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The 9 types of drug addiction and their characteristics

The 9 types of drug addiction and their characteristics

March 25, 2023

The consumption of substances with psychoactive properties , specifically of various types of drugs, is a very common phenomenon in today's society. Both in the case of legal and illegal substances, it is relatively easy to access them despite the serious danger that many of them pose.

The consumption of these substances tends to cause different effects in the organism, causing from inhibition and sedation to extreme excitement passing through hallucinations and other perceptive phenomena. Due to the effects they cause, and sometimes to other factors such as psychological reactivity to its prohibition or the fact that its consumption is socially accepted, many people go on to consume it more and more frequently.

Over time, the subject acquires tolerance to the substance in question, needing more and more quantity to achieve the same effects, and achieving a dependence on the drug. Due to the high prevalence of substance use and dependence, It is essential to know the different types of drug addiction and the addictive process , which are explained in this article.

What is a drug and what is dependence?

We consider a drug to any substance that before its administration in the body is capable of altering any of the functions of the subject. Generally they provoke pleasant sensations in those who consume them, being able to cause effects and permanent damages in the nervous system and being able to produce tolerance or physical and / or psychic habituation to this and situations of dependence and abstinence before the cessation of consumption.

To consider that a drug generates dependence it is necessary that the subject present at least tolerance to the substance, abstinence before the cessation of its consumption, lack of control in its use, damage in vital areas due to the consumption or to the time dedicated to obtain it and the continuation of the consumption despite knowing its adverse effects. Dependence can lead to abusive consumption that can cause intoxication, and in the absence of substance can lead to withdrawal syndromes. All this can have serious effects both on the functioning and on the patient's own health, which can lead to death.

1. Types of drug dependence according to the type of substance used

There are many types of drugs and psychoactive substances, most used as a therapeutic tool in the medical field . However, a part of the population uses some of these substances recreationally, despite the danger they can pose to health.

Although there are many possible classifications, it can be considered that the addictive substances can be divided into three large groups depending on the type of effects they have on the nervous system. Therefore, these three types of substances can create three types of drug addiction.

1. 1. Psycholeptics or depressants

These substances are characterized by producing a depression of the nervous system, ie by causing a decrease in the level of activation in the brain. Conductually this is translated by sensations of calm and physical and mental relaxation, slowness, tranquility, diminished level of consciousness. In this group we find alcohol, opium and its derivatives (codeine, heroin and morphine), tranquilizing drugs (mainly barbiturates and benzodiazepines) and volatile or inhaled substances, such as glue.

The dependence to this type of substances is characterized by the search for tranquility or relaxation of certain functions , or may even be due to social effects (alcohol facilitates disinhibition in some people by decreasing the functioning of the frontal lobe and inhibiting inhibition).

1. 2. Psychoanalytics or excitators

This type of substances are characterized by producing an increase in the activation of the nervous system , producing changes in behavior such as increased excitability, motor activation, distraction and increased level of consciousness. Within this typology of substances are cocaine, amphetamines, xanthines (among which we find substances such as coffee, tea and chocolate, although their effects are comparatively lower than those of the rest) and nicotine.

Subjects addicted to this type of substance seek an increase in activity and sensations, as well as an increase in energy.

1. 3. Psychodisleptics or disturbing

This third group of substances is characterized by modifying the activity of the nervous system, can produce activation or inhibition and especially affecting the perception . It is common for them to produce perceptive deceptions such as hallucinations and delusions. The most known components of this type of substance are cannabis and hallucinogens, along with other elements such as phencyclidine (initially used as anesthesia in surgery).

People who consume these substances usually go in search of new perceptual experiences and hallucinatory phenomena, or of an increase or decrease in activation (for example, cannabis is characterized by analgesic and relaxing effects).

2. Types of drug addiction according to the type of dependence

Regardless of the type of drug consumed, the psychoactive substances act in the organism and with time this becomes accustomed to its presence , just as the consuming subject becomes accustomed and ends up needing the effects that the substance has on him. This consumption causes the nervous system to start functioning in a different way, adapting its activity to the expectation that each time it will consume more.

In this sense we can find that a substance can cause two types of dependence, physically and psychically.

2. 1. Physical dependence

This type of dependence always occurs in conjunction with psychic dependence . The physical dependence comes from the habituation of the organism to the presence of the substance, requiring it to maintain the habitual functioning to which the body has become accustomed and producing its absence physical alterations such as gastrointestinal alterations, convulsions, vomiting or headaches.

It is the type of dependence that can cause death in abstinence processes, being necessary to avoid that the cessation of consumption occurs gradually and controlled.

2. 2. Psychic dependence

Psychic dependence is an element of drug addiction that it influences the incessant search for consumption due to the need to maintain the state achieved with the consumption of the substance and avoid the adverse effects of the homeostatic process once its effects have passed. It is a type of addiction mediated by expectations and custom.

For example, substances such as cannabis can generate a high psychic dependence, since many are associated with a group of friends, an activity to be carried out in free time and even a public image that one wants to give.

3. The process of addiction and dependence

Taking into account the type of consumption, can be considered the existence of three phases in the addiction process . Although it is debatable that all of them are considerable types of drug dependence, they have common characteristics and involve a process that can lead to a real dependence on substances. It is important to detect the first signs of dependence on the drug to prevent worse problems in the future.

3. 1. Occasional consumption

We consider occasional consumption the administration of a substance in particular situations not very common, in a context in which there is not a very prolonged consumption in time nor is it presented craving or compulsive desire for consumption. This phase is not generally considered as drug addiction because the individual does not present a continuous dependence on a substance or usually seek it with anxiety.

However, it can be considered as a type of drug addiction if it is abusive when the consumption is made and if in spite of not being very frequent this consumption is repeated in time and when it occurs it can generate lack of control. For example, Epsilon-type alcoholics are characterized by excessive drunkenness and behavioral problems, although their consumption is not usual.

3. 2. Situations of substance abuse

With the passage of time, the consumption of substances can lead to situations of abuse of these , in which the taking of the substance is done more and more often and in situations of various kinds, having tolerance and wishing to consume it.

In spite of this, the desire for consumption is not yet present at an uncontrolled and compulsive level, being able to pass without its presence. It is not considered yet dependence, but if it is not controlled it can become it.

3. 3. Situation of drug addiction

The last phase of the addictive process, in people with drug addiction, the use of the drug is compulsive, presenting abstinence in his absence and losing much of the control of his consumption , causing a clear damage in areas such as labor, social or academic.

4. According to the number of substances of which one is a drug addict

All these classifications take into account drug addiction based on various criteria such as the phases of dependence, the type of substance or the type of dependence they generate, but there is one more element to take into account.

And is that it is possible that the situation of drug addiction occurs before a single substance , but it has also been observed that in some cases the same subject can become addicted to more than one type of substance, accumulating the effects of addiction to one drug and "projecting" it onto the dependence to another. For this, one more type of drug addiction to consider is the following.

4. 1. Politoxicomania

This type of drug addiction refers to the subjects that having a dependence on one substance are making the consumption of another, generally due to the shortage and difficulty at the time of acquiring the first one.

A) Yes, the second substance also becomes addictive for the subject , although he has not abandoned his addiction to the first drug.

Normally, polytoxicomania is partly due to the propensity to impulsivity that generate addictions. Once you have begun to consume one, it is much easier to start the consumption of another, since you learn a pattern of behavior that leads to guide all addictions to the experimentation of a "peak" of pleasure that mitigates the effects of abstinence.

Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
  • Belloch, Sandín and Ramos (2008). Manual of psychopathology. Madrid. MacGraw-Hill (vol 1 and 2). Revised edition.
  • Kirby, K.C., Marlowe, D.B., Festinger, D.S., Lamb, R.J. and Platt, J.J. (1998). Schedule of voucher delivery influences initiation of cocaine abstinence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 761-767.
  • Santos, J.L; García, L.I .; Calderón, M.A .; Sanz, L.J .; de los Ríos, P .; Left, S .; Román, P .; Hernangómez, L .; Navas, E .; Thief, A and Álvarez-Cienfuegos, L. (2012). Clinical psychology. CEDE Preparation Manual PIR, 02. CEDE. Madrid.

Top 10 Common Types of Addiction (March 2023).

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