What is drug addiction?
Drug addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual who is addicted and to those around them. Drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Although it is true that for most people the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, over time the changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person’s self control and ability to make sound decisions, and at the same time send intense impulses to take drugs.
It is because of these changes in the brain that it is so challenging for a person who is addicted to stop abusing drugs. Fortunately, there are treatments that help people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects and regain control. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications, if available, with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients. Treatment approaches that are tailored to each patient’s drug abuse patterns and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a life without drug abuse.
“The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”
People use drugs for a variety of reasons – more often than not however, to numb the pain of everyday life so they don’t have to face it. Eventually drug use turns to drug abuse and finally to drug addiction. Most people use the two terms interchangeably, but the truth is there is a difference between drug abuse and drug addiction.
Drug abuse is the use of illegal drugs or the inappropriate use of legal drugs.
People who abuse drugs are using them to obtain a specific feeling – a “high” – that they can’t get from other substances. Often drug abuse is recreational with the drugs being used to loosen a person up and make them feel like they fit in with the crowd.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Those addicted to drugs suffer from a compulsive drug craving and usage and cannot quit by themselves. Treatment is necessary to end this compulsive behavior.
Drug addiction, on the other hand, is the uncontrollable use of drugs and the inability to stop using drugs in spite of health or social consequences. People with a drug addiction are physically and emotionally unable to stop using drugs. Their bodies have become used to having the drug in the system, and stopping the drug use brings about often painful physical and psychological symptoms.
Drug addiction does begin with drug abuse when an individual makes a conscious choice to use drugs, but addiction is not just “a lot of drug use.” Scientific research provides overwhelming evidence that not only do drugs interfere with normal brain functioning creating powerful feelings of pleasure, but they also have long-term effects on brain metabolism and activity.
At some point, changes occur in the brain that can turn drug abuse into addiction, a chronic, relapsing illness.
Many people view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem. Parents, teens, older adults, and other members of the community tend to characterize people who take drugs as morally weak or as having criminal tendencies. They believe that drug abusers and addicts should be able to stop taking drugs if they are willing to change their behavior. This just isn’t true.
People from all walks of life abuse drugs and become addicted. We can start combating these problems if we educate ourselves and each other about drug abuse and drug addiction. It is an ever-growing epidemic that doesn’t have to take hold of people or society. Drug abuse and drug addiction can be stopped, but only if we start with education.
Understanding drug abuse and addiction can help in preventing drug use to rise to problem proportions.
When you know exactly what you are dealing with, it’s a little easier to begin looking for treatment options.
Whether you or a loved one is abusing drugs or are addicted to drugs, treatment needs to be sought as soon as possible to help ward off serious health implications. Treatment can have a profound effect on both the drug user, but also on society as a whole. Healing the addicts in our society improves social and psychological functioning and makes for a more peaceful community and world.
In fact, drug abuse is the number one cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It doesn’t matter if we talk about cocaine, heroin, or alcohol, a drug is a drug and those drugs cause problems with the human body. It is preventable and education is the first step.
Drug abuse and addiction have been around for years and years, but if we take the time to recognize not only the difference between the two, but also the signs and signals that indicate drug use, we can begin to heal ourselves both as individual people and as a society.
In 2016, there were 42,000 deaths involving opiods in America which were either unintentional, intentional, homicidal or undetermined. What happens to your brain when you take drugs?