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Understanding Drug Addiction

Man Struggling with Drug Addiction For a general definition we can say that drug addiction is the compulsive use of certain drugs to the point that the user has lost the ability to cease using. The relative addiction of each drug is different in terms of its chemical compound and also varies from person to person. For example, codeine requires more exposure to form an addiction than does cocaine or heroin. One person may also be more psychologically or genetically predisposed to addiction than another, and this may not be known until after the person is addicted and in need of treatment. Learn more about the signs of drug abuse here.

Addiction to a drug usually has two separate components: a psychological and a physical dependency. From a psychological standpoint it is being used to kill or mask pain, to feel pleasure, or to relieve stress. From a physical perspective, a drug addict uses to feel "normal". Over time, the body has become so used to the presence of substances that without it the person will begin to have withdrawal symptoms. Substance abuse is different from drug addiction. Learn more about the common symptoms of both problems.

What Causes Addiction to a Drug?

There are many different ideas an concepts when it comes to drug addiction. It is generally accepted addiction is biological in nature. Addiction to a drug is believed to be created by a changing of the brain's reward functions. The part of the brain that is affected is responsible for behaviors such as eating, exercise and social interaction. When the chemical hits this portion of the brain, known as the mesolimbic dopamine system, excessive levels of dopamine are released causing a general feeling of euphoria, or otherwise called a "high". Over an extended period of time, these short-term "highs" can create long-term effects. As the brain experiences these periods of greater than normal dopamine release, the resultant brain reactions become more severe.

Continued use of the drug causes a person to use more and more in order to have the same level of pleasure, until the use of the drug dominates the normal day-to-day life experiences. Finally, the drug completely takes over the persons rational thought processes, and life cannot continue without it. Within a drug rehab center, cognitive and behavioral therapies are used in addressing these changes to the brain's chemical structure to get that individual back to a level of normalcy.

Different Drugs, Different Reactions

Each drug has a unique effect on the body. Heroin reacts differently than cocaine and even with marijuana addiction. Some drugs are classified as depressants. Examples of this drug class include alcohol, benzodiazepines, and prescription medications. These work by mimicking endorphins that are produced naturally by the body. This drug class relaxes the body and relieves pain. Another general class includes stimulants. Examples of this include amphetamines and methamphetamines ("meth"), crack, nicotine and caffeine.

4 Risk Factors Involved with Addictions

  1. Adolescent Substance Abuse - The adolescent mind is still in development and emotions and behaviors are undergoing major refining changes from ages 15-25. This developmental stage of growth can make the individual vulnerable to the influences of these types of substances. Because of these changes in behaviors it can be difficult to notice in some adolescents. Those who abuse drugs at a young age are more likely to develop an addiction.
  2. Environment - Social and home environments can be a risk factor for substance use. Those who come from abusive homes and high stress environments may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism or outlet. Environments where such substances are more readily available can also increase the likelihood of addictive behaviors. Environments where there is not sufficient parental control can also be a factor of risk.
  3. Genetics/Family History - Some individuals are genetically vulnerable to the influences of drugs and alcohol and are more likely to develop an addiction to them. This is similar to other genetic health vulnerabilities like diabetes, heart problems, or cancer. Families can look at the struggles with alcoholism and drinking problems in their history as an indicator of potential substance abuse risks in the home.
  4. Disorders - Behavioral and psychiatric disorders are also a contributor and influencer of drug addiction. Some studies have shown those dealing with such disorders are 40% more likely to develop substance abuse problems than those without. Common illnesses that can co-occur with addiction are: depression, anxiety, bi polar disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, conduct disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Drug Addiction Help

For individuals and families seeking help for drug addiction at Cirque Lodge, the first question they ask is sometimes: "How do I know if my son (daughter, husband, wife, etc.) is addicted to drugs and is in need of drug treatment? Addiction to a specific drug is fairly obvious to spot if one knows what to look for. When you call Cirque Lodge, you are put in touch with an actual member of our staff that will help you assess your situation. We can help you determine the severity of the substance abuse and whether an alcohol or drug rehab program is needed. We will also provide as much information we can about you or your loved ones specific needs for treatment. You can also learn more about some starting tips for getting help or 10 ways to help a loved one with a drug addiction.