What We Should Know About Drug Addictions

WHAT IS AN ADDICTION?

Addiction is a disease that causes someone to use a substance compulsively.  The need or impulse to use the substance is so strong that it takes over the user’s life.

The most common drug addictions involve alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, opioids, sedatives, and cocaine, but addictions can develop from the use of almost anything, including food.

IS AN ADDICTION A DISEASE?

Most medical institutions, including the American Medical Association, define and treat addiction as a disease. Many people believe that drug addiction is a choice because it involves someone’s initial decision to use or abuse drugs. While the initial choice is not a result of a disease, the addiction that follows is a disease.

Addiction changes the way the body and brain function. When someone uses a substance, the brain releases chemicals in the reward and pleasure center of the brain. As a result, the brain adapts to these releases and becomes accustomed to them. Addiction occurs because the user cannot stop taking these chemicals without pain, desire, and desperation resulting from the brain’s new dependency.

SHOULD AN ADDICT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS?

Since addiction is a disease, people suffering from addiction should not be held accountable for their suffering. While individuals do choose to use substances, they do not decide how their brain and body respond to the substances. It is up to them, along with friends and family, to seek help and work toward recovering from their disease.

WHO CAN BECOME ADDICTED?

Addiction can happen to anyone. Those who use recreational or prescription drugs, even just once, are at a higher risk of developing an addiction.

WHAT ARE SIGNS OF ADDICTION?

If you or someone you know has is using recreational or prescription drugs, keep an eye out for signs of addiction. While addiction manifests differently from person to person, there are some telltale signs to watch out for. If you notice any of these signs in someone that you know is using, it may be time to seek professional help:

  • behavior changes
  • increased anxiety
  • denial
  • hiding drug use
  • lying
  • enlarged or constricted pupils
  • bloodshot eyes
  • insomnia
  • unusual body odors
  • slurred speech
  • poor hygiene
  • loss of coordination
  • lack of motivation
  • sudden mood swings
  • increase or decrease in social involvement