Drug addicts are unable to control the amount of drug they use, where they get it from or when, how often or how much they take even though they know their drug use is causing physical harm. Researchers think this lapse in self-control may result from the changes drug abuse causes in the brain. Drug addiction is caused by consuming drugs, repeatedly over time. Over time, the body builds a tolerance to the substance consumed and symptoms of withdrawal appear when one stops taking the substance.
Drugs cause chemical reactions in the brain that can change how certain areas work overtime. In the history of the world, never have so many been addicted to so few substances. In spite of laws against drug use and a seemingly endless war on drugs, illicit substances continue to plague society in their devastating effects on individuals and institutions alike. There is no one simple explanation for drug addiction; drugs do not create addicts but rather them open doors within the brain that allow more mundane vices to become obsessions. If an addiction is defined as being unable to control substance-related impulses, then it is safe to say that almost every person is addicted one way or another. Here are what make drugs addictive:
Neurotransmitters are the molecules cells use to communicate with one another. All of our actions, emotions and states of being spring from chemical reactions in the brain. An addiction occurs when there is an excess production or release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which results in feelings of euphoria; these feelings become linked with substance-related actions, which leads to the compulsive use of the substance in question.
Dopamine, serotonin, glutamate and GABA are just a few of the neurotransmitters that allow cells to send messages. Drugs affect how these neurotransmitters behave by stimulating or blocking them altogether. Almost all drugs of abuse directly or indirectly affect the neurotransmitter glutamate in some way. Excessive amounts of glutamate can cause a person to experience intense cravings and these desires can last long after substance use has ceased. This suggests that addiction is less a matter of choice and more a matter of biology.
Research suggests that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a crucial role in drug abuse. Once neuroscientists discovered this connection, they began to believe that all drugs of abuse operated by triggering or stimulating the brain’s reward system, which is responsible for feelings of happiness and emotional satisfaction. The simplest way to describe this process is through classic behavioral conditioning: if a person uses a drug and experiences pleasure, they are more likely to use it again. Addictive drugs, from methamphetamines to heroin, often have one thing in common: they mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain. When neurons release dopamine, it stimulates receptors on other neurons and leads to a cascade or reactions that create feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This is what creates the need of wanting to use the drug again.
Everyone is born with a certain degree of vulnerability to addiction. Some people are more genetically predisposed to becoming addicted than others, and there is no way of knowing for sure until it’s too late…until the first time a person uses an addictive substance and experiences those intensely pleasurable effects. This biological vulnerability can be exacerbated by environmental factors. The limbic system, an area of the brain responsible for memory and emotions among other things, is extremely vulnerable to changes caused by long-term drug exposure. This means that after prolonged substance abuse, memories, moods, and emotions are all susceptible to alteration resulting in intense cravings for the drug long after it has been stopped. Methamphetamine, for example, releases up to 10 times the amount of dopamine that cocaine does. This is partly why methamphetamine addicts are unable to stop using the drug even after it has ravaged their bodies and caused irreparable damage to their personal relationships.
In conclusion, drug addiction results from a complex series of biological and environmental factors that, when combined, create a predisposition for substance abuse. It is important to remember, however, that this does not mean anyone using drugs has an addiction…they only have the potential for it. If you are addicted to a drug it is advisable that you seek help. If you know someone who is addicted, it’s important to remember that recovery begins with acknowledging the problem. All forms of addiction are treatable so there is no reason to suffer in silence! Call us today at 424-499-2603 and start the journey to recovery.