Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.
What is Drug Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.
The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.
What happens to the brain when a person takes the drug?
Taking a recreational drug causes a rush of the hormone dopamine in your brain, which triggers feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated.
When you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviors, such as eating and drinking.
Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control your behavior, and feel normal without drugs.
No matter which drug you’re addicted to, the uncontrollable craving to use grows more important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness.
The urge to use is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or rationalize the addiction. You may drastically underestimate the quantity of drugs you’re taking, how much it impacts your life, and the level of control you have over your drug use.
Why do some people become addicted to drugs while others don’t?
A combination of factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. For example:
1. Biology; The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence risk for drug use and addiction.
2. Environment; A person’s environment includes many different influences; from family and friends to economic status and general quality of life. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person’s likelihood of drug use and addiction.
3. Development; Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to addiction, particularly teenagers because areas in their brains that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still developing.
Can drug addiction be cured or prevented?
There is generally no ”cure” for drug addiction. However, addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. People who are recovering from an addiction will be at risk for relapse for years and possibly for their whole lives.
Treatment involves psychotherapy, behavioural therapy, use of addiction treatment drugs, and treatment of mental illness or other underlying cause of the addiction.
Drug abuse and addiction is preventable. Parents, teachers, health care providers and YOU have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.