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Drug Addiction and Dependence
Drug addiction is a very serious issue that can happen to anyone from any type of drug and can be very hard to quit on your own. It’s important to get help as soon as possible before the damage caused by the drug is irreversible.
What Is a Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is a disease that causes your brain to physically and mentally depend on a drug to function normally, or even survive. Without the desired drug in your system, your body undergoes withdrawals which are very undesirable experiences with potentially dangerous symptoms. Drug addiction is chronic, and often results in relapses. Those who suffer from addiction often compulsively seek and use drugs, disregarding the harm they are causing themselves or others.
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How Do Drugs Affect Your Brain?
A normal brain functions by allowing networks of neurons to pass messages throughout the body to different structures, making sure the body is working properly. When a drug enters the body, it interferes or blocks these neurotransmitters from transporting messages, thus producing the effects the drug is known for.
Depending on the type of drug, its usage can affect your brain differently. For example, Marijuana and Heroin activate neurons by mimicking the chemical structure of natural transmitters, ultimately making these neurons send abnormal messages, while Amphetamines and Cocaine cause large amounts of natural transmitters to flow throughout the body.
Drugs produce large amounts of dopamine in the brain, resulting in an inefficiency of the brain’s ability to produce natural amounts on its own, thus contributing to addiction.
Effects of Drugs Versus Natural Rewards
Although your brain allows pleasurable sensations to happen such as excitement or happiness, drugs can cause a much more pleasurable-seeming experience, which is one of the primary reasons addiction develops.
- 2-10 times the amount of dopamine is released from drug use than from eating or having sex.
- Your brain is affected immediately from the first intake of drugs rather than slowly responding to a natural reward.
- Drugs can last much longer, sometimes hours, while natural responses tend to fade after a short period of time.
These reasons reinforce those suffering from addiction to continue using the drug, especially when these natural rewards take much more of an effort to produce due to prolonged use of a drug.
What Does Drug Addiction Feel Like?
Many people don’t understand why it is so hard for a user to quit taking the drug they are dependent on. The majority of people who have never taken drugs don’t realize drugs completely alter the makeup of your brain and how it affects feelings and perceptions.
Drug addiction is a disease of the brain and can physically and mentally affect the user in such a way that makes them only feel normal if they take the drug. It is hard to quit, especially on your own. It takes dedication, willingness, patience, and so much more. If you feel you or someone you love needs help with a drug addiction, please contact a treatment provider today.
At first, taking a drug can feel exciting and vibrant. However, after the thrill is gone and the addiction kicks in, the user takes the drug less for the euphoric high they felt in the beginning and more for the need their brain is yearning for.
A first-time user might feel these symptoms upon the first hit:
- Intense energy
- Increased arousal
- A high or a rush
However, a drug addiction can lead to symptoms such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increased irritability
- Weight loss or gain
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Decreased motivation
Drug addiction can also cause a number of negative medical, spiritual, mental, social, financial, and legal consequences.
How Does a Drug Addiction Affect You Mentally and Physically?
Your body can only take so much of one thing and adjusts to its capacity. Just as how the body rids the excess vitamins you take in, it adjusts for the amount of dopamine a drug provides. Your brain produces dopamine naturally which provides a good feeling. Drugs attempt to flood your brain with dopamine to achieve a more intense “good-feeling.” Because there is so much dopamine flowing, your brain limits the amount of dopamine it produces to make up for the overabundance.
If you use a drug for a long time, your brain will naturally produce less dopamine. However, once the drug’s effect fades, you will lack dopamine, ultimately ending in undesirable feelings. Your mental state is not naturally working anymore, it is depending on the drug, leading to a horrendous addiction.
Mentally you might feel…
- Cravings for the drug
- Loss of hope
- Lack of motivation
Depending on the drug, an addiction can cause some serious physical components such as…
- Gum disease
- Loss of teeth
- Rapid aging
- Physical pain
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Abnormal heart rate
- Heart attacks
- Lung cancer
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Warning Signs of Drug Addiction
You may notice you or a loved one going through prescribed medication rather quickly. This is often the first sign of a prescription drug addiction. You may experience cravings for the drug or see that your loved one frequently visits the doctor for a refill, making up excuses as to why the drugs are gone.
Other common and easy-to-see signs can include:
- Drooping eyes
- Lack of energy
- Poor concentration
- Slurred speech
- Reduced appetite
- Making up excuses or lies
- Mood changes
- Seeking out more privacy
- New social circle
These signs can easily be determined by the user or by a loved one. If you suspect someone you know is addicted to a drug, whether it’d be prescribed or not, please pay attention to these common signs.
How Big of a Problem Is Drug Addiction?
With millions of Americans becoming addicted, it seems we are losing the war on drugs. The numbers are increasing every year, which is why it is so important to get help early.
23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009.
In 2008, the age range with the highest proportion of treatment admissions was the 25–29 group at 14.8 percent, followed by those 20–24 at 14.4 percent and those 40–44 at 12.6 percent.
There were 1.8 million admissions in 2008 for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse to facilities that report to State administrative data systems.
Seeking Help for Drug Addiction
No matter what type of drug the user chooses, ANY and all drug addictions are a very serious problem that can result in irreversible damage and possibly death. No one plans on getting addicted and it is not your fault, but seeking out help now is the best decision you can make. If you could relate to the information written on this page, chances are you have an addiction and need to seek help as soon as possible for yourself and for those around you.
Find out more about your options by reaching out to a treatment facility and making an informed about your future.
What are you struggling with?
There are many different forms of addiction. Get the information you need to help you overcome yours.