You could say that drug addiction is a chronically relapsing brain disease that characterizes the behavior of compulsive drug seeking and using. Each with its unique chemical compound that varies from drug-to-drug, these addictive substances affect people on a brain chemical level. For instance, codeine given for pain takes more exposure to develop an addiction than for cocaine or heroin. Someone may have a predisposition to addiction to a drug but may not know it until or unless they become addicted and needs treatment.
A physical and psychological dependency make up the two separate components of addiction. Because pain originates in the brain, the psychological standpoint is that it brings relief to the sufferer since medication blocks the pain receptors in the brain. It also provides stress release and pleasure. Physically, a drug addict uses the drug to feel what they believe to be normal, such as someone with panic disorder who takes a drug to feel calm and relaxed.
However, with repeated usage, the body becomes used to this new normal and craves more of it to stay at homeostasis. Once someone wants to quit, withdrawal kicks in, and like a child throwing a tantrum, the body does as well. Symptoms arrive that can create an uncomfortable and even painful experience.
Abusing drugs and being addicted to them are different but still related concerns. Just because someone abuses a drug doesn’t mean they’re necessarily addicted to one.
Drug addiction forms when a person becomes dependent on a drug to live a healthy life and where the brain changes to accommodate that state. A drug abuser takes more than needed of an illicit or prescription medication to feel high, which then fosters an addiction.
One person may take a drug and not become addicted while the other does, so what gives? It’s hard to surmise only to say, research shows three common factors attributed to addiction:
Studies conclude that adolescents have an increased rate of developing drug addictions with abuse, which is also the crucial stages of brain development. Moreover, if someone in your family became addicted to drugs, your chances increase. Also, peer pressure is incredibly powerful, so if someone is continually being exposed to drugs, it could further raise their risk level.
The prominent three illicit drugs that contribute highly to drug addiction are cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. All three affect the brain and body differently. Cocaine and meth are stimulant drugs that heighten senses and increase body functions. Then you have depressants that do the opposite and slow down bodily and brain functions; these include marijuana and heroin, as well as prescription painkillers. With marijuana, it affects the limbic system (memory and cognitive functions).
Here are some illicit or street drugs that people commonly abuse and their classification:
Several theories account for the causes of drug addiction, but it’s generally accepted that it’s biological and widely regarded as a malady or brain disease. The changing of the brain’s reward functions seems to indicate why it develops. The part of the brain affected is responsible for social interaction, exercise, and eating, this is called the mesolimbic dopamine system.
When the chemical hits this portion of the brain, it releases excessive levels of dopamine, which causes a euphoric feeling, or a “high.” Over time, these brief highs can create long-term effects. The brain reactions become more severe the longer they are exposed to these experiences.
With continued use of the drug, the brain craves more of it to stay at the same pleasurable level, thus creating an addictive pattern that then takes over someone’s life; they literally can’t live without it.