Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction

Drug abuse and addiction are more common in the US than one might think, and effect Americans of all ages, races, and classes. Understanding the ways that drug abuse and addiction works is important to protecting yourself and your loved ones from the problems that come from using these substances.

  1. It doesn’t work the same for everyone. There are a variety of reasons why a person would turn to using drugs, as well as a plethora of ways their body can react to the introduction of new substances. For first time users, many believe it will help them overcome a challenge in their life. These reasons can be internal, like a difficulty with anxiety or depression, or come from external forces like peer pressure or the drive to perform well in an athletic competition.

The reactions of a body to drug use also vary greatly between different people, and it doesn’t necessary become abusive behavior immediately. The major benchmark for knowing if a substance use is addictive and abused is if it’s interfering with the everyday life of the user. Levels of vulnerability often tie into family history, traumatic experience, and the method by which the drug is administered into the body.

  1. Repeated drug use will alter the brain’s functions, resulting in addiction. Many recreational drugs cause a dopamine surge in the brain, which is the chemical that controls our feelings of happiness and pleasure. Because these are normally a natural good, our brain then heavily desires to have those sensations repeated. However, since the drug-caused dopamine rush is higher than what we could naturally produce, the desire to use overpowers all of our other life concerns, including health, family, and career.

Many people who are addicted have their own brain working against them, arguing that it’s not as big of a problem as it really is, or that they have everything under control.  This is a common thread throughout all addictions and does not discriminate depending on the type of addictive drug.

  1. Abuse and addiction develops over time. As mentioned above, the path to addiction is not always immediate, and there are very real reasons why regular users are unable to break out of the cycle. It’s rare for a drug addict to personally identify when they’ve crossed a line between regular use and addiction, and it often takes a severe event to recognize the problem. The biggest difference between casual use and dependence is when the drug changes from a personal decision to an inherent need.

Often use will increase over time, or be so tied to your daily functioning that it may seem impossible to stop. This is particularly true for those who ‘self-medicate’ with drugs to help themselves through a stressful situation or anxiety, as well as those suffering from chronic pain. The use of drugs to relieve these problems will only exacerbate their difficulties over time.

While all the above may seem daunting, if you or someone you know is suffering from drug abuse or addiction, there are some wonderful programs in place that can counteract their effects and help you to regain your life. Call us at 800-714-2175 to find out how Discovery can help beat addiction.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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