Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

Drug Abuse and Addiction Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction: Introduction

Many people do not comprehend persons become addicted to drugs. Rather than thinking it is about willpower or morality, try and realize that drug addiction is a complex and intricate disorder which has been classified by the American Psychological Association as a form of substance abuse disorder. Drug addiction is a complex issue and quitting requires more than good intentions or an iron will. Drugs affect the human brain in many different ways and researchers are now realizing how treatment be tailored keeping these factors in mind. Many people recover from drug addiction and are able to lead productive and fulfilling lives. To understand the root of this complex problem, you need to understand the following.

Addiction is a chronic disease associated with drug use and it is tough to control even in the presence of harmful consequences. The decision to take drugs is not a choice for many people despite the initial difficulty after making the first choice. Brain changes can then follow whereby drug abuse and addiction then take place. Drug addiction is a relapsing disease because people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk to return to drug use even after a long period of not taking the drugs.

As drug use continues over a period of time, the brain adjusts to excess dopamine by using it or reducing the cell’s ability in the reward circuit to answer it. This reduces the effect the person is taking compared to the high they felt when they took the drug initially. This is known as tolerance. One can take care of the drug trying to achieve the same dopamine high, causing them to attain pleasure from all they have enjoyed such as food or social activities.

Long-term use also leads to changes in the brain chemical systems and circuits affecting systems such as learning, decision making, judgment, stress, behavior, and memory. Many people continue to take drugs following this, and this is what leads to addiction. The more risk factors associated with the person, the greater is the capacity to develop an addiction. Apart from this, many different influences can range from economic status to specific quality of life. Factors associated with drug abuse and addiction include peer pressure, abuse (whether physical or sexual), early drug exposure, stress and parental guidance. This can affect drug abuse and addiction patterns

Gender and ethnicity are some of the other factors that also influence the likelihood of developing drug abuse and addiction. Here are Per Wickstrom’s thoughts on the most common drug abuse and addiction in adults.

Prevention of Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

Prevention of Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction
Photo By: Sammy Jay Jay/CC BY

Along with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, drug addiction is a lifestyle disease. It is also not possible to cure this disorder, but addiction is treatable, and it can be managed. The reason for this is that those who will be at risk for relapse for years and for the entire duration of their lives. Combining addiction treatment medicines with behavioral therapy ensures high rates of success for most individuals. Treatment approaches are customized to each person’s needs and requirements and any conditions associated with it including medical, mental and social problems.

Drug abuse and addiction can also be prevented. Prevention programs include involving the social environment, family units, communities and media for preventing or reducing drug abuse or addiction. Most drugs affect the reward circuit of the brain by flooding it with chemical messengers called dopamine neurotransmitters.

Drug abuse and addiction are a massive burden on society. Estimates of the overall total cost of drug addiction in the US- including health and crime-related costs as well as losses in productivity. This exceeds half a trillion dollars per year. Close to USD 181 billion was allocated for illicit drugs, USD 168 billion for tobacco and USD 185 billion for alcohol. The safety and health implications of drug abuse and addiction are many. These include family disintegration, loss of employment, school failures, domestic violence, child abuse and other crimes.

Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: Causes

There are many varying reasons people use drugs for recreational purposes to improving athletic problem or easing symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. Usage does not lead to abuse until the point where the drug moves from nominal use to a difficult situation. In case taking drugs is causing problems in life and interfering with functionality and operationalism, there is likely to be a drug abuse or drug addiction. Along with certain other conditions and diseases, susceptibility to addiction varies from one individual to another. Other factors that play a role in the addiction include genetic and mental health factors, family as well as the social environment and risk factors.

Predisposing factor associated with addiction

These include the following:

  • Family background of addiction
  • Abuse, trauma and neglect
  • Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression
  • Prompt and prolonged use of drugs
  • Kind of administration- cigarette smoke or injection can increase the intensity of addiction
  • Drug addiction and abuse vulnerability through stress

Addiction is a tough disorder to battle characterized by compulsive drug use and each drug produces different side effects.

All abused substances have a common factor: repeated usage can change the manner of functioning of the brain.

Using recreational drugs increases the rush of dopamine in the brain triggering pleasure. The brain experiences a pleasurable rush and wants the feeling repeated. Uncontrollable craving can lead to continued usage which can interfere with health and well-being.

A desire to be one of the crowd can also create a strong pull towards drug addiction and abuse. The problem can escalate still further as drug usage increases gradually over time. If the drug meets a valuable need, it may became increasingly a source of reliance for those who want to calm or activate themselves.

As drug abuse takes place, one works against a host of symptoms that can affect job performance, social or family responsibilities. The ability to stop using the same is compromised.

Symptoms of Drug Addiction and Abuse

  • One of the main symptoms that individuals with drug abuse and drug addiction that manifest are drug tolerance. More of the drug is needed to produce the same effect with smaller amounts.
  • The drug can be taken to avoid or relieve withdrawal but if you go for long without drugs, symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, sweating and shaking result.
  • Another factor is the loss of control over drug use. Drugs may be used more often than planned because you don’t know how to get the same effect with a smaller amount of drugs.
  • A chief symptom of drug use involves spending time thinking about how to recover from the effects of the drug and how to use them.
  • Other activities such as hobbies, sports and socializing may take a backseat if you use drugs excessively
  • Despite knowing that it is detrimental, you choose to use drugs leading to infections, mood swings, depression, blackouts, and paranoia.

Physical Signs

This includes bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual, changes in sleep or appetite, sudden weight gain/reduction, deteriorating physical appearance, lack of personal grooming, smells on breath, body and clothing slurred speech or lack of coordination.

Behavioral Signs

This includes falling grades and drop in school attendance as well as a financial crunch. Suspicious behavior and sudden change in friends circle can be another sign of the increased susceptibility to drug addiction and consequent drug abuse. Getting into fights such as illegal activities, accidents may also be an indication of drug abuse and addiction.

Psychological Manifestations

Sudden changes in personality or attitude such as sudden mood swings, angry outbursts, or periods of hyperactivity, agitation or feeling faint are the psychological signs. Lack of motivation and lethargy with a person appearing spaced out, fearful, anxious or paranoid with no reason, can also occur.


Photo By: Todd Huffman/CC BY

With the right treatment and support, the damaging effects of drug abuse and addiction can be countered. Recognize that you have a problem because this is the first step towards recovery. Research has shown that medication along with behavioral therapy also works well.

Treatment Approaches

The treatment approaches involve catering to each patient’s drug abuse patterns and co-occurring medical, social and psychiatric problems can lead to a life which is free from drug abuse and addiction. Drug addiction can be managed successfully along with other chronic diseases. But much like diabetes or asthma, the disease has no cure but requires management of symptoms. Relapse does not mean an inability to recover from the disorder.

Mechanism of Drug Abuse and Addiction

Drugs are chemicals that tap into the communication system of the brain and cause a disruption in the way neurons send, receive and process information. Drugs mimic the natural chemical messengers and overstimulate the brain’s circuit for rewards.

Certain drugs such as heroin and marijuana have a structure akin to chemical neurotransmitters in the brain. Drugs are able to replicate the neurotransmitters and activate neurons to send abnormal messages. Many other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine can release natural neurotransmitters in an abnormal percentage or prevent the recycling of brain chemicals needed to shut off signals in the brain between the nerve cells. This produces a message that distorts normal communication pathways.

Nearly all drugs can target the reward system of the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with the regions of the brains with aspects like emotion, motivation, movement, and pleasure. Overstimulation of the system leads to natural behaviors associated with activities that produce a positive effect in response to the drugs. This reaction causes a pattern that reaches people to repeat the abuse of drugs, leading to addiction.

As there is continued an abuse of drugs, the brain adapts to the dopamine surges by either limiting the same or reducing the neurotransmitters within the reward circuit. Dopamine’s impact on the reward circuit is reduced, lowering the ability of the drug abuser to access pleasure from the same amount of drugs. This decrease forces those addicted to the drugs to keep abusing to keep their dopamine function regular. This may require them to have larger drug tolerance.

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter influencing the reward circuit and the capacity to learn. Though the optimal concentration of glutamate is changed by drug abuse, compensation by the brain can impair cognitive functioning and lead to uncontrollable urges to abuse the drug.

Thus, the causes associated with drug abuse and addiction are as complicated as can be. Treatment needs to take this into account. It should not be assumed that someone is unable to leave drug usage because he or she lacks willpower. Another equally important point is that addiction is not a disease and you cannot ignore the complex biological underpinnings of this disorder. Addicts may not want to seek help, but with effort on the part of their family and friends, this can be remedied. Addicts may relapse, but that does not mean that they cannot combat drug use. Drug addiction is a social menace and a mental health problem which can only be combated if users are given positive. drug-free role models to emulate.

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