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Illegal Drug Addiction in Massachusetts


Illegal drugs are a group of substances that are sold “on the street” for the purpose of abusing them. These drugs include heroin, cocaine and crystal meth, and they cause immeasurable misery to the people who become addicted to them, as well as to their families and loved ones. Illegal drug addiction in Massachusetts is a growing problem that requires treatment in a professional facility that deals with substance abuse problems.

What Is Illegal Drug Use?

Illegal drug addiction in Massachusetts affects people at all levels of society and is becoming one of the most critical public health problems in the state. Street drugs are used for the euphoric effects and their ability to alter consciousness, but they change brain chemistry and quickly lead to physical and psychological problems, or even death. Professional care in an experienced addiction treatment facility can be instrumental in helping these individuals to break their dependence and restore their lives to sanity.

Statistics on Illegal Drug Abuse

Communities across the United States survey the use of street drugs to determine the need for treatment and other programs to help these individuals become productive members of the society again. In the greater Boston area alone in 2014, the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that heroin overdose rates increased by 76 percent from 2010 to 2012. Cocaine overdose rates increased by 41 percent during that same period. Methamphetamine use is not prevalent in the Boston area, remaining at about 1 percent of total admissions at primary treatment facilities. The Boston Globe reports that 1000 people died in Massachusetts in 2014 due to overdose of heroin and other opiates, and the numbers of individuals admitted for emergency room care continues to grow. The highly addictive nature of street drugs leads to a high rate of recidivism and increased risk of death.

Common Illegal Drugs

Heroin – Heroin is a drug generally found as a white or brownish powder that can be snorted, smoked or injected. It produces acute euphoria and a feeling of warmth and well-being that is highly seductive to users. Addiction can occur quickly and can lead to successive attempts at treatment. Heroin is a Schedule I narcotic drug with a high potential for addiction.

Crystal Meth – Often called “crystal” or “ice,” this street drug is methamphetamine, a Schedule II stimulant, in a crystallized form. It produces a feeling of euphoria, energy and power. Hyperactivity, insomnia and weight loss often occur.

Cocaine – Cocaine is generally found in a white powder form that is inhaled or injected, and a solid, crystalline form that is smoked. It produces euphoria, high energy and increased confidence. It is a Schedule II drug that can be highly addictive. Cocaine constricts blood vessels and can lead to sudden cardiovascular events.

Drug Effects on the Body and Mind

The highly addictive quality of street drugs has a devastating effect on physical health, mental acuity and emotional stability. These drugs cause addiction by changing the actual physical chemistry in the pleasure centers of the brain. Normal neurotransmitter chemistry is disrupted, and the individual must look to the drug over and over again to make them feel normal again. Over time, the continuous use of the drug can cause blood infections, skin problems, deterioration in the mucous membranes, malnutrition and other problems. The constant drug-seeking behavior causes broken relationships, legal problems and a complete breakdown of moral judgment and decision-making ability. The individual puts themselves at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and other risky behaviors.

Symptoms of Illegal Drug Abuse

Individuals trapped in illegal drug addiction in Massachusetts may spend excessive amounts of time acquiring and using the drug. They may become isolated from family members and friends, preferring to spend their time in the company of other drug users. They may lose all interest in academic or career goals, missing class or work on a frequent basis. They may drop out of school or get fired from their jobs. They may neglect their appearance or wear unusual clothing that covers up the track marks from injecting drugs or sores that develop at injection sites. They may appear doped up or hyperactive. Their conversation may be confused or disjointed. They may be hard to contact or disappear for days at a time. These are all symptoms of individuals who are involved in street drug abuse and may need treatment to regain control over their lives.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Common Street Drugs

One of the signs of addiction is trying to stop using a drug, but experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms that induce the individual to continue using to escape the bad feelings. Each drug can produce unique withdrawal symptoms:

Heroin Withdrawal – Withdrawal from heroin can be severe, with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, chills and diarrhea.

Cocaine Withdrawal – Withdrawal from cocaine can produce strong cravings, irritability, agitation, anxiety, fatigue and an inability to feel pleasure.

Crystal Meth Withdrawal – The meth comedown is intense and commonly characterized by lethargy, increased appetite, anxiety, psychosis, paranoia, and profound depression.

Heroin Treatment

Heroin treatment must necessarily begin with detox to remove the substance so that the person can recalibrate their brain chemicals and participate in the treatment program. Individual therapy, group therapy, family counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy may all be used to help the addict understand the motivations that keep them addicted to the substance. Medications may be a part of ongoing treatment. Learning to anticipate and manage the strong cravings that occur after treatment is a critical part of any treatment program. Aftercare support in the form of mental health referrals and support groups is also important for those who are recovering from illegal drug addiction in Massachusetts.

Cocaine Treatment

Treatment for cocaine addiction also requires detox from the substance and inpatient counseling on an individual and group basis. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help addicts to recognize their behaviors and apply alternative solutions to drug use. Relapse prevention education is critical for helping patients to understand the “triggers” that make them keeping using the substance. Medications that alter gamma-aminobutyric acid and dopamine in the brain can be helpful to reduce cravings.

Crystal Meth Treatment

The first step in treatment is detox. Cognitive behavioral therapy that helps individuals recognize their thought patterns and encourages them to learn new ways of thinking and behaving. Support groups have also been found to be a helpful adjunct to professional addiction treatment. Medications may also be used to treat symptoms and reduce cravings.

If you or a loved struggle with illegal drug addiction in Massachusetts, contact a treatment facility today for help rebuilding your life and discovering sobriety.