Throughout much of the last century, scientists studying drug abuse labored in the shadows of powerful myths and misconceptions about the nature of addiction. When science began to study addictive behavior in the 1930s, people addicted to drugs were thought to be morally flawed and lacking in willpower.
Those views shaped society’s responses to drug abuse, treating it as a moral failing rather than a health problem, which led to an emphasis on punitive rather than preventative and therapeutic actions.
Today, thanks to science, our views and our responses to drug abuse have changed dramatically. Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction, enabling us to respond effectively to the problem.
As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior. We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities.
Despite these advances, many people today do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse.
Drug addiction is a condition characterized by compulsive drug intake, craving and seeking, despite negative consequences associated with drug use.
Although being addicted implies drug dependence, it is possible to be dependent of a drug without being addicted. There are people who take drugs to treat disorders and diseases and who, with the help of drugs, may experience improvement of their condition.
Such persons are dependent on the drug, but are not addicted. To qualify as being dependent a person must take a drug regularly and also experience unpleasant symptoms if discontinued, which makes stopping difficult.
Substance abuse may occur with or without dependency, and with or without addiction
To abuse of substances means any use of a substance that causes more harm than good. In some cases, the harm or the good a substance causes is just a matter of opinion.
The phenomenon of drug addiction has occurred to some degree throughout recorded history, through modern agricultural practices, improvement in access to drugs, advancements in biochemistry, and dramatic increase in the recommendation of drug usage by clinical practitioners. These have exacerbated the problem significantly in the 20th century. Improved means of active biological agent manufacture and the introduction of synthetic compounds, such as metamphetamine have also contributed to the phenomenon of drug addiction.
The addictive nature of drugs varies from substance to substance, and from individual to individual. There are some drugs, such as codeine and alcohol, which typically require many more exposures to addict their users, compared to other drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, which only require a few uses to make the user addicted. There are a lot of persons who are genetically predisposed to an addiction and these persons will much likely suffer from it.
Drug addiction has two components, which are physical dependency and psychological dependency. Physical dependency occurs when a drug has been used habitually and the body has become accustomed to its effects. The person must continue to take the drug in order to feel normal.
Psychological dependency, on the other hand, occurs when a drug has been used habitually and the mind has become emotionally reliant on its effects, either to elicit pleasure or relieve pain, and does not feel capable of functioning without it. Its absence produces intense cravings, which are often brought or magnified by stress. A dependent person may have either aspects of dependency, but often has both. The mechanisms by which different substances activate the reward system vary among drug classes.
For instance, narcotics, such as morphine and methadone work by mimicking endorphins- chemicals produced naturally by the body- or by disabling the neurons that normally inhibit the release of dopamine. These substances are sometimes called “downers” and they facilitate relaxation and pain relief.
Stimulants, such as amphetamines, nicotine and cocaine, increase dopamine signaling, either by directly stimulating its release, or by blocking its absorption. These substances are sometimes called “uppers” as they typically cause heightened alertness and energy. They cause a pleasant feeling in the head, known as a high. This high wears off leaving the user feeling depressed.
The most common drug addictions are to legal substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, in form of tobacco, particularly cigarettes, and caffeine, in the form of tea coffee and caffeinated sodas.
We’ve come to regard prescription drug addiction as an illness, expecting the sober ones to support the addicts, clean up their messes and be supportive and uplifting at the same time. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is denial of the problem. If our sober loved ones follow this thinking, they are actually enabling us to continue in this self-destructive behavior. What causes addiction is a sense that something is missing from our lives…a need for something more. This emptiness drives us to abuse substances to try to fill the void, but, since they only dull the feeling of emptiness, we grow more deeply addicted with every dose.
With most prescription drug addictions, it is necessary to clinically withdraw the addict from the physical addiction.
If you suspect you’re addicted to a prescription drug always seek the help of a licensed physician before quitting. Once the physical danger is past, it is not good to continue on the new drug therapy…for obvious reasons. Someone who has an addictive nature can become addicted to the treatment. There are many who believe that psychological therapy or drug therapy, or both, will cure any addiction.
This is not the case. Neither drugs nor psychology do anything to get at the true cause of addiction…the sense of emptiness. A psychologist can teach you all about self-esteem, but if they could actually raise someone’s self-esteem, you’d think there wouldn’t be as many psychologists killing themselves. This doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. If you’re serious about getting help for your problem, there is a cure.
One of many recovery methods is the 12 step recovery program, with prominent examples including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They are commonly known and used for a variety of addictions for the individual addicted and the family of the individual.
Rehab centers frequently offer a residential treatment program for the seriously addicted in order to isolate the patient from drugs and interactions with other users and dealers. Outpatient clinics usually offer a combination of individual counseling and group counseling. Frequently a physician or psychiatrist will assist with prescriptions to assist with the side effects of the addiction.
If you feel like you are addicted to some drug your physician has prescribed for your back injury, make sure that you avoid hurting you loved ones and you will go and seek for help. There are a lot of specialized centers which can help you.