Drug addiction is a tolerance or dependence that forms when illegal street drugs or prescription medications are abused. Initially, the addict may not even realize that they are addicted to drugs or if they do realize that they are addicted they may not be able to control their drug use despite the known consequences that result from the drug use. Drug addiction causes intense cravings that make it difficult for the addict to say no or to maintain abstinence from drug use.
Many addicts suffer extreme, long term consequence as a result of drug addiction. Physical and mental health problems are not uncommon for both those addicted to drugs and also for recovering addicts. Addiction can also cause problems with finances, relationships, employment and the law.
Why Some Drug Users Become Addicted to Drugs
Like any condition or disease, some people are more vulnerable to drug addiction than others. Certain factors can increase an individual’s risk of becoming addicted to drugs. These risk factors may include genetic predisposition, co-occurring mental health disorders, family relationships and social environments. The following factors can increase the risk of an individual becoming addicted to drugs even with casual drug use:
- Having a family history of drug or alcohol addiction
- Suffering from neglect or abuse as a child—this may be physical, mental or sexual abuse
- Suffering from certain mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression
- Using drugs at a very early age such as in early adolescence or as a teenager
- The manner in which the drugs are used such as injecting a drug or smoking a drug which may increase the potential for addiction to occur
How Drug Addiction Affects the Brain
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that drug addiction is a serious disease that is treatable. The use of drugs has physical effects on the brain and can actually alter the manner in which the brain functions. Prolonged drug abuse can have the following impact on the brain:
- The brain can have difficulty feeling pleasure without the use of drugs because there is no drug to cause the surge in dopamine levels when the drugs are removed
- In time, addiction to a drug becomes part of a survival method similar to the need to eat food or drink water and the brain forces the addict to seek and use the drug as a means of survival
- The brain can have difficulty feeling normal without drugs and the ability to react, think clearly or make positive judgment can diminish with long term use of drugs
- Certain drugs manipulate the brain to the point in which the drug becomes more important than anything else in life including family, friends, relationships, careers or even the health and happiness of the individual himself
- The brain will alter the ability to come to terms with the addiction rendering the addict to a state in which they rationalize the addiction or deny it completely. The addict may underestimate the amount of drugs that they use or they may not come to terms with the true affects that the drugs have on their attitude or behaviors.