Understanding Dope -- What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is a chronic disease affecting the brain, and everyone's brain is different. This means that drugs affect different people in different ways. One person can take and abuse drugs, yet never become addicted, while another merely has one experience and is immediately hooked.
Drug addiction is characterized by a person having to use the drug(s) repeatedly, regardless of the damage it does to
- Their health
- Their family
- Their career
- Their relationships with friends and the community
Addiction is not limited to drugs and alcohol. You can be addicted to many things, including food, gambling, shopping, or most anything that gets in the way of a healthy lifestyle. You know you are addicted when things get out of hand, and you behave compulsively, regardless of the consequences.
When you are no longer in charge of your life, regardless of the triggering mechanism, you are addicted. The addiction can take over a your entire life. Nothing else matters.
Is there a cure?
The first question many people have about drug addiction is simply “Is there a cure?” Sadly, the answer is no. Once you HAVE to use a drug you will always be addicted to it. There is currently no pill you can take to remove your addiction, for example to cocaine. In order to get a more complete understanding of why there is no cure, you first have to take a deeper look at addiction. This will help you learn to live with it.
What's the difference between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction?
The next quest tion generally ask is how can I tell drug abuse from drug addiction. That's a little more complicated:
Click here to learn the differences between drug abuse and drug addiction.
Drug addiction is a disease of the body, mind and spirit.
Let’s establish one important point of understanding addiction: We are body, mind and spirit, and because of that, drug addiction is as much a disease of the spirit as it is of the body and mind. Unlike other chronic diseases, like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, the spiritual component of drug addiction will play a major role in a person’s recovery.
Types of Drug Addiction
When talking about factors leading to drug addiction, it is necessary to take a moment and look at the various types of drugs. As we mentioned before, these all have specific characteristics.
Cannabis Compounds: The
most common drug in this category is marijuana, which produces a high
for the user. Go to drug addiction causes marijuana
for more Understanding Dope, Marijuana.
Depressants: Alcohol is the most common depressant, since everything slows down when you drink alcohol. This is evidenced by the documented testing of human reflexes while driving a car under the influence.
Stimulants: Amphetamines come to mind quickly, but a more common stimulant is nicotine. click here to find out more information about Crystal Meth.
Hallucinogens: LSD was a popular drug in the 1960’s Click here to find out more information about LSD.
Designer Drugs: Ecstasy is popular with the rave set. Click here for more information about Ecstasy.
Opiates: Heroin and cocaine lead the list of opiates. Click here for more information about Heroin.
Click here for more information about Cocaine.
What Causes Drug Addiction?
There are several factors and causes to consider about addiction. First there is a genetic component, that is, what is passed on to you through your family.
- If your blood relatives had a predisposition to become addicted, chances are you have that same tendency.
- Personality contributes to drug addiction.
- Peer pressure is huge, both for teenagers and adults alike.
Drug addiction occurs when the pathways in the brain, the brain’s communication system, are altered by repeated use of a substance. Some of the brain’s nerve cells, called neurons, use chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are released into the gaps, called synapses, between nerve cells.
Take it to an extreme. There is normal brain chemistry activity, but when that activity is affected by the drug, the internal communication is altered, creating an otherwise abnormal affect.
If you abuse pain medication by going way over the prescribed limit and frequency, because you need that drug, you are becoming addicted.
Addiction is a chronic condition, making the chances for relapse great. The drug takes over and the person loses control and will do anything to get the drug, regardless of the consequences.
What might have started as a decision to use the drug for a proper, medical purpose now becomes a spiraling, out-of-control experience for the user. Otherwise intelligent, rational people lose their ability to make good decisions.
The drug has taken over.
Drug Addiction causes permanent changes in brain chemistry
Because of the change in the brain’s chemistry and function, it’s very difficult for people who are addicted to stop using; that's what is so difficult about ending addiction.
Treatment centers around the country have found that a combination of medications, along with behavioral therapy is the most effective way of helping the patient manage the disease.
Treatment centers will tailor-make a program to meet the
needs of patients seeking help. We are body, mind and spirit. Medicine
can effectively treat the body and the mind, but medicine alone does not
treat the spirit.
Relapse is common
Are there going to be setbacks? Yes. Human beings make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean a person can’t get back on course.
People who relapse need to be reinstated to the program, to get back to sanity and allow therapists to make necessary adjustments to their meds, or seek help in making modifications to their lifestyle. Perhaps an alternative treatment is called for. Again, everyone is different, and so treatment programs must meet the needs of the individual. The more you understand about addiction the more you realize why it is so difficult to treat.
No. Understand that abuse and addiction are not the same, because not all people who take drugs become addicted.
The most commonly used drug is alcohol, and alcohol addiction, like drug addiction, progresses in stages, as a person descends into drug or alcohol dependence, hits bottom, then ascends back up to good health. It’s a process.
Not everybody that uses drugs is on the path to becoming an addict. Some people can abuse drugs, but not become addicted, while others try drugs or alcohol once and are immediately hooked.
Alcoholics talk about the “click,” that experience of satisfaction when taking the first drink. Drug users experience a “high” or a kind of euphoria. In either case, they want to feel good, and the drugs make them feel good--but it gets out of hand.
What are the signs of drug abuse or drug addiction?
The symptoms vary. Perhaps it’s just trying something new with friends at a party, or maybe you are hurting and want to numb the pain.
It can start in many ways, and some drugs are more addictive than others, but once the progression reaches the point where a person needs the drugs because of a physical dependence and compulsively works to get them, regardless of the impact on their friends and family, their job and their community, that person’s life is out of control.
Drug addition does not discriminate. It affects men and women of all ages--seniors, career-aged, young adults, teenagers and even children. The affects of drug and alcohol addiction impact all of society.