Drug Addiction Information

Drug addiction is a very complicated disease, rather than just a habit someone could break if they wanted to. Drug addiction is not a sign of moral weakness or character. It is a disease, even if self inflicted, and can be very hard to overcome. Quitting an addiction often requires professional help. This is because during the process of becoming addicted, the person’s brain changes in ways that makes it even harder to quit. There are treatments however that have been proven to be effective and can help people recover after being addicted.

Drug addiction is self-inflicted in that the person normally makes the choice to start using the substance. But after a while brain changes make it very hard to resist intense urges and affects their self-control. Addiction should be considered a chronic illness, meaning it continues and there is always a danger of relapsing even after years of being drug-free.

Treatment continues even after the person feels they have recovered, but it is adjusted as the person changes and gets stronger against the addiction. There can be relapses, but that is just part of the recovery process. Fortunately, a person does not have to start from the beginning when they fall back into drug abuse.

Drugs flood the brain’s reward circuits with dopamine. This causes the body to feel pleasure and motivates the person to do what caused that pleasure again. This is why we eat or hang out with loved ones, but with drugs there is an intense sensory overload. As a person continues with drug use, the brain adjusts, cutting back on the number of cells in the rewards area.  This makes the drug less effective so the person has to use more of the drug to get the same high. This effect is called building up a tolerance. Another bad side effect is that this can make other things they enjoy less enjoyable.

Over a long period of time, long term drug use affects learning, judgment, decision making, levels of stress, memory, and a person’s behavior.

There are three main factors that can lead to drug addiction.

Genetics: Some people are born at risk of becoming a drug addict. If there is any other mental illness present, that can make it worse.

Environment: What goes on around a person can have a big influence on them. Family members, economic status, and even where a person lives, can impact whether they will try drugs.

Development: If a person starts using drugs at a young age, they are much more likely to become an addict. A teenager’s brain is still developing, making it easier for the brain to become addicted. Teens are more likely to take risks as well.

There is not a cure for addiction, meaning there is no pill or anything else that will make it go away, but it is treatable and manageable however.  People who are in recovery are at risk for a relapse and could be the rest of their life.  The best treatments are a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Addressing other issues in a person’s life is also an important part of the recovery process. Treatment also changes after a person is in recovery.

Drug addiction is preventable however. Prevention programs in schools and other places have been shown to work. When young people see drugs as harmful, they are less likely to try drugs in the first place. Factors like genetics or environment are part of the picture, but education does seem to be a

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