Monday, May 27, 2024

Why Are Drugs So Addictive

How Addiction Rewires The Brain

Why are opioids so addictive?

When you experience something pleasurable, the reward center of your brain is triggered naturally to release chemical messengers like dopamine to make you feel good. Opioid receptors are also activated, reinforcing pleasure and relieving pain. This makes you want to repeat the experience.

Addictive substances also activate opioid receptors and trigger the reward center to increase dopamine levels, but at much higher levels than happens naturally. The intensity of the response may produce euphoria, which strongly reinforces the behavior. Higher dopamine levels reinforce pleasurable sensations and behaviors by linking enjoyable experiences with a desire to do them again.

Vital areas of your brain are impacted by drug use, including areas that regulate motivation, thinking, planning, problem solving, and stress response. Dysfunction in these areas adversely influences healthy responses. As drug use continues, your brain adapts to unnaturally high levels of dopamine and overactivation of opioid receptors more deeply ingraining the drug-seeking behavior.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, This dopamine signal causes changes in neural connectivity that make it easier to repeat the activity again and again without thinking about it, leading to the formation of habits.

Addiction And The Brain

Excessive substance abuse affects many parts of the body, but the organ most impacted is the brain. When a person consumes a substance such as drugs or alcohol, the brain produces large amounts of dopamine this triggers the brains reward system. After repeated drug use, the brain is unable to produce normal amounts of dopamine on its own. This means addicted people may struggle to find enjoyment in pleasurable activities, like spending time with friends or family, when they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug dependency, its vital to seek treatment as soon as possible. All too often people try to get better on their own, but this can be difficult and in some cases dangerous.

What Are Prescription Drugs

A prescription drug is a pharmaceutical drug that requires you to have a written prescription by a licensed medical practitioner before you can acquire it. This is rather unlike over-the-counter medicine that you can obtain without any prescription.

Prescription drugs are controlled in this way because they contain active ingredients that people can quickly develop an addiction to. That is, drug abuse and dependence is a greater danger with a prescription drug.

Generally, prescription drugs are more potent than over-the-counter medication. This also means that they can have much more significant side effects if you misuse them. In essence, prescription drug abuse is when you take medication for reasons other than why your doctor prescribed it. Also, if you take more than the recommended dosage, you are abusing the drug.

According to the stats, about 22% of Canadians above 15 years use one or more psychoactive prescription drugs. Some of the drugs that fall under this category and are commonly abused include:

  • Opioid pain relievers Morphine, Codeine, OxyContin, Vicodin, etc.
  • Central Nervous System Depressants Valium, Xanax, etc.
  • Stimulants Dextrostat, Ritalin, Adderall, etc.

Related article: How To Treat Prescription Drug Abuse

Also Check: Can You Get Addicted To Vyvanse

How Addictive Is Heroin

Its difficult to measure or compare types of drug addiction. In a 2007 study published in the Lancet, a survey of doctors and psychiatrists concluded that heroin was the most addictive drug because of its effects on pleasure, psychological dependence and physical dependence. It also had the highest risk of physical harm and social harm.

Physical dependence refers to changes in the brain that cause increased tolerance to the drug and trigger withdrawal symptoms when the drug isnt present.

Psychological dependence refers to changes in motivation, self-control and judgment that make a person crave heroin. People who are addicted to heroin will do almost anything to obtain the drug because their brains arent properly weighing the consequences of their actions.

When Does Drug Use Become An Addiction

What Makes Heroin So Addictive? How Can I Stop Using Heroin?

John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health .

Drug addiction is a complex and chronic brain disease. People who have a drug addiction experience compulsive, sometimes uncontrollable, craving for their drug of choice. Typically, they will continue to seek and use drugs in spite of experiencing extremely negative consequences as a result of using.

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What Is The Difference Between Physical Dependence Tolerance And Addiction

Physical dependence can occur with the regular use of any substance, legal or illegal, even when taken as prescribed. It occurs because the body naturally adapts to regular exposure to a substance . When that substance is taken away, symptoms can emerge while the body re-adjusts to the loss of the substance. Physical dependence can lead to craving the drug to relieve the withdrawal symptoms. Tolerance is the need to take higher doses of a drug to get the same effect. It often accompanies dependence, and it can be difficult to distinguish the two. Addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, despite negative consequences.

Nick Hayes Phd Lmfta Lcdc


Dr. Nick Hayes is the Chief Science Officer at Cumberland Heights, overseeing all research, technology and quality related initiatives for the organization. His research focuses on measurement-based practice systems, digital phenotyping and intensive longitudinal monitoring.

Nicks work highlights Cumberland Heights commitment to outcome-oriented care, using proven techniques to put those struggling with substance use disorder on a path to success.

Nick received his PhD in Couple, Marriage, and Family Therapy from Texas Tech University. He is also on the faculty of Lipscomb University as an adjunct professor of psychology.

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Is Drug Addiction A Disease

The definition of addiction varies among individuals, organizations, and medical professionals, and societys viewpoints about addiction are ever-evolving. The National Institute on Drug Abuse , the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , and the National Institutes of Health all similarly describe addiction as a long-term and relapsing condition characterized by the individual compulsively seeking and using drugs despite adverse consequences.1

These organizations call addiction a disorder or a disease because:1

  • Addiction changes how the brain responds in situations involving rewards, stress, and self-control.
  • These changes are long-term and can persist well after the person has stopped using drugs.

Comparing substance addiction to heart disease may help illustrate why it is defined as a disease by so many:1

  • Both addiction and heart disease disturb the regular functioning of an organ in the body the heart for heart disease and the brain for addiction.
  • They both can lead to a decreased quality of life and increased risk of premature death.
  • Addiction and many types of heart disease are largely preventable by engaging in a healthy lifestyle and avoiding poor choices.
  • They are both treatable to prevent further damage.

AAC is in-network with many insurance companies. Your addiction treatment could be free depending on your policy and deductible.

The Good News Is That Regardless Of What Factors Play Into Addiction There Is A Solution To This Disease: Treatment

Why Is Nicotine So Addictive?

Many successful treatment programs, such as a 12-step program, have proven successful. If you had any other chronic condition, like asthma or diabetes, you would not hesitate to treat it. So why not treat the addiction as well and live a life free from that bondage.

Reference:Understanding Drug Use and Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved April, 2017.

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Understanding Dependence And Addiction

Dependence doesnt always lead to addiction, but it may be hard to tell the two conditions apart, and some addiction specialists use the two terms interchangeably. Tolerance, withdrawal symptoms and compulsive drug-seeking behavior may characterize both states, according to the World Health Organization .

Its helpful to use the two terms separately when youre dealing with habit-forming pain medications or other addictive substances that are used for medical purposes. Although many people who take opioid pain medication on a regular basis can become tolerant or dependent, they dont necessarily display compulsive, addictive behavior when it comes to getting or using the drug.

The Controlled Substances Act

The Controlled Substances Act is a law that regulates legal and illegal drugs in the United States. Under the CSA, drugs are categorized into different schedules according to a drugs perceived danger and potential for dependence. For example, Heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug because of its illegal status and extremely addictive qualities. Legal medications on the other hand, such as over-the-counter Painkillers and cough Suppressants, are categorized as Schedule V because of their low chances for abuse.

The CSAs drug scheduling system exists for several reasons. In common cases, the system is used by judges to help them determine sentences for drug-related crimes. It is also helpful for medical professionals when writing prescriptions.

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Recognizing And Understanding Addiction

Identifying an SUD can be a complicated process. While some signs of addiction are obvious, others are more difficult to recognize. Many people who realize they have a problem will try to hide it from family and friends, making it harder to tell whether someone is struggling.

Television, media, and film often depict people with SUDs as criminals or individuals with moral shortcomings. The truth is, theres no single face of addiction. Anyone can develop patterns of abuse or risky behaviors, no matter their age, culture, or financial status.

What Makes Drugs Addictive

Why are drugs are so highly addictive?

While some substances may be technically more addictive than others, any drug can become addictive. Nicotine in cigarettes, alcohol, prescription painkillers, and illegal drugs all can be addictive. However, the risk of addiction is based as much or more on individuals and their circumstances, not drugs themselves.

Anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol, including nurses, doctors, law enforcement agents or straight A students . It could happen the first time you try a drug, as can a fatal overdose.

Some of the things that make drugs addictive include:

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Some Prescription Drugs Reduce Emotional Pain

Emotional pain is not uncommon with patients in Canada, and indeed all around the world. Sometimes, prescription drugs have the effect of being able to block out the pain. This is partly due to the way these drugs affect the brain. So, even if the pill is not intended to block out this pain, it may happen regardless.

The emotional pain-blocking effect of some prescription drugs is the reason some people develop an addiction to it. In such cases, the users continuously use these medications to deal with their unwanted feelings instead of seeking therapy.

Why Do People Get Addicted To Drugs The Causes Of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is a very misunderstood disease. Oftentimes, we do not understand how or why other people get addicted to drugs. Many of us mistakenly think that drug addicts lack good morals, and choose to continue using drugs despite the negative consequences. Some believe that drugs are easy to quit, and that people who are addicted simply lack the willpower or motivation to stop. These views could not be farther from the truth, and are exactly what contribute to the stigma of substance abuse.

In reality, drug addiction is a very complex disease. And typically, it takes more than strong will or good intentions to stop. Many, if not most, addicted individuals want to stop using. However, the neurological changes that drugs induce in their brains make it very hard to quit. Drugs change the brain so that users physically feel as though they need drugs to function normally. They prioritize drug use above all else, as drugs are the only way they feel they can make it through the day, without the pain of withdrawal.

You may be here now, wondering, Why do people get addicted to drugs? or more significantly, Why did this happen to my loved one? Maybe you are wondering what causes drug addiction at all. You are not alone. Many family members particularly parents will have these questions top of mind, questioning whether they themselves are to blame for their loved ones choices to use.

Drug Addiction Risk Factors

Why Do People Use Drugs to Begin With?

Also Check: How To Help Someone With Heroin Addiction

How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted To Heroin

Most people dont become addicted to heroin after one use. But using the drug once may lead to repeated use that escalates to addiction. Depending on how often you use heroin, how you use the drug and the purity of the drug, you can get addicted to heroin in less than a week.

Those who use heroin usually do not experience physical or psychological cravings after their first use. But the drugs desirable effects often motivate people to try it again. This can start a dangerous cycle of compulsive use.

As heroin use escalates, the brain begins to build a tolerance to the drug, requiring higher doses to feel the same effects. Over time, people become physically dependent on the drug and need it to function normally. Many individuals dont realize they have a problem until theyve developed a full-blown heroin addiction. The longer they wait to enter heroin treatment, the more addicted they become.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

They Seek Pleasure From The Drugs

Why Is Meth So Addictive?

Several prescription drugs influence the neurotransmitters of the brain resulting in a euphoric state in its users. Other times, it induces an intensely heightened state of relaxation.

As they do very little to achieve these states , these effects can quickly become addictive. These pleasurable and relaxing effects of prescription drugs are among the more common reasons people develop an addiction to such medication.

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Why Cocaine Is So Addictive

Cocaine is addictive, expensive, and potentially deadly.

Dubbed the caviar of street drugs, cocaine, also known as coke, is an expensive way to get high. Its also a high-abuse and high-dependency risk that often leaves behind a trail of destruction in its wake. Wondering why cocaine is so addictive and why its effects are so significant? Heres a closer look at this lethal drug, along with how substance/cocaine abuse treatment plays a vital role in helping people break free of its grip.

The 411

Made with coca plant leaves native to South America, cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. And while it can be used for valid medical purposes, it presents a significant threat as a street drug.

Cocaine can be snorted through the nose, rubbed into the gums, or dissolved in water and injected into the bloodstream. It can also be processed into a rock crystal, called crack, and smoked. Most cocaine users take the drug in binges in order to maintain the high.

Cocaine and the Brain

Cocaine increases levels of norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters in the brain by blocking communication and presenting their reabsorption. This leads to a chemical buildup and temporary high.

Beyond the Brain

People can intentionally or unintentionally overdose on cocaineeven the first time they use it. Mixing it with other substances, such as alcohol and heroin, increases the risk of a fatal outcome.

Prescription Drugs Are Encouraged

The sad fact is that many doctors have very tight schedules and do not take the time to review their patients history thoroughly. This is especially true of doctors in major cities such as Vancouver and several others. Instead, they will write out a prescription and tell their patients that the drugs are all they need to get better.

Most patients either do not know better or are desperate to get over their pain, depression or whatnot. So, they are eager to listen to their doctor and religiously use them, side effects or not. In most cases, this is the beginning of an addiction to such prescription drugs.

Recommended Reading: Do You Get Addicted To Antidepressants

Can You Tell If A Person Is Addicted Or Dependent On Drugs

In order to understand why drugs are addictive, it is vital to understand the difference between addiction and dependence. Psychological and physical dependence and addiction do not necessarily mean the same thing. Dependence is often defined by characteristics including:

  • Physical dependence on the substance that leads to withdrawal symptoms if the person cannot use the drug
  • A level of tolerance that requires greater quantities of the substance to fulfil a persons need for the drug
  • Intense cravings for the substance that lead to relapse when a person tries to stop drinking or using
  • The inability to control the amount of the drug, regardless of the intention to stop or control their habit

What Are The Symptoms And Effects Of Cocaine Addiction

Why Are Benzodiazepines So Addictive?

If you think that you or someone you know has developed a problem with cocaine misuse, its important that you are able to spot the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction.

While cocaine can cause a number of effects that may seem positive to some people, its also important to realise that it can also produce a number of negative symptoms and long-term effects. These can include:

  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Breathing problems

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