug has worn off.
People can develop substance use and addiction to:
- PCP, LSD, and other hallucinogens
- Inhalants like paint thinners and glue
- Opioid pain killers like codeine and oxycodone
- Sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics, including medicines for anxiety
- Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants
There are many reasons that cause people to use and become addicted to
substances. These include a variety of factors like environmental, trauma,
hereditary, and legitimate needs for a drug to treat a condition that
leads to use for other non-related reasons; sometimes, it is a combination
of these factors or not even identifiable. They may experience feelings
of pleasure or stress relief, improved performance, have a curiosity to
try the substance, or experience peer pressure from others.
Symptoms of substance use and addiction are often grouped into four categories:
Impaired control—a craving or strong urge to use the substance, which may include
a desire or failed attempts to cut back or control use
Social problems—a failure to complete major tasks at work, school, or home; social,
work, or leisurely activities are given up or cut back because of substance use
Risky use—substance is used in risky settings, and there is continued use
despite known problems
Drug effects—tolerance or the need for larger amounts of the substance to get
the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms
Visible symptoms of substance use may include:
- Abnormal pupil size
- Agitation and irritability
- Drastic changes in behavior
- Difficulty breathing
- Drowsiness or unconsciousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Staggering or unsteady gait
- Sweating or extremely dry, hot skin
Symptoms of withdrawal from substance use or addiction may include:
- Abdominal cramping or pain
- Cold sweat
- Nausea and vomiting
Often, people with
substance use disorders and addiction are aware of the problem but are unable to stop it. Some people experience both
mental illness and addiction. The mental illness may be present before the substance
use, or the addiction may trigger it and/or make it worse.
Depending on your needs, treatment for substance use disorders and addiction
inpatient visits, peer support groups, religious or spiritual support groups, detox, rehabilitation, and more.
If you or a loved one needs help for substance use and addiction, there
are a few things you can do:
Do NOT jeopardize your safety—call for professional assistance if you need it.
- Do NOT try to reason with someone on drugs or expect them to behave reasonably.
- Do NOT offer your opinions when giving help.
- Call 2-1-1 Maryland or 9-1-1 if you or a loved one is in immediate danger,
threatening to hurt yourself or others, or is unresponsive after using
Help them find a provider by calling the
Frederick County Health Department’s Referral and Assessment Unit at 301-600-1775.
COVID-19 and Substance Use/Addiction
As people across the world contend with
Frederick Health is aware that some people with substance use disorders and addiction may
be hit particularly hard. Not only can the virus be an especially serious
threat to those who
vape, or use opioids and methamphetamine, but individuals with a substance
use disorder are more likely to experience homelessness or incarceration,
have decreased access to healthcare, and are more susceptible to the current
health threat of COVID-19.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorders or addiction
or in recovery and need additional resources during the COVID-19 pandemic,
please visit the
National Institute on Drug Abuse or
contact Frederick Health immediately. You may also
visit the Resources section of our website.