Drug addiction, commonly referred to as substance use disorder, is a chronic brain disease in which the affected individual has lost the ability to control their legal or illegal drug consumption. Oftentimes, users are aware that their drug use is endangering their health, but they physically cannot resist.
The Science of Drug Addiction
Consuming drugs generally causes the brain to produce an excess amount of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is the source of feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. Rather than a steady amount of dopamine encouraging healthy behaviors such as exercising or seeing friends/family, surges of dopamine lead to a feeling of invincibility causing the user to desire more right off the bat.
The longer one takes the drug, the less the effect of the dopamine surges will have on the brain. This built up tolerance encourages the user to ingest more of the drug each time they use, increasing the amount of the drug in their body over time. As the dependence of the drug for pleasure increases, the user will find less pleasure in what they may have used to enjoy.
Aside from a decrease in natural pleasures, long term drug use may lead to permanent brain damage as well as impaired memory, decision making, judgement and more.
Why and How do People Become Addicted to Drugs?
There are many reasons why people use drugs in the first place. Mainly, like those who use alcohol, there is a universal feeling of pleasure that comes with recreational drug use. Depending on the substance use, the high may be different, but oftentimes feelings of euphoria and intense enjoyment are common.
Like alcohol addiction, genetics play a large part in who is more susceptible to developing a dependence on a substance. If other members of your blood related family have suffered from addiction, you are more likely to develop a dependence on drug use as well.
Additionally, the environment you grow up in, including the stability of your childhood household, relationship with your parents, early use, availability of drugs in your community or lack of resources, can greatly affect whether you will suffer from addiction later in life. If either you or a family member struggled with mental health disorders in the past, you may be more susceptible to relying on drugs for pleasure at some point as well.
That being said, whether it be to escape reality, relieve stress, feel better or a result of peer pressure, anyone who uses drugs can develop a dependency on them. There are many symptoms that are developed in those who are bordering a substance use disorder. They are as follows:
A craving or subsequent need to use in order to feel normal (the most common sign of coming addiction).
An increased tolerance as more and more of the drug is needed to feel the same effect.
Losing passion for things that once brought joy and/or replacing old activities with figuring out how to acquire the drug and only allocating money for purchasing substances are also dangerous signs.
While these are just some of the signs, it is important that any odd behaviors associated with any new or increased drug use should be monitored carefully for signs of reliance. Once life without being high becomes harder than life while using, it is time to seek treatment.
Drug Addiction Treatment
Although there is not a set cure for drug abuse disorders, there are ways to mitigate long term effects. Drug addiction treatment, whether it be inpatient or outpatient, is a mix of detoxification, behavioral and cognitive therapy and long term relapse prevention. These general guidelines usually come in conjunction with some form of group or family counseling, co-occurring disorder treatment and other alternative therapy methods.
The high likelihood of relapse in later years is the main reason that drug abuse is not completely curable, but continued treatment such as participation in Anonymous groups as well as occasional therapy visits combined with a good social network and stable home life serve to prevent relapse.
Drug addiction is something that a countless number of Americans deal with, so you are not alone. At Desert Rose Recovery, we aim to make the path to sobriety as effective and comfortable as possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug addiction, call us today to speak with a qualified addiction specialist.