Drug addiction and abuse: The facts and treatment methods

26.06.2020 - Addiction, Articles

Drug addiction or substance abuse is the act of uncontrollably using drugs regardless of the harm it is doing to yourself or those around you.

If you or someone you know uses drugs to feel normal, or beyond the point of it doing them harm, they may have an addiction problem. In 2017, 8.5 million American adults suffered from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, commonly known as a ‘dual-diagnosis’. This statistic is clear evidence that drug use does more than just physical harm to the body through its dependence, but also long-term mental health damage.

In this article, you will see the effects of drug abuse and how to overcome it.

What are drug addictions and drug abuse?

Drug addiction is the consistent and compulsive use of illegal or illicit drugs to generate a positive feeling. Drug and substance abuse is the use of drugs in amounts or methods that are harmful to the individual and those around them. Drug abuse and addiction are both a substance-related disorder. These disorders are often displayed simultaneously, as the addiction commonly leads to abuse of body, mind, and others around the sufferer.

It is important to remember that drug addiction is a brain disorder, where short-term satisfaction takes precedent over long-term good. When looking at it this way, we start to see that, regardless of how heavy the problem is, it can be treated.

Drug addiction risk factors

Drug addiction and abuse can affect anyone, from any walk of life, from any socio-economic background. Genetics may be responsible for between 40 and 60 per cent of individuals‘ susceptibility to become addicted to a substance.

Access to ‘entry-level’ drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol earlier in life also increases the chances of an individual becoming addicted to harder substances later in life. Societal factors, such as peer pressure, boredom and lack of stimulation also factors that may lead to some form of drug addiction.

Drug addiction leads to exposure to other risks, such as:

  • Exposure to trauma
  • Violence and physical abuse
  • Mental health disorders
    • Anxiety & depression
    • Eating disorders
    • Personality disorders
  • Sexual or emotional abuse
  • Reproductive complications
  • Compromised physical and mental development in adolescents

Addiction and crime are also heavily correlated. Long-term and even short-term drug abuse is directly related to an increased chance of being incarcerated.

Signs of drug addiction

Recognising addiction in yourself or someone you care about is the first step to recovery. However, signs of drug addiction can vary, depending on the person, the type of substance, and how often it’s used.


Denial of a problem is the refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation and is often a defence mechanism. Denial also explains why addictive drug use continues in the face of negative consequences.

Anxious about access to the drug

At any given moment, those showing signs of addiction may become anxious or irritable if access to the drug is restricted.

Being secretive

As drug addiction is considered shameful and a sign of weakness in many cultures, those with drug addiction disorder are often overly secretive about their lives, not just their addiction or drug habits.

Changes in personality or attitude

Being irritable, short-tempered, and generally being withdrawn are also signs that an individual may be suffering from an addiction or abuse problem.

Those struggling with addiction often show physical signs in the form of specific behaviours and physical

  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Unusual body odours
  • Lack of physical coordination

Drug abuse effects on the family

Having a person with a drug abuse problem in the family is just as traumatic as it being a cancer patient. Many family members react to addiction depending on their own age, the age of the sufferer, the substance and many other factors.

Addiction, in most cases, leads to strained relationships within the group. Negativity, disappointment and anger at the addicted are typical due to the dependence and abuse possibly tarnishing the family name. This then leads to resentment, criticisms and blaming others. From here, more stress, pessimism and a sense of hopelessness are commonplace for everyone involved.

That’s why close family members must support those with an addiction.

Family therapy

Addiction doesn’t only harm the person with the addiction; it damages the whole family. Many people suffering from addiction have deep-rooted problems in their childhood or upbringing. Physical abuse, witnessing the substance abuse of parents, or not feeling cared for or important are just some factors early in a person’s life that give them a predisposition to drugs later in life.

Family therapy focuses on solving those problems in the presence of the entire group. Ultimately, the goal of family therapy is to remove the need for the sufferer to resort to drugs to fill a void in their life.

Family therapy uses members to help solve problems between individuals and bring closeness and support between all. In short, family therapists see problems as being between people, not within people. In the short-term, family therapy may add to the family’s stress due to the initial drug addiction but, in the long run, it can foster growth for everyone. Furthermore, when the entire family has gone through therapy, the person with the addiction is less likely to relapse and go back to their addictive behaviour, as they have the support of the entire group.

5 steps to start getting off drugs

Reducing and quitting drugs can be challenging, as the body and mind have physically and mentally built up a dependency on the substance. Here are 5 tips to help anyone with a drug addiction problem take the first step:

  1. Create a list of pros and cons
    Having a hand-written list of the pros and cons can help remind you why you want to take this step. Pros may include being able to manage your mental health more, a better memory and simply looking better, while the cons may include some withdrawal effects.
  2. Tell your friends and family
    Those that are close to you and know of your habits can keep you accountable. By telling them that you’re taking steps to give up, they’ll be able to support you should you need it, and also help you stay focussed and remind you why you’re quitting.
  3. Set measurable goals
    Quantifiable and measurable goals help you break the process of quitting drugs into smaller steps that are quicker to achieve and ensure you are motivated to keep going.
  4. Be willing to walk away from triggers
    If being in certain places or in the company of certain people makes you more likely to use drugs, put yourself in these positions less, and be prepared to walk away from them without explaining to others why you’ve done so.
  5. Get creative!
    Using the creative part of your brain can help you deal with withdrawal by giving it something else to focus on. Paint, write, sculpt and build a passion between creative expression and your new sobriety.

How does the drug rehab process look?

The rehabilitation process varies from person to person. Biology, genetics, and the social environment of the individual influences the addiction. This explains why some people are able to give up hard substances ‘cold turkey’, while most other people experience withdrawal, relapse and other struggles.

Relapse rates for substance abuse are generally between 40-60%, while relapse rates for hypertension and asthma are between 50-70%. Therefore, if we look at substance abuse as a chronic illness, we see that relapse rates are quite similar.

Drug addiction therapies take on two forms. One form treats the body’s physical addiction to the drug and is usually used at the very start to begin detox. Generally, this stops the body’s physical desire to want the substance, thus making it easier to work on the second form of therapy; behavioural therapies for the mind.

Behavioural therapy helps modify and change an individual’s attitude toward drugs. The overall result is that when in a stressful situation or faced with triggers, the individual is prepared to manage the situation without relapsing.

Cognitive behavioural therapy, Twelve-step facilitation (TFS), hypnotherapy and psychology can also enhance the effect of medication for drug addiction.

Quitting drugs is just one step of a long and challenging recovery process. When people first enter rehabilitation, they’re often in the process of facing the consequences of their addiction. Professionals and expert support surround them, and at this point, are the least likely to relapse.

However, as addiction affects so many facets of a person’s life, effective treatment and strategies need to be implemented and used on a daily to day basis for the individual. A combination of therapies, medication and our Continuing Care Programme are the factors that make The Kusnacht Practice’s approach to drug rehabilitation so effective.

Drug rehabilitation at The Kusnacht Practice

At The Kusnacht Practice, your stay will involve daily sessions of therapies that are best suited to your individual addiction and the therapies that you as a person respond best to.

The experts at The Kusnacht Practice are the most experienced and qualified professionals in the field of drug abuse. Drug addiction treatment at The Kusnacht Practice aims at halting a person’s substance use as soon as possible, as safely as possible.

After this, other aspects of the treatment begin. This is a holistic approach that means treating the mind, the body and the soul by looking at the whole person, not the problem. Tailor-made for each individual and focussed on their specific addition, treatment at The Kusnacht Practice fixes the underlying causes. This is undertaken with the goal of removing the need for the addiction, and therefore decreasing the chances of relapse in the future.

“We have a holistic approach to addiction treatment at The Kusnacht Practice. This means treating the mind, the body, the soul – the whole person, not just the addiction.”

— Dean Gustar, Senior Clinical Operations Manager at The Kusnacht Practice

Your recovery at The Kusnacht Practice continues after you leave Zürich. Continuing Care Programme is designed around your unique needs of your rehabilitation and the social context of your day to day life. This ensures that you successfully reintegrate into your original environment and use the coping strategies during your stay.

Contact us for help if you or someone you know needs it

If you’ve found yourself or someone you know in a position where drugs are harming their life, reach out and ask for help. Dealing with drug addiction is hard and recognising the need for assistance is the first step towards improving your life.