Drug Addiction

Drug Addiction

What Is Drug Addiction?

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a
brain disease because drugs change the brain, they change its structure and how it works.

These brain changes can be long lasting, and can lead to harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.

Because of drug addiction in the home, family members or friends may behave in ways that allow an addict to continue to use drugs or alcohol;these people are called enablers (also referred to as codependents when their own needs are intertwined with the addict’s continued use).

Enablers may call in sick for an addict or make excuses for the addict’s behavior. The enabler may plead with the addict to stop using drugs or alcohol but rarely does anything else to help the addict change their behavior.

Studies find that more people enter treatment if their family members or employers are honest with them about their concerns, and try to help them to see that drugs are preventing them from reaching their goals. (Intervention)

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is the use of mind-altering drugs without medical need.
If there is continued use, it may threaten the quality of life or health and safety of the abuser and others. Dependence can be very powerful and difficult to overcome.

The body adapts to the continuous use of a drug that produces dependence. This dependence can develop a tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when use stops. Tolerance is the need to use progressively larger amounts of a drug to reproduce the original effects achieved with the starting amount.

Overdose of a drug may occur as part of drug abuse.

With some drugs, an overdose may even be fatal. Although mind-altering drugs are typically the ones that
are abused the most, other drugs that do not alter the mind are often abused.

Drug addiction occurs in all socioeconomic groups and involves highly educated and professional people as well as those who are uneducated and unemployed.

Withdrawal symptoms occur when drug use is stopped or when the drug’s effects are blocked by another drug. A person undergoing withdrawal from drug addiction feels sick and may develop headaches, diarrhea, or shaking (tremors). Withdrawal can evoke a serious and even life-threatening illness.

Drug Addiction And Substance Abuse Statistics

Drug addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and illegal substances cost Americans upwards of half a trillion dollars a year, considering their combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact.

Every year, abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans, while tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year.


People of all ages suffer the harmful consequences of drug addiction.

  • Babies exposed to legal andillegal drugs in the womb may be born premature and underweight. This drug exposure can slow the child’s intellectual development and affect behavior later in life.
  • Adolescents who abuse drugs often act out, do poorly academically, and drop out of school. They are at risk of unplanned pregnancies, violence, and infectious diseases.
  • Adults who abuse drugs often have problems thinking clearly, remembering, and paying attention. They often develop poor social behaviors as a result of their drug abuse, and their work performance and personal relationships suffer.
  • Parents’ drug abuse often means chaotic, stress-filled homes andchild abuse and neglect. Such conditions harm the well-being and development of children in the home and may set the stage for drug abuse and drug addiction in the next generation.

How does science provide solutions for drug addiction?

Scientists study the effects that drugs have on the brain and on people’s behavior. They use this information to develop programs for preventing drug abuse and for helping people recover from addiction. Further research helps transfer these ideas into practice in our communities.

Why do people take drugs?

In general, people begin taking drugs for a variety of reasons:

  • To feel good. Most abused drugs produce intense feelings of pleasure. This initial sensation of euphoria is followed by other effects, which differ with the type of drug used.For example, with stimulants such as cocaine, the “high” is followed by feelings of power, self-confidence, and increased energy. In contrast, the euphoria caused by opiates such as heroin is followed by feelings of relaxation and satisfaction.
  • To feel better. Some people who suffer from social anxiety,stress-related disorders, and depression begin abusing drugs in an attempt to lessen feelings of distress. Stress can play a major role in beginning drug use, continuing drug abuse, or relapse in patients recovering from addiction.
  • To do better. The increasing pressure that some individuals feel to chemically enhance or improve their athletic or cognitive performance can similarly play a role in initial experimentation and continued drug abuse.
  • Curiosity and “because others are doing it.” In this respectadolescents are particularly vulnerable because of the strong influence of peer pressure; they are more likely, for example, to engage in “thrilling” and “daring” behaviors.

If taking drugs make people feel good…what’s the problem?

At first, people may perceive what seem to be positive effects with drug use. They also may believe that they can control their use; however, drugs can quickly take over their lives.

Over time, if drug use continues, pleasurable activities become less pleasurable, and drug abuse becomes necessary for abusers to simply feel “normal.”

Drug abusers reach a point where they seek and take drugs, despite the tremendous problems caused for themselves and their loved ones. Some individuals may start to feel the need to take higher or more frequent doses, even in the early stages of their drug use.

Is continued drug abuse a voluntary behavior?

The initial decision to take drugs is mostly voluntary. However, when drug abuse takes over, a person’s ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired.

Brain imaging studies from drug-addicted individuals show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works, and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of addiction.

Why do some people become addicted to drugs, while others do not?

As with any other disease, vulnerability to addiction differs from person to person. In general, the more risk factors an individual has, the greater the chance that taking drugs will lead to abuse and addiction. “Protective” factors reduce a person’s risk of developing addiction.

What factors determine if a person will become addicted?

No single factor determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs. The overall risk for addiction is impacted by the biological makeup of the individual.

It can even be influenced by gender or society, his or her developmental stage, and the surrounding social environment (e.g., conditions at home, at school, and in the neighborhood).

What environmental factors increase the risk of drug addiction?

  • Home and Family. The influence of the home environment is usually most important in childhood. Parents or older family members who abuse alcohol or drugs, or who engage in criminal behavior, can increase children’s risks of developing their own drug problems.
  • Peer and School. Friends and acquaintances have the greatest influence during adolescence. Drug-abusing peers can sway even those without risk factors to try drugs for the first time. Academic failure or poor social skills can put a child further at risk for drug abuse.What other factors increase the risk of drug addiction?
  • Early Use. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, research shows that the earlier a person begins to use drugs the more likely they are to progress to more serious abuse.This may reflect the harmful effect that drugs can have on the developing brain; it also may result from early biological and social factors, including genetic limitation, mental illness, unstable family relationships, and exposure to physical or sexual abuse.Still, the fact remains that early use is a strong indicator of problems ahead, among them, substance abuse and addiction.
  • Taking the Drug. Smoking a drug or injecting it into a vein increases its addictive potential. Both smoked and injected drugs enter the brain within seconds, producing a powerful rush of pleasure.However, this “intense high” can fade within a few minutes. This server felt contrast, has lead scientists to believe this low feeling drives individuals to repeated drug abuse in an attempt to recapture the high pleasurable state.Still, the fact remains that early use is a strong indicator of problems ahead, among them, substance abuse and addiction.

How do drugs work in the brain to produce pleasure?

All drugs of abuse directly or indirectly target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure.

The over stimulation of this system, which rewards our natural behaviors, produces the euphoric effects sought by people who abuse drugs and teaches them to repeat the behavior.

How does stimulation of the brain’s pleasure circuit teach us to keep taking drugs?

Our brains are wired to ensure that we will repeat life-sustaining activities by associating those activities with pleasure or reward.

Whenever this reward circuit is activated, the brain notes that something important is happening that needs to be remembered, and teaches us to do it again and again, without thinking about it. Because drugs of abuse stimulate the same circuit, we learn to abuse drugs in the same way.

Can Drug Addiction Be Treated Successfully?

Yes. Drug Addiction is a treatable disease. Discoveries in the science of addiction have led to advances in drug abuse treatment that help people stop abusing drugs and resume their productive lives. Drug Alcohol Rehab

Can Drug Addiction Be Cured?

There is no cure…only recovery. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects and regain control of their lives.

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