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 the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.

Why do people take drugs?

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. Some people feel pressure to chemically enhance or improve their cognitive or athletic performance, which can play a role in initial experimentation and continued the abuse of drugs such as prescription stimulants or anabolic/androgenic steroids.

Curiosity and “because others are doing it.” In this respect, adolescents are particularly vulnerable because of the strong influence of peer pressure. Teens are more likely than adults to engage in risky or daring behaviors to impress their friends and express their independence from parental and social rules.

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, and no single factor determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs. In general, the more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs will lead to abuse and addiction. Protective factors, on the other hand, reduce a person’s risk of developing an addiction. Risk and protective factors may be either environmental (such as conditions at home, at school, and in the neighborhood) or biological (for instance, a person’s genes, their stage of development, and even their gender or ethnicity).

What environmental factors increase the risk of addiction?

Home and Family. The influence of the home environment, especially during childhood, is a very important factor. 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 can have an increasingly strong influence during adolescence. Drug-using 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 at further risk for using or becoming addicted to drugs.

How to get Rid of Addiction

It is difficult to accept you have a problem and to ask for help. Be honest with yourself and others and get the help and support you need.

Recognise when your substance use has become a problem – realizing and accepting that you are abusing or addicted to substances is the first step to finding help.

Get support – getting through this on your own can be difficult. Talk to friends, family, your doctor, other health professionals or a telephone helpline about your substance use.

Investigate options for help – manage and treat substance misuse and addiction through counseling, medication, rehabilitation centers, self-help programs or support networks. You might need to try a number of options before you find what works for you – it’s important to keep trying.

Find alternative coping strategies – if you are using substances to cope with life or escape personal problems, find other ways to manage the situation and deal with life’s stress and pressures. By dealing with other problems in your life you can make it easier to recover and not relapse.

Deal with setbacks and keep going – Recovery can be a long and difficult road. Expect some setbacks and don’t focus on failures, focus on your plan and understand your triggers and how to best respond to them in future.

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