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Drug Addiction

Drug Addiction Resource

More than 20 million Americans will use an illegal drug in any given month if you count marijuana in this group. Some are addicted, and some aren’t, but the point is you’re playing with fire anytime you take a mind- or mood-altering substance, legal or illegal. Drug addiction usually implicates heroin/opioid, cocaine, and meth users, but there are several other substances on both the black and pharmaceutical markets that lead people to addiction.

Drug Addiction: What Is It?

While the decision to take drugs for the first time is usually a voluntary one, many people don’t understand how some people end up as addicts and others don’t. It’s not a matter of choosing to quit but a much more complex problem that is rooted in each person’s individual brain chemistry.

Drugs affect the sections in your brain that are known as the “pleasure centers” that, when activated, control feelings of pleasure and reward. Your brain naturally releases chemical messengers (known as dopamine) to stimulate these pleasure centers, and most drugs mimic the rush of euphoria that dopamine delivers.

The problem is that the drugs overstimulate the reward feelings, and the intense gratification is something that can only be replicated with continued drug use. This leads to two problems:

  1. The body and brain develop a tolerance to the dosage, meaning that the addict has to constantly increase the amount they take to achieve a high.
  2. Because the drug is providing the brain with a constant flow of chemicals, it stops producing its natural feel-good chemicals, resulting in a crash when the effects of the drug have worn off.

Heavy or long-term drug use can cause a variety of changes in your brain, not only impairing your ability to quit but eventually leaving you with irreversible damage to your memory and nervous system.

Drug Addiction: Who Has It?

Drug addiction truly can impact anyone from any background – financial status, race, age, geographic area, educational level…you name it. Although, certain circumstances put individuals more at risk of drug addiction than others.

Several factors contribute to whether a person becomes addicted to drugs, and usually, it is difficult to pinpoint just one. However, a combination of some of the following risk factors may influence who becomes addicted:

About half of your risk for addiction can be found in your genes, including your ethnicity, gender, family history and presence of mental disorders.
Influences from family and friends, economic status, trauma, lifestyle, stress and parental involvement can all have a powerful effect on whether you use or become addicted to drugs.
While both nature and nurture strongly influence your choices, they can also negatively affect physical development. There is no age limit for drug abuse, but if you start taking drugs at a younger age, there is a higher likelihood that it will turn into an addiction.

This is because the sections of the brain responsible for self-control, judgment, and decision-making are not fully developed in teens, making them more prone to trying drugs and engaging in other risky behaviors.

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