The nature of drug addiction


Most people are confused or unsure as to the true reason people become hooked on narcotics. They believe a breakdown in will power or lack of morals are contributors to the problem. They live under the mistaken impression that a desire to stop is all that is required to quit taking narcotics. Actually, drug addiction is a complex disease, and recovery usually takes more than good intentions or strong willpower. Drugs change the brain in ways that make it difficult to stop, even for those who want to. Fortunately, research has shown that the affect on the brain from sustained drug abuse can be helped by drug rehabilitation treatment and the rehabilitation processes that give people an ability to lead a life drug free and achieve recovery from drug addiction allowing them to rejoin the community as productive members.


Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug addiction symptoms including behavior and narcotic use that is compulsive or difficult to control despite the negative outcomes that result. Most people begin the process of through social or voluntary experimentation or through taking routine medication prescribed by health professionals for the treatment of an illness. Regular use of a narcotic can change the way the brain responds and affects an individuals self-control and impede their ability to resist taking drugs. These brain changes and drug effects may be persistent, so substance abuse is considered a “recurrent” disease – people recovering from drug use disorders are at greater risk of re-drug use, even after years of not taking medication .

It is common for a person to fall, but relapse does not mean that the treatment does not work. As with other chronic diseases, the drug rehabilitation process should be continuous and adjusted according to the patient’s response. Treatment plans should often be revised and modified to accommodate the changing needs of the patient, and choosing a drug rehab that matches the user’s needs is an important choice.


Most drugs or medications can adjust the reward and pleasure centres of the brand through release of natural hormonal stimulants. This pleasure and reward system regulates a person’s ability to feel pleasure and creates motivation to continue or repeat the behavoir. This operates in a similar way to other activities such as eating and spending time with family members. Over-stimulation of the reward circuitry however results in an intensely pleasurable “high” drug effect that can make people take a medication over and over again.

As a person continues to use the drug, the brain adapts to excess stimulants by doing less and / or reducing the cells’ ability in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high level that the person feels compared to the high level they felt when taking medication – an effect known as tolerance. They could take more or certain types of drugs, trying to get the same dose of stimulants. It can also make them laugh at other things they once enjoyed, such as food or social activities.

Long-term use also involves changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits, affecting functions including:

  • learning
  • judgment
  • decision making
  • stress
  • memory
  • behavior

Despite being aware of these harmful results, many people who use narcotic substances continue to take, and as such, this is the nature of addiction.  A 12 step recovery process pursued through a solid addiction treatment facility and provided by qualified drug addiction therapists is critical in helping get clean from medications.


No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to certain types of drugs or medication. A combination of factors influences dependency risk. The higher the risk factors, the greater the likelihood of drug dependence. For example, the following factors affect addiction to prescription or illicit drugs:


The genes that people are born represent about half the risk of a person’s addiction. Gender, ethnicity and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence the risk of use and addiction.


A person’s environment is affected by many factors including relationships with friends and family, their financial situation, their daily activities and more. Factors affecting their mental health can include peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to medication, stress and counseling of parents. These can greatly affect the likelihood of drug dependence in a person.


Genetic and environmental factors can affect the critical stages of a person’s life and development which may affect the risk of dependency. The particular drug or medication the addict uses also affects the likelihood of becoming addicted. Although drug use at any age can lead to an ongoing problem, the earlier drug use begins, the more likely it is to progress toward addiction. This substance abuse is particularly problematic for teens. Because areas in your brain that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still developing, teens may be particularly prone to risky behaviors, including trying narcotics or medications.


As with most other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, pharmacological drug treatment is usually not a cure. However, drug addiction is treatable and can be managed successfully at a drug rehabilitation centre. People who recover from narcotics are at risk of relapse for years and perhaps for life. Research shows that combining anti-addiction medications with cognitive behavioral therapy offers the best chance of success for most patients. Addiction treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use and tailored to their individual medical, mental, and social situation can lead to sustained recovery.

More good news is that drug use can be prevented. The results of research funded by NIDA have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities and the media are effective in preventing or reducing drug use. Although personal events and cultural factors affect patterns of drug use, when young people consider drug use to be dangerous, they tend to decrease their drug use. Therefore, education and awareness are essential to help people understand the potential risks of drug use. Teachers, parents, and health care providers play a crucial role in youth education and substance abuse prevention and addiction.


  • Drug dependance is a system and often chronic disease which has been show through research to be compulsive or difficult to control despite the harmful outcomes for the user.
  • Brain changes that occur over time with the use of drugs affect the self-control of a dependent person and hinder their ability to withstand intense cravings to take medication. This is also why it is a progressive disease.
  • Relapse can occur and result in return to drug use after an attempted period of sobriety. Relapse indicates the need for additional or varied treatments. Natural stimulant release results from taking drugs and is a natural response from the body. This excessive stimulation of the reward parts of the brain results in an intensely pleasant “high” that causes people to take a medication over and over again.
  • Over time, the brain adapts to excess stimulants, which reduces the high that the person feels causing them to increase the dosage in the attempt at recreating a high similar to what they first felt when taking the medication, an effect known as tolerance.
  • No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to a drug. A combination of genetic, environmental and developmental factors influence the risk of dependence. The higher the risk factors, the greater the likelihood of drug dependence. Drug issues and addiction to medications are treatable and can be managed successfully.
  • Even more good news is that use and addiction can be prevented. Teachers, parents, and health care providers play a crucial role in youth education and substance abuse prevention.


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