The Causes and Effects of Drug Addiction
Drug addiction is not a hallmark of moral failure or lack of willpower—it’s a complex disease that deserves long-term, extensive treatment, just like any other chronic condition. People who have not struggled with substance abuse may find it difficult to understand why anyone would start using. Why would someone willingly put themselves in harm’s way by taking dangerous substances? There are, in fact, many reasons why some people turn to or start abusing drugs, and unfortunately the consequences can be life-shattering. While every case is unique, there are general patterns that indicate why some people use drugs, how addiction develops, and the consequences of drug abuse.
Why People Use Drugs
While specific incentives differ from person to person, generally speaking, people start using drugs to escape or mask pain.
In some individuals, the onset of drug use can be from untreated psychiatric issues including anxiety and depression. The rush of pleasure from using drugs can provide temporary solace from suffering, which can stem from many mental health or other issues including the following:
- Trauma or abuse
- Mental illness
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship problems
- Loss of a loved one
- Chronic pain or medical conditions
But whatever their reason for starting, once addiction sets in, the disease usually spirals more and more out of their control.
How Addiction Develops
For most people, the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary. But as they are swept up into the cycle of addiction, the neural pathways in their brain change so they are less able to control their behavior and resist their intense impulses.
It works like this: the brain rewards pleasurable experiences (such as food, intimacy, and laughter) with surges of feel-good chemicals like dopamine. But using drugs triggers the release of much more dopamine than chocolate or cuddling does, and the rush of euphoria compels them to repeat the experience. The more someone uses drugs, the more they condition their brain to anticipate the same substance-fueled pleasant sensations.
That’s why it’s so difficult to stop. The brain becomes wired for addiction. Eventually, one’s tolerance may build so much that addictive behavior no longer provides any pleasure, and using drugs simply becomes a way to avoid withdrawal. They need drugs just to keep feeling normal.
Why Some Become Addicted
Not everyone who experiments with drugs becomes an addict. There’s no single factor that can predict whether someone will become addicted, though there are general social, biological, and environmental factors that do increase the risk.
Biology. Genes, in combination with environmental factors, account for about half of a person’s addiction vulnerability. Being male, African American, or having a mental illness can also increase a person’s risk of progressing to addiction.
Environment. Family, friends, and socioeconomic status have a significant impact on a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction. Physical and sexual abuse, peer pressure, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect the occurrence of substance abuse.
Development. Although a person can become an addict at any age, the earlier substance use begins, the more likely it will escalate to serious addiction.
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The Effects of Drug Addiction
The sad truth is that more deaths, illnesses, and disabilities are caused by substance abuse than by any other preventable health condition. Prolonged drug dependence interferes with just about every organ in the human body, and while different drugs have different damaging effects, these are some of the common conditions substance abuse can cause:
- Damaged immune system, which increases susceptibility to infection
- Cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks and collapsed veins
- Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
- Liver overexertion or liver failure
- Seizures and strokes
- Widespread brain damage that can interfere with memory, attention, and decision-making, as well as permanent brain damage
Some of the worst effects of substance abuse aren’t even health related. Drug abuse can have a number of damaging consequences on an addict’s social and emotional well-being, including:
- Loss of employment
- Relationship loss
- Financial trouble
- Risky sexual behavior
Many problems can be reversed or minimized by getting sober, but there may be some health and emotional issues that simply won’t heal with time. The best way to prevent permanent damage is to seek professional treatment ASAP to overcome the addiction.
If you have questions or concerns about drugs and how they affect you, call us today. Alta Mira can help you find a way out of the dark haze of addiction and into sobriety. Contact us for more information about our renowned programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.