Although the initial use of drugs is voluntary for most people, once someone continuously uses a substance, there are marked changes in the brain. It is unknown why some become addicts and some do not. There is no single factor that can predict or forecast one’s risk for addiction. However, the more risk factors an individual has, usually the greater the possibility that trying drugs may lead to addiction. Risk factors can be biological, environmental, or developmental. For example, a person’s environment can influence their behavior and choices. From parenting to peer groups, the environment is one risk factor. On the contrary, if these elements are positive, such as nurturing parents or a healthy peer group, it could serve as a protective factor.
Regardless of these risk and protective factors, addiction can affect anyone. It is important for someone with a drug addiction to get professional help as soon as possible.
There are countless substances that are legal and illegal that can be addictive. While some are naturally occurring substances, others are synthetically made in a lab. Some cause an almost immediate physical dependence, while others become habit forming over time.
What most of them have in common is how they flood the brain’s reward circuit with dopamine and by doing so they change the brain’s chemistry. They either imitate the brain’s natural chemicals or encourage the brain to release larger amounts of these chemicals. The brain is naturally designed to repeat rewarding activities. This flooding leads to the changes in the brain and is what causes the addict to crave more and more. A person’s brain will show physical alterations in departments such as memory and judgment over time.
Different substances have different symptoms and effects. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of different kinds of drug abuse, and to get help when an addiction is present. It is also important to note that addiction isn’t always about quantity of substances consumed or how often you use. It is about the substances’ affect on you and your quality of life.
Drug Abuse Vs. Drug Addiction
Drug abuse doesn’t necessarily signify addiction. While drug abuse describes the use of a substance in a way it was not prescribed or intended, addiction means there is a physical dependence on the substance. Communicating with addicted individuals and encouraging help can be very difficult; addiction hijacks the brain of otherwise rational people. This is why it’s so important to intervene early in the cycle of drug abuse.
Both drug abuse and addiction require professional care, as abuse can quickly and unexpectedly become addiction.