UNDERSTANDING DRUG USE AND ADDICTION
Many individuals don’t understand why or how individuals wind up noticeably addictedto drugs. They may wrongly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or will and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and smoking cessation usually takes more than good intentions or strong willpower. The drugs change the brain so as to stop smoking hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how medications affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from addiction and lead productive lives.
WHAT IS DRUG ADDICTION?
Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug discovery and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite the adverse consequences. The initial decision to take the drug is voluntary for most people but repeated use of the drug can lead to changes in the brain that challenge a dependent person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense desires to take medication. These changes in the brain may be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “recurring” disease-people in the recovery of drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use, even after years of not taking the drug.
It is common for a person to relapse, but relapse does not mean that the treatment does not work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be continuous and should be adjusted according to how the patient responds. Treatment plans should be reviewed frequently and modified to accommodate changing patient needs.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DRUG ADDICTION?
They appear with benzodiazepines and morphinics, if the drug is stopped (complete weaning) or when daily doses are decreased (relative weaning). They disappear in a few days, sometimes a little longer, depending on the medication and their duration of action.
The benzodiazepines are mostly used as anxiolytic / hypnotic, but also as anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants. Their withdrawal causes a rebound of anxiety, a sleeplessness and even seizures of epilepsy as very dangerous seizures.
In addition to their analgesic effects, morphinics are known to promote constipation and block biological stress systems. Their weaning therefore leads to diffuse pain, diarrhea and a state of psychological and physical stress (anxiety, insomnia, sweat, sensation of hot-cold, runny nose, palpitations, elevated blood pressure, etc.).
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BRAIN WHEN A PERSON TAKES DRUGS?
Most medications affect the brain’s “circuit of reward” by inundating it with chemical dopamine messenger. This reward system controls the body’s ability to feel pleasure and motivates a person to repeat the behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with their loved ones. This over stimulation of the reward circuit causes the intense “high” pleasure that can cause people to take over and over again a medication.
As a person continues to consume drugs, the brain adjusts to excess dopamine by doing less of it and / or reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the strong that the person feels compared to the strong they felt by first taking the drug an effect known as tolerance. They could take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same high dopamine. It can also cause them to get less pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, such as food or social activities.
Long-term use also causes changes in other systems and brain chemical circuits as well, affecting functions that include:
Despite being aware of these adverse outcomes, many people who use drugs continue to take them, which is the nature of addiction.
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE DEVELOP ADDICTIONS WHILE OTHERS DO NOT?
No factor can anticipate whether a man will wind up plainly addictedto the drug. A blend of variables impacts the danger of reliance. The more hazard factors a man has, the more prominent the possibility that taking pharmaceutical can prompt habit. For instance:
- Biology. The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also affect the risk for drug use and addiction.
- The environment. The environment of a person includes many different influences, from family and friends to the economic situation and quality of life in general. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to medication, stress, and parenting can greatly affect the likelihood of drug use and substance abuse.
- Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with the critical stages of development in a person’s life to influence the risk of dependence. Although taking medication at any age can lead to addiction, the sooner drug use begins, the more it will progress to addiction. This is particularly problematic for adolescents. Because areas in their brain that control decision-making, judgment and self-control are still developing, adolescents may be particularly prone to risky behaviors, including difficult medications.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH DRUG ADDICTION?
As with any addiction, life can be centered on the research and consumption of the drug with a gradual abandonment of other activities and a risk of isolation.
More specifically, some drugs have implications for fitness and driving, with an increased risk of accidents. The increase in doses can go as far as potentially fatal overdoses, especially if there is a poly-drug use (alcohol, other drugs, etc.).
There may also be episodes of overconsumption, a kind of “cooked medicine”, responsible for voluntary drug poisoning, with no intention of death but which can lead to it.
The nasal decongestants, which are improperly consumed for their psychostimulant effects have vascular effects (vasoconstriction). In case of overdose, they can cause high blood pressure, stroke and myocardial infarction. Drugs containing paracetamol and codeine are toxic due to paracetamol, which can induce fatal fulminant hepatitis in case of over-consumption.
Some psychotropic drugs can cause confusion, promote the onset or aggravation of psychiatric disorders, and aggressive behavior against oneself (suicide) or others.
However, the risk is not solely related to over dosage. When the body has developed a physical dependence, the absence of drug exposes a withdrawal syndrome, potentially fatal with benzodiazepines (seizures), or very painful and stressful with morphine.
CAN WE BE CURED OR PREVENTED?
As with most other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, the treatment of addiction is generally not a cure. However, addiction is treatable and can be managed successfully. People who recover from addiction will be at risk for relapse for years and perhaps for their entire lives. Research shows that combining drugs for drug treatment with behavioral therapy provides the best chance of success for most patients. Treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and concomitant medical, mental and social problems may lead to further recovery.
Other good news is that drug use and addiction are preventable. The results of the NIDA-funded research have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities and the media are effective in preventing or reducing drug use and addiction. Although personal events and cultural factors influence patterns of use, when young people see drug use as harmful, they tend to decrease their use of drugs. Therefore, education and awareness are essential to help people understand the potential risks of drug use. Teachers, parents and health care providers play a crucial role in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.
CAN WE RECOGNIZE THE VICTIM OF DRUG ADDICTION?
Some of his behaviors can put the “chip by the ear”, for example excessive self-medication, discomfort at a distance from the last intake of the drug, difficulty in controlling consumption with doses higher than recommended or prescribed doses.
The person who becomes addicted may seem insistent to get his medication, consult several doctors to multiply the prescriptions (and often several pharmacies), even steal in his entourage or resort to the black market (drugs purchased on the street). For fear of missing it, she always has them with her, in her pockets, her bag, her car and makes reservations.
As the disorder can be part of a more general addictive problem, it is also necessary to be particularly attentive when there is an addiction to other products such as alcohol or certain drugs including cannabis.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug discovery and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite the adverse consequences.
- Changes in the brain that occur over time with the use of the drug challenge a dependent person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to withstand intense desires to take medication. This is the reason why drug addiction is also a recurring disease.
- Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop. Relapse indicates the need for a more or different treatment.
- Most drugs act on the brain’s reward circuit by inundating it with chemical dopamine messenger. This over stimulation of the reward circuit causes the intense “high” pleasure that drives people to take over and over again a medication.
- Over time, the brain adjusts to excess dopamine, which reduces the strong that the person feels compared to the strong they felt by first taking the drug an effect known as tolerance. They could take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same high dopamine.
- No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to the drug. A combination of genetic, environmental and developmental factors influences the risk of dependence. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking medication can lead to addiction.
- Drug addiction is treatable and can be managed successfully.
- Other good news is that drug use and addiction are preventable. Teachers, parents and health care providers play a crucial role in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.