Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, one that takes tremendous courage and strength
People from all walks of life can experience problems with their drug use, regardless of age, race, or background. While some are able to use recreational or prescription drugs without experiencing negative effects, others find that substance use takes a serious toll on their health and well-being. Abusing drugs can leave you feeling helpless, isolated, or ashamed. If you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s drug use, learning how drug abuse and addiction develops—and why it can have such a powerful hold will give you a better understanding of how to best deal with the problem and regain control of your life.
When does drug use become drug abuse or addiction
People start using drugs for many different reasons. Some experiment with recreational drugs out of curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, or to ease problems such as stress, anxiety, or depression. However, it’s not just illegal drugs, such as cocaine or heroin that can lead to abuse and addiction. Prescription medications such as painkillers, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers can cause similar problems. In fact, next to marijuana, prescription painkillers are the most abused drugs. And more people die from overdosing powerful opioid painkillers each day than from traffic accidents and gun deaths combined. And addiction to opioid painkillers can be so powerful it has become the major risk factor for heroin abuse.
Of course, drug use either illegal or prescription doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, and there is no specific point at which drug use moves from casual to problematic. Drug abuse and addiction is less about the type or amount of the substance consumed or the frequency of your drug use, and more about the consequences of that drug use. If your drug use is causing problems in your life at work, school, home, or in your relationships you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem.
Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, one that takes tremendous courage and strength. Facing your problem without minimizing the issue or making excuses can feel frightening and overwhelming, but recovery is within reach. If you’re ready to seek help, you can overcome your addiction and build a satisfying, drug-free life for yourself.
While anyone can develop problems from using drugs, vulnerability to substance addiction differs from person to person. While your genes, mental health, family and social environment all play a role, risk factors that increase your vulnerability include:
1 Family history of addiction Abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences.
2 Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
3 Early use of drugs Method of administration—smoking or injecting a drug may increase its addictive potential.
Drug addiction and the brain
While each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share some things in common. Repeated use can alter the way the brain functions. This includes commonly abused prescription medications as well as recreational drugs. Taking the drug causes a rush of the hormone dopamine in your brain, which triggers feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated. When you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviors, such as eating and drinking. Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control your behavior, and feel normal without drugs. No matter which drug you’re addicted to, the uncontrollable craving to use grows more important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness. The urge to use is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or rationalize the addiction. You may drastically underestimate the quantity of drugs you’re taking, how much it impacts your life, and the level of control you have over your drug use.
Physical signs of drug abuse or addiction:
Behavioral signs of drug addiction:
How to curb drug addiction menace:
(Author is a Pharmacologist)