The line between abuse of drugs and addiction is not difficult to cross. A person may think they are in control of their substance use if it hasn’t caused any serious problems in their life, but the truth is, if they haven’t tried to stop, they don’t know for sure whether they are actually addicted or not. The main telltale sign of addiction is that discontinuance of the substance will result in a variety of withdrawal symptoms that make the person seek out more of the substance involved.
Continued use and abuse of the substance eventually leads to negative effects to the person’s physical, mental, and spiritual health, with the added consequences of relationship problems, financial issues, or even legal trouble. At this point, the drug or alcohol becomes the person’s central focus and nothing else matters, and now there is no doubt about whether they are an addict. Addiction is defined by the fact that the person has no control over whether to continue using the substance, regardless of how many aspects of their life have been ruined as a result of this behavior.
This aspect of addiction relates to how the body is affected by the substance. Continued use has resulted in a high tolerance level, meaning the person needs more of the substance to get the desired effects. Overdose is often the result. If the user tries to abstain, serious withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, hallucinations, shakes, tremors, paranoia, and seizures make the individual go back to using the drug of choice in order to escape the symptoms.
Some drugs do not create physical addiction; however, they can produce a psychological addiction which is distinctively different from a physical addiction. With this type of addiction, there are no noticeable withdrawal symptoms as such, but the person experiences powerful, uncontrollable cravings for the substance. These cravings can cause a great deal of anguish, distress, and anxiety as a physical addiction, forcing the individual to seek more of the substance.
Addicts may increase their tolerance, meaning it would take more of the substance to get a high or decrease, meaning it takes less of the substance to get a high. The addict will also experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. These symptoms include hand tremors, sweating, insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety, hallucinations, seizures, and physical agitation.
Many addicts will attempt to stop using the substance without much success. The addict will also use more of the substance or spend more time trying to get the substance. One of the most distinct symptoms of an addiction is that the person will stop doing things that they used to like. For example, if the addict used to like walks in the park, or playing soccer or basketball, he/she would stop doing these activities.
The behavioral and physical symptoms constitute addiction. Because addiction is a disease that can relapse, researchers recommend that rehabilitation programs should come up with booster sessions for people who relapse.
Dangers of Drug Abuse
Prescription Drug Abuse
This often starts as a harmless habit because prescriptions drugs help alleviate pain or distress. Because the drugs are prescribed and legal, most users take them with a clear conscience and even abuse them, but would not view it as such.
With time, the user begins to take more because the body develops a form of tolerance for the drugs. Eventually, they get addicted and would do anything to obtain the drugs. Addicts turn to doctors to get as much as they can and eventually turn to buying from the black market.
The constant intake of prescription drugs is harmful to the body and may affect the functioning of organs and tissues in the body.
Besides the fact that cocaine is illegal and can land a person in jail, the drug is extremely harmful to the body. A cocaine addict may end up burning a hole in their nasal cavity and have constant bloody nose and sinus infections.
The constant sniffing and resultant runny nose leaves a chapped area under the nostril. In addition, cocaine is a stimulant and speeds up the heart rate. This does not just affect the circulatory system, but it also affects vision. Finally, prolonged use of cocaine can lead to death.
Many people believe marijuana should be legalized. Some states have done this already while others allow use for medicinal purposes. Because marijuana is natural, some people believe that marijuana should not be classified as a drug. The truth is, marijuana is a drug. There is proof that marijuana destroys brain cells and causes respiratory problems.
Street Drug Dependence
Meth, crack, mushrooms, acid, and cocaine are all available on the streets for anyone looking for them. These drugs are all dangerous. Crack, meth, and cocaine kill people every day by causing their hearts just to give up. Acid users can have flashbacks for years. Besides the prospects of being imprisoned, even those who escape jail time would not want to risk losing their families, jobs, and lives.
Over-the-counter drugs like cough, cold, and sinus medicines contain ephedrine and Dramamine. These substances have been known to create some form of high if taken enough. This makes such over-the-counter medications a convenient and available choice for many school children.
For example, some children take as much as 8-10 cold or cough tablets. Most of these drugs cause PCP-like hallucinations, increase the heart rate and create other symptoms similar to an anxiety attack. Cold and cough medicines are also highly addictive.
Drug Addiction and the Brain
Marijuana and Opiates
These drugs are designed to affect the brain’s neurotransmitters. They trick the brain and activate cells in the brain, which makes the brain send abnormal messages.
When people use stimulants like meth and cocaine, the drugs make their nerve cells release more natural neurotransmitters than normal. The drugs can also make neurotransmitters stop recycling, which causes a disruption in the brain’s normal communication system.
Almost all drugs target the brain’s reward system. This causes the brain to release extra dopamine. Dopamine is a natural chemical that controls emotions and other pleasurable feelings. When people continue using drugs, the brain gets used to the continued flood of dopamine and starts to release less of it or may lower the amount of dopamine receptors in its reward system. This makes the produced dopamine have less impact when released to the brain. This is how tolerance develops making the person start using more drugs in the desperate effort to seek the pleasure they once experienced.
Causes of Drug Abuse
This is one of the most common causes of drug abuse. It stems from the fact that the addict wants to escape some underlying emotional pain or trauma.
An unexpected job loss may lead a person into drugs. Such an incident may make the victim feel inadequate and undermines their self-confidence and esteem. This makes them flee from their troubles by seeking a high.
Arguments and lack of a peaceful home can lead people to drugs. Many addicts feel that drugs will give them a release from their marital problems or tension at home.
Some people are more susceptible to drug addiction. Genetics has a role to play in some addiction cases. Once the person gets the high from the drug, he/she would crave more.
This encompasses all the causes of drug addiction. Some addicts just feel that they must relax, mentally shutdown, or escape.
Addiction Facts and Statistics
- There are more than 15,000 alcohol-related liver diseases in the US each year.
- Each year the US experiences more than 25,000 alcohol-induced deaths.
- Marijuana is the most used illegal drug in the US. However, research proves that most marijuana users take the drug occasionally and do not use it with any other drug.
- According to Drug Free Alliance, the rate of marijuana use increased from 5.8-6.9 percent between 2007 and 2010 or from 14.4-17.4 million people in the same period.
- The US is the world’s largest importer of cocaine. This makes the drug the third most available drug in high school and colleges after marijuana and meth. 15,000 people die each year because of cocaine-related complications.
- Crack is cocaine that has been processed into a crystal and is used through smoking. 6.2 million Americans above 12 years of age have tried crack at least once in the past year.
- The US is the largest consumer of painkillers in the world. It absorbs 71 percent of the world’s oxycodone and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone.
- 7 million Americans above the age of 12 admit to abusing prescription drugs.
- Meth is used by all kinds of people including those in the rural and urban areas. Most people who use meth belong to the 18-30 years age brackets. The drug is easy to manufacture because all its ingredients can be purchased over the counter. It is also the easiest to relapse because of its mental, physical, and biological effects.
- Heroin is made from morphine. It can be snorted, injected, or smoked. The US has more than 1.2 million occasional users of heroin. More than 200,000 are considered addicts.
Drug addiction is a chronic mental disease. Individuals who abuse drugs can easily become addicted. Drug addiction alters the brain structure and function. This results in harmful side effects. The changes make users display adverse behavioral and physical symptoms. However, addicts should be taken care of, loved, and supported. With therapy and counseling, addicts can resume normal lives.
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