Drug Abuse

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”DRUG ABUSE” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Drug abuse—also known as substance abuse or chemical abuse—was once associated with moral weakness or a lack of self-control. More recently, though, it has been recognised as a disorder that affects chemical systems and circuits in the user’s brain. Drug abuse is often accompanied by a destructive pattern of using that leads to significant problems. Any substance that results in euphoria when ingested can be abused.


Most commonly we think of alcohol, marijuana or other well-known drugs, but even household cleaners and cough syrup can be taken to induce a “high.” Increasingly, prescription drugs are being abused by a variety of people—from teens to adults—even if they have a prescription. In fact, after marijuana prescription drugs are the most commonly abused drugs.


Prescription drugs have become so commonly abused by teens in the United States that the Partnership for a Drug Free America has coined the latest generation of teens “Generation Rx.” Drug use is not limited to teens, though. It is higher in people who are in their late teens and late twenties, but it is also increasing in other age groups. Those in their later fifties or early sixties, for example, have increased their drug use in recent years.


Drugs contain chemicals that tap into the brains circuitry and disrupt the brains normal functions. They do this in at least one of two ways: (1) imitating natural chemical messengers in the brain or (2) overstimulating the brain’s reward circuit. Now your brain is either receiving false messages, or it is being flooded with dopamine—a natural neurotransmitter in brain regions that control emotion, motivation, movement and pleasure. The result is the euphoric feeling that drug users seek, but it is also creating a memory pattern in your brain—take this drug and be rewarded.


Addiction is closely associated with abuse. When a user abuses a drug, the brain responds by lessening the amount of dopamine it releases or reducing the amount of dopamine receptors in the reward circuit. To bring dopamine levels back to normal, the user may feel compelled to use the drug again, forming an addiction. As their brain reduces its natural levels of dopamine, it requires more of the drug to achieve the same feeling, which builds tolerance.


Long-term drug abuse has a definite effect on the brain’s chemical systems and circuits. Cognitive function can become impaired, and areas of the brain that are critical to behavioral control, decision making, judgement, learning and memory can change. These effects can drive an abuser to take drugs compulsively despite the consequences.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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