What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is a complex neurobiological disorder, which affects a person’s brain and behaviour in a way that they lose the ability to resist the urge to use drugs. It isn’t just about illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. You can get addicted to substances like medication drugs, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and other legal drugs as well. Drug dependence usually starts with an experiment. Initially, you take drugs because you like the way it feels. You think it’s a one-time experience and you can handle it. Also, many people start using drugs as self-medication or to cope with stress. But repeated misuse of drugs physically changes how your brain works. It makes you lose self-control and messes with your ability to avoid the desire to take drugs. These changes in the brain can be long-lasting. People who are in recovery from drug abuse are likely to return to drug use even after years of being in recovery from drug addiction. This is called drug relapse.
Effects of Drug Addiction
Drugs are chemicals which affect the brain and body. Different drugs have different compounds and affect the human body differently. Effects of drug abuse also depend on the way you consume it. There are few ways a drug can be consumed, like injection, inhalation and ingestion.
If the drug is injected into the bloodstream, it works almost instantaneously. But when ingested, it takes time for the drug to get into the bloodstream. According to the WHO, around 31 million people worldwide have drug abuse disorder, and among them, 11 million consume drugs by injecting it.
Effect of Drug Addiction on the Brain
Here are some effects of drug addiction in your brain:
- Altered brain functions
- Loss of rational decision-making
- Loss of self-control
- Drug viewed as necessary to survival
- Inability to feel pleasure without drugs
Effect of Drug Addiction on the Body
Here are some common effects of drug misuse on the human body:
- Drug abuse damages the immune system and makes you vulnerable to infections.
- It causes heart conditions, including abnormal heart rates, heart attacks and the collapse of veins.
- Drugs cause nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting.
- Some drugs increase the risk of liver failure due to the excessive strain on the liver.
- Misuse of drug abuse causes permanent brain damage, including memory loss, and problems with decision-making and focus.
Apart from these, there are social effects of drug abuse that are also damaging:
- Damaged relationships with family and friends
- Losing job
- Financial trouble
- Sexual abuse
- Accidents and injuries
- Legal consequences (e.g. going to jail).
Causes of Drug Addiction
- Genetics – According to the National institute of the drug abuse (NIDA) genetics (the genes a person is born with) account for approximately half, or 50 percent, of a person’s risk for developing an addiction.
- Environment – Like with many other disorders, drug addiction is also largely environmental. A person’s surroundings – including family, friends, home and neighborhood – can all influence their chances of drug addiction in some way. .
- Development – Both genetic and environmental factors correlate with a person’s critical developmental stages. For example, when a teen uses drugs in adolescence (when the brain is still maturing), the risk for disrupting brain development is high.
- Mental health disorders – When an individual is struggling with a mental health issue – such as anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD, or schizophrenia – he or she is more likely to get addicted to drugs.
Prevention From Drug Addiction
When it comes to prevention from drug abuse, there is no foolproof way. But you can certainly do some things that will help you protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming addicted to drugs.
- Educate yourself – Learn about the physical, biological, and social effects of drug misuse. Evaluate the risk factors like losing a job, isolation from society, dropping out of college. No one sets out to be addicted to drugs, so be careful in thinking using a drug “just once” will not be harmful.
- Learn healthy ways to cope with stress – Stress is one of the primary reasons that drive people to drug misuse.
- In this fast-paced world, stress is inevitable – And sometimes to escape from stress, people turn to alcohol and drugs. In the end, this can make life more miserable and stressful. To avoid this, you should learn to handle stress without using drugs. Take up exercising, read a book, volunteer for a good cause, create something. Anything positive that will give you a sense of fulfillment and take your mind away from using drugs to relieve stress.
- Develop close bonds with family – Research has shown that people who have a close relationship with their families are less likely to abuse drugs. A loving family works as a support system and helps you deal with your pressures in life. It helps you to keep a distance from addictive substances.
- Choose your friends mindfully – Teenagers and young adults are easily influenced by others. Often they start to explore different addictive drugs to impress their friends and portray themselves as “cool”. Find friends who won’t force you to do harmful things or be okay with possibly facing rejection when you turn down drugs.
- Develop a healthy lifestyle – There is no better prevention of drug problems than adopting a healthy lifestyle. Being active and fit makes it easier to manage stress. This, in turn, helps to reduce the urge to use drugs or any other harmful substances to manage stress.
These are some of the preventive measures one can take to avoid drug addiction. But if you already developed an addiction, it is advisable to seek professional help and treatment for your drug problem.