It is important to determine why many people get addicted to drugs and why quitting them is not just as easy as making a decision to change behavior. Most people assume that those who abuse drugs lack moral principles and the willpower to change their habits. However, drug addiction is complicated. Addiction is a relapsing brain disease that fosters a compulsive habit of seeking and abusing drugs. Although drug addiction has harmful side effects to users and affects those around them, the initial decision to take drugs is usually voluntary. The effect on the brain makes it difficult for an individual to control him/herself and hampers their ability to overcome the intense impulse to take drugs. Therefore, drug addiction means that individuals lose control of their usage despite side effects (Heymann & Brownsberger, 2011).
Substance dependence, on the other hand, is a condition where a person requires a drug or several drugs to function normally (Ksir, Ray, & Hart, 2006). These people may have medical conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, or any other conditions that require them to take drugs to maintain the quality of life. However, in situations where addicts depend on drugs to function, drug addiction and dependence on a substance can be used interchangeably.
There are many misconceptions about addiction that people view as true. For instance, before this course, I thought that addiction was not a disease but a “chosen” way of life. However, now I realize that addiction is a disease, and some people are more susceptible to it than others. Another misconception was that victims could control their addiction. For most people, controlling addiction requires medical help to restore the chemical balance as it affects the brain and damages its chemistry and neurological pathways (Ksir, Ray, & Hart, 2006).
Various qualities are common in drug addicts: the use of drugs despite the consequences, inability to stop using drugs, and neglect of social and work obligations. There are no obvious factors that can predict whether or not a person will become a drug addict. In most cases, drug use starts casually without the intention to grow into addiction. Some people will start using drugs because they make them feel energetic, self-confident, powerful, reduce anxiety and stress when facing problematic situations. However, like in most mental health diseases, some factors may contribute to the development of drug addiction. These factors include a person’s environment and genetics. People exposed to peers who encourage drug use are more likely to use drugs. Additionally, an individual’s genetic traits can influence addiction as it may accelerate or delay the progression of the disease. Drugs affect the communication system in the brain thus causing disruptions in the sending, receiving, and processing of information. Continued use of drugs makes people have intense cravings for the drug; with time, it gets harder to stop using it (Ksir, Ray, & Hart, 2006). One of the major aspects of my previous view of addiction that has changed after the course is the genetic factor that contributes to it. Previously, I thought that there was no heredity factor in addition.
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One thing that I will not forget is how substance addiction influences a victim’s brain. The drugs have chemicals that affect the communication system in the brain and disrupt the normal processing of information. Some drugs have chemicals with a similar composition as the brain’s chemical messengers. This similarity disrupts brain receptors; thus, their nerve cells send unusual messages. Some drugs cause a complete disruption of the signaling between neurons. These drugs lead to the abnormal release of large amounts of neurotransmitters by the nerve cells, which prevents the proper recycling of the brain’s chemicals. Continued use of these drugs results into the brain adapting to the overpowering surge in chemical compositions. Consequently, victims have a lower ability to enjoy some activities as compared to how it was previously. Therefore, drug addicts continue abusing drugs to balance the composition of brain chemicals (Heymann & Brownsberger, 2011).
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